Businessman appeals shutdown of east Rowan dirt track

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, October 11, 2017

SALISBURY — After being shut down by county staff, local businessman David Eller on Monday argued that he built a 10-acre dirt track near an east Rowan County subdivision for his son and friends to ride on, not to host races.

Eller, owner of Salisbury-based Makson Inc., and local attorney Randy Reamer spent four hours Monday presenting their case to the Rowan County Zoning Board of Adjustment. The pair sought to overturn a decision months earlier by county staff that the large dirt track violated the zoning designation — rural agricultural — applied to land on Deer Creek Drive, off Beagle Club Road.

Neighbors say the track is a nuisance. It results in excessive noise and, potentially, lower property values, they say.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment on Monday didn’t make a decision about the appeal. At 10:30 p.m., the board adjourned with plans to reconvene Tuesday evening.

In February, Rowan County Planning Director Ed Muire wrote a letter asking that Eller stop operations at the track, which is adjacent to the Kingstree Subdivision and in Deer Creek Subdivision. When Eller continued using the track after the first letter, the county issued a $25 fine.

Pressed Monday about his decision, Muire said the track fits the common definition of a racetrack.

Meanwhile, Eller and his attorney argued that there have been no races at the track. Reamer framed the case as an instance of a man using private property to provide activities for his son.

“What Mr. Eller has built here is a safe place for his kids to ride,” Reamer said. “The neighbors have overreacted and complained about this without finding out what the heck is going on.”

Dave Pokela, an attorney for Rowan County, argued that Eller owns a professional ATV race team and paid companies thousands of dollars to built the dirt track.

If it looks like a racetrack and people use it like a racetrack, then it must be a racetrack, Pokela said.

A number of witnesses testified during Monday’s hearing, including Muire and Eller.

Reamer posed a hypothetical scenario to Muire — would it be OK to remove the muffler from a truck and ride it up and down a neighbor’s property line? First, Muire avoided answering the question by saying he’d need to look at exact details of the situation. Later, he said Reamer’s scenario was not the issue under consideration on Monday.

Reamer started questioning Eller by asking questions about his family. Zoning Board of Adjustment Vice Chairman Jack Fisher interrupted.

“Sure, he has a great family and everything, but we want to get to the facts of what we’re here for,” Fisher said.

Eller spoke for the longest period of any witness. He said that sheriff’s deputies once came to the property because of complaints from neighbors. However, deputies said there were no criminal violations.

After that incident, Eller said he attempted to communicate with neighbors to sort out racetrack-related issues. Many neighbors in the audience groaned when Eller and other witnesses made that claim. At one point, a man in the audience shouted, “No, you didn’t.”

Other witnesses who testified Monday said activities at the dirt track do not fit with a typical definition of racing, that noise is not a problem and that the current use is an improvement compared to the overgrown lot that existed previously.

On Monday, members of the general public were not able to speak about the dirt track. On Tuesday, the county was scheduled to present its case. After the county wraps up its presentation, members of the general public were to be allowed to speak.

Contact Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246