3rd District Court judge overturns Summit County Council’s decision on motocross track
Surrounding homeowners win lawsuit against Wanship neighbor
A 3rd District Court judge recently overturned a Summit County Council decision to allow Wanship property owner Steve Luczak to continue operating his motocross track after surrounding homeowners sued the county.
On Friday, Feb. 17, Judge Kara Pettit determined that the county is not barred from prohibiting private and personal use of a motocross track, according to court documents. Pettit ruled that the council’s determination that a previous approval impeded the county’s ability to enforce zoning laws was “arbitrary and capricious, and therefore, void.”
“The County Council did not understand the law,” said Joe Wrona, an attorney representing the surrounding homeowners. “There was no evidence before the County Council to support the application of zoning estoppel, which is a very narrow doctrine and a person who is seeking it needs to show that the actual zoning authority for the county said yes you are allowed to do this. The fact that the county remained silent means nothing.”
Wrona represented approximately 20 property owners neighboring the track, located near 1800 S. Hoytsville Road above the Weber River. It occupies more than 50 acres of land in the Sunrise Ridge subdivision and can be seen from Interstate 80.
Wrona filed the lawsuit on behalf of his clients after the County Council reversed a cease-and-desist order issued by Community Development Director Pat Putt that prohibited motorized use of the track. Summit County staff had argued that Luczak was not permitted to operate the track on his property because his land had uses restricted to agriculture-related activities. Luczak filed an appeal with the County Council challenging the order.
The vote was split 3-2, with Roger Armstrong and Kim Carson dissenting. County Council Chair Chris Robinson and former council members Tal Adair and Claudia McMullin agreed to reverse the order.
“The land we are talking about is in a residential subdivision and has special zoning restrictions,” Wrona said. “It is obvious that Kodiak America had no basis whatsoever to invoke zoning estoppel and I don’t know what those three council members were thinking.
“This is one where they just got buffaloed by Kodiak America’s attorney who was spewing nonsense,” he said.
On Thursday, Feb. 23, Summit County Manager Tom Fisher reissued the cease-and-desist order. According to the order, anyone who uses the track will be subject to “criminal and/or administrative citation by the Summit County Sheriff or Code Enforcement Officer.”
Diane Johnson, one of the homeowners Wrona represented, said she is “extremely happy” with the ruling, referring to it as the correct decision. Johnson’s home borders the property and overlooks the Weber River. Johnson and her husband, Lowell, have lived there for 15 years.
“I hope that is over. It has taken a lot of taxpayers’ dollars and a lot of effort from bordering homeowners,” Johnson said. “We all moved here for a specific purpose and his purpose was different from ours but, at the same time, there are legalities that we all have to abide by. Mr. Luczak was definitely not abiding by those.”
In an interview with The Park Record on Friday, Feb. 24, Luczak said he will fight the court’s ruling, adding “I kind of expected the county to wuss out on this.” Luczak maintains that the county cannot legally prevent him from riding on his property.
“We are not doing anything wrong. It’s a private track and we play on it a couple times a month. The problem is they are telling private property owners what they can and cannot do on their property, but they can’t keep me from riding. If they try and keep me from the track, I will ride everywhere else on the property,” Luczak said. “We will legally fight it.”
Luczak said he didn’t even know about the cease-and-desist order until several neighbors reported him for violating it. He said he had to call the county to request the paperwork.
“If I have to sue the neighbors or the county we will. We will file legal action and fight it all the way through,” Luczak said. “They are taking property rights away and this affects everyone, not just me. If they can do it to me they can start doing it to everyone else.”
Shannon Marchbank, a Coalville property owner, said he supports Luczak because he is advocating for the rights of landowners. Marchbank said he has been to the track, stressing that it is not a full-time facility. He added, “If he ran it as a true agriculture operation there would be more dust and noise pollution than there is from a couple of bikes.”
“I own quite a bit of ground up there and I get tired of them telling me what I can and cannot do,” Marchbank said. “It just irritates the heck out of you because when does it stop? The county issued a permit to allow him to do this, but then the neighbors get upset and move into this area and try and dictate what landowners can and cannot do.”
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The Coalville native doesn’t see any major roadblocks for this year’s fair, though presenting in front of the County Council is a little nerve wracking.