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Recreational law passed in Wilna

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CARTHAGE — After more than a year in the works, the Wilna Town Council passed a recreational-property-use law at Monday’s meeting.

The issue first came before the board a year ago, when residents on Selos Road complained about a dirt-bike and all-terrain-vehicle track built on the property of Scott A. Cannan. Mr. Cannan said then it was built to have a place for his daughters to practice riding their four-wheelers and dirt bikes. However, neighbors told the board they feared the track would be used for commercial purposes.

At the October 2011 board meeting, a 180-day moratorium put a stop to the use of the track and temporarily prohibited any others being built in the town. The moratorium was extended several times while the town board and the Planning Board developed rules for the construction of recreational facilities.

During the November meeting, the board agreed to add an industrial district and two business districts to the law, since the recreational-use law also covers such things as theaters, bowling alleys, dance schools and golf courses.

During the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, Dale Lindgren asked if any action had been taken to have the Cannan property returned to its original state.

This action had been previously suggested since the track on Selos Road had been built illegally without a permit as determined by the town Zoning Board of Appeals. Town attorney Mark G. Gebo said a letter sent Nov. 14 to Mr. Cannan was not answered, and Mr. Cannan did not attend the public hearing.

“It’s about cost and what we’re going to gain going down that road,” Supervisor Paul H. Smith said.

Toni Lindgren questioned the consequences to landowners if they are in violation of the law.

Mr. Gebo said that if the owners are in violation, the local courts can only levy fines.

“Another option is the state Supreme Court, but that is a longer process,” Mr. Gebo said. “The board has to decide how much money they want to commit to it.”

Mr. Lindgren equated the situation to someone who builds a house without a building permit.

Mr. Smith said if that were to happen, a stop order would be issued until the owner came into compliance, but the house probably would not be torn down and the property returned to its original state.

“They would have to follow the process to make it a track,” Mr. Smith said.

He added the board did not have the law in place until today and did not know until it passed what the law would entail. Now the board will “follow the legal process.”

“We don’t want to have all we’ve done be just for a piece of paper,” Mrs. Lindgren said.

“We’ve gotten to this point,” Mr. Smith said. “Government is a slow process. I can’t say in future whether or not it will be returned to the original habitat. We will have to see what the costs will be.”

When reached by phone following the meeting, Mr. Cannan stated his displeasure with his neighbors for forcing the issue of disallowing the recreational track.

“I spent $70,000 on a piece of land and they are telling me I can’t ride my dirt bike on it,” Mr. Cannan said.

Asked if he planned to comply to restoring the land to its original state, he replied, “They had better get their wallets out — my equipment doesn’t run for nothing.”

Last month the board amended the law and sent it back to the Jefferson County Planning Board. Mr. Gebo, the town attorney, reported that the county board said the law had no county concerns but offered some advice for further revisions concerning hours of operation, site plans and future subdivision. With no one speaking during Monday’s public hearing, the board passed the measure with the revisions suggested by the county.

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