Marc Della Villa isn’t illegally operating a racetrack on his vacant lot off Westside Avenue, according to a decision issued by Rotterdam’s code enforcer last week.
After months of deliberation and numerous visits to the property, code enforcer Mickey Maher determined that Della Villa wasn’t sanctioning an unlicensed racetrack as it’s defined in the town’s local law. The decision is in contrast to assertions made by residents living near the property, who claim the persistent noise of the weekend-long races causes a major disruption to their quality of life.
Last month, Maher submitted a report about the track that town officials characterized as vague and somewhat inconclusive. When the code enforcer was asked to clarify, he definitively ruled that the dirt bike riders using Della Villa’s property weren’t in violation of the town ordinance governing racetracks.
“He’s come up with the statement, now, that it’s not a track,” Supervisor Frank Del Gallo said last week.
Della Villa lauded town officials for deliberating carefully over the situation and making the correct decision. He said the neighbors chose to live in an area near a light industrial zone, meaning they could one day be subject to even louder activities were a business to locate there.
“It’s a buyer beware state,” he said Friday. “When you buy a piece of property, you should know what it’s abutting.”
Residents living near the property weren’t pleased by Maher’s decision, nor were they surprised. Phillip Hurst of Dodge Street said the incessant racing suspiciously stopped during the days Maher inspected the property and resumed the day that he stopped.
“Literally, the day he stops going there, they start racing again,” he said.
Hurst contends town officials have enough proof to show the property is being used as a racetrack even if the code enforcer didn’t personally witness it. Last month, members of the Town Board reviewed a video showing a group of between three and four dirt bike riders using the property on various occasions in March and April.
“We don’t know why he says it’s not a racetrack,” he said.
Kay Lifite, one of Hurst’s neighbors on Dodge Street, believes Public Works Coordinator Michael Griesemer is one of the main reasons the property isn’t being considered a racetrack. She said a member of his family sometimes uses Della Villa’s property to race.
“Of course he’s not going to call it a racetrack,” she said.
Other neighbors have faulted Del Gallo for influencing the decision by code enforcement. Some have accused him of maintaining a friendship with Della Villa.
Della Villa scoffed at both notions. He said he only knows Del Gallo in passing and doesn’t have any ties within Public Works, a town agency that he has battled with in the past.
“I have no friends over there,” he said. “On occasion, they’re the enemy.”
He blamed the neighbors for being overly critical of the noise, which he likened to a lawn mower or leaf blower. He said the dirt bike riders only use the property on weekends during a three-month window and stop riding once the fall foliage drops.
“The neighbors sensationalized it and blew it out of proportion,” he said.
Earl Miller of Dodge Street didn’t see it that way. He said the racing on Della Villa’s property has steadily grown ever since they started building the track.
“It’s getting worse over there,” he said. “I don’t know why the town caters to an individual over a whole neighborhood.”
Maher’s decision, however, could ultimately give the disgruntled neighbors recourse. With the code enforcer taking a definitive stance, they can now challenge his decision with the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and then ultimately with an Article 78 lawsuit, if the ruling isn’t in their favor.
Griesemer did not return a call for comment Friday. Maher was not working Friday and could not be reached by phone.
Hurst isn’t sure what the next step will be. He said he’ll continue to mull all options in order to restore peace and quiet to his neighborhood.
“I’m not going to walk away from it,” he said.
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