To the Editor:
Clarks Chapel is a delightful and quiet area that in recent years has attracted many people, including retirees, investing in land and homes. They have done so to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of this small part of the mountains.
Mr. Bud Talley is proposing to insert into this lovely area a commercial motocross track, operating it for monetary gain with, in our view, no genuine concern about the effect it would have on his neighbors.
Macon County has no zoning, but like other counties in Western North Carolina it has a high impact ordinance to help reduce the negative effects of intrusive businesses. Mr. Talley needed, and attempted to obtain, a waiver of a key provision of the ordinance so he could proceed with his track, but was refused. So he is now proposing to go ahead with an alternative version, exploiting a loophole in the law that would allow him to operate all day, seven days a week, and which he has openly stated would have greater negative impact on neighbors than his original proposal.
Talley says that we neighbors “don’t understand,” that motocross racing is not like Hell’s Angels, but is a “family activity.” This is patronizing to us; we know what it is. What he doesn’t mention is that motocross is an extremely noisy and disruptive activity that has huge negative impacts on those living close by. The fact that many such tracks all over the country have attracted lawsuits by neighbors shows clearly that placing motocross in residential areas is in no way positive.
Even the pastor of a nearby church testified in the waiver hearing against his proposal because it would be disruptive to the work of the church.
Talley and others say that he should have the right to do what he wants on his own property. We agree that property rights must be respected. But what does that mean? We have property too. Don’t we have the right to enjoy our properties in peace, to quietly tend to our gardens, sit on our porches on tranquil evenings, and have friends over for dinner and quiet conversation? Talley’s exercising his property right would take away our property rights. Why should his rights take precedence over ours? No one has the right, in exercising his rights, to take away the rights of others. Rights are not absolute. They often conflict, and must always be exercised responsibility.
During the variance hearing Talley magnanimously and publicly offered to place ads in local papers to let us know when races would be held, so we could go somewhere else for the weekend and avoid the noise. Isn’t that nice! His idea, apparently, is that it’s OK we neighbors would have to abandon our homes so he can have his races and make money. This shows to us, as it should to everyone, how out-of-touch he is with understanding the impacts of what he is proposing. We don’t understand what world he is living in, but it’s not a world inhabited by any of us.
Talley has stated that the economic benefits of the track would outweigh the costs. This is patently false. It is an indisputable fact that motocross tracks severely reduce nearby property values. Under real estate sales rules that have been developed by the private sector real estate industry, not any government, the existence of such a track nearby is deemed a negative “material fact,” and must be disclosed to potential buyers. Testimony at the hearing showed that, given the value of property in the vicinity, even a small percentage reduction in value, a very conservative estimate, would diminish surrounding property value by several million dollars. In essence, Tally is trying to make money for himself by robbing us, his neighbors, of our property values that we have invested our own hard-earned money in, and have every right to expect will be protected.
This project will also weigh on the future economy of the county. A highly visible racing facility would send a strong signal that Macon County is unwilling and/or unable to control the development of obnoxious activities, greatly reducing its attractiveness as a place to live and retire. Many persons who have bare land in our area, and planed to build retirement homes, are already on record that they will not do so if this project moves forward. The loss for the county would be enormous.
In sum, this track is a very bad idea. We earnestly hope Mr. Talley will look to the infinity of other ways he can draw income from his property. Given the current lack of protective laws in Macon County, if he goes ahead our only recourse will be the courts, to stop the track or, failing that, seek damages. These strategies have been successful elsewhere, but they only enrich lawyers, who would be happy to take on the ensuing cases that would seek thousands or even millions in damages. We hope not to be forced down that road, but if left with no other choice will have little option but to do so.
John and Janet Binkley
John and Joye Feaster
Macon County residents
Editor’s note: Bud Talley, who is planning to build the motocross track, was given the opportunity to respond to this letter but declined.