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North Adams Planners OK Dirt Track Changes Over Residents' Objections
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
06:41PM / Wednesday, March 15, 2023
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A motocross operation has been allowed more flexible weekday operations and the option to stay open an hour later during its four day a week run. 
The application by Bro MX, owned by Jessica and Jason Langenback, was approved 5-1 Monday night by the Planning Board over objections from residents who say the noise from the track on Curran Highway is "extraordinarily obnoxious." 
The track is currently open on Tuesdays and Thursdays for practice and on the weekend for races. The owners say weather can disrupt practice days and asked to open any two weekdays. They had also asked to be open two hours, until 8 p.m., during the week and an hour earlier and later on the weekends, from 9 to 7, to accomodate weather and funerals that may be taking place at Southview Cemetery.
Supporters say the track has provided an outlet for local families, provided training time for youngsters and has had a beneficial economic impact on the city. 
A number of residents on the city's east side say the constant noise disrupts their family time, the enjoyment of their back yards and the funerals at the cemetery just across the river. 
"It's been going on for eight years. Eight years, the neighbors have been subjected to just on unbelievable aggravating noise, and I have some very serious, very serious concerns," said Richard Zona, a resident of D Street. "Quite frankly, none of this sounds legal to me. I don't  understand how this can go on like this."
Zona argued that the track was not in compliance with its special permit, noting the permit's conditions are supposed to protect the general neighborhood from detrimental impacts, including the "creation of a nuisance by virtue of noise." He called on the board to enforce the state's noise guidelines that do not allow for "unnecessary emissions" and said he and others have made complaints for years that were never followed up. 
Chair Brian Miksic said the city has its own noise ordinance and that when the track was first approved in 2015, it supplied an engineering report showing the sound would within the city's ordinance not to "exceed 65 decibels at any property line."
"All the sound studies that were undertaken for this project, show that it's below that. And while a nuisance sounds like a difficult word, because you could feel it's a nuisance, it is not necessarily in errs of the noise ordinance of our city," he said, later adding, "I don't think most people understand is 65 decibels is fairly loud. And so that's why this is within the bounds of our noise ordinance."
He also said the board has not received many complaints about the track and that it is not responsible for complaints made to other departments nor does it enforce sound regulations. 
Zona asked why the city couldn't monitor more closely the sound forom the track.
"I will say that it sounds like something that we should and could do. In reality, it's very difficult," said Building Inspector William Meranti. "And then it's nearly impossible to to discount somebody considering something a nuisance other than this straight out facts of what is it at the property [line]."
The board had approved the track to operate based on a sound study by the applicant, he said. "I think that would have to be pretty egregious to say that we have to stop operating your business that you're running even though you're still making the same amount of noise."
Marie T. Harpin, a city councilor, said she could hear the track from her home at the south end of Ashland Street. But she was most concerned that the noise had drowned out the funeral of a friend's mother at Southview. 
"There were probably 35-40 people there at the service trying to pay respects to this woman that lived her entire life, over 80 years, in the city of North Adams and we could not even hear it," she said. "It was really so disturbing. I mean, the family was about in tears. It was probably one of the most disrespectful things I've seen in my life."
Harpin said the funeral home director she'd spoken told her he did not have good communications with the track.
Linsday Lincoln, a funeral director with Flynn & Dagnoli Funeral Homes, said the Langenbacks were "very accommodating" to their schedules. 
"I'll text Jess and within 10 seconds she'll halt everything," she said. "If there has been noise at the cemetery, it's been our fault that we haven't texted her properly to let her know precisely when we'll be there. ...
"I think many times it messes up their entire schedule for the day. Sometimes we've had to halt them for 40 minutes with no notice at all."
It was acknowledged that the Langenbacks may not have the same relationship with other funeral homes and agreed that they would work on that. 
A number of people said the later hours during week would most benefit local people who have school or work during the day. And that they would be spending their money at local stores and restaurants. 
"It's really hard for me to get down there and get any riding time in or practice for that matter," said a McCann Technical School student. "So extending the hours would be really good for probably everyone here that's not opposed to it. ...
"A lot of friends at school also want to make it down there and they just don't have the time."
One father said it was important for the board to know that the majority using the track would be kids.  
"It's going to be probably five kids, local kids who live in North Adams and the local areas whose parents got out of work and brought them down they have a right for a couple hours," he said. 
Others said the noise wasn't that disruptive, that they were able to have conversations at the track or that they could hear the orders being called out at Pedrin's Dairy Bar. 
"Just speaking as a D street resident. I will join my neighbors and imploring you in unequivocal terms to prevent any extension of operating hours at Bro Max," said one man who spoke virtually. "I join them in finding the noise to be extraordinarily obnoxious, especially throughout the entire day on the weekend after I've worked a hard week and would like nothing more than to enjoy my own lawn."
Planners were concerned that 8 p.m. would be too late and Planner Kyle Hanlon motioned for 7 p.m. and approval of the other requests, as well as a condition that, with consultation with the city, there be review of sound compliance after the racing season starts. The special permit was also amended to be under the Langenbacks' name as the new owners. 
Meranti reminded the board that while the city might be able to get sound measurement, he wasn't a sound engineer, and Hanlon noted residents could look into their own sound study. 
Planner Rye Howard thought it was helpful to include sound monitoring even if it was on a more simplistic level.
"That can all be done pretty straightforwardly, property line is a pretty clear reference," they said. "So I think it's doable, but regardless, I think the residents would be in a better place to do that in a more sophisticated way if they wanted to."
The board voted 5-1, with Robert Burdick voting against. Lisa Blackmer, Jesse Lee Egan Poirer and Lynette Ritland Bond were absent. 
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