May 17, 2010

Barona racetrack is buzz-kill

Can silence be bought near Ramona racetrack?

By Logan JenkinsAlmost 40 years ago, when San Diego Country Estates, Ramona’s answer to Rancho Bernardo, was being graded, a motocross track for little kids was built on the edge of the Barona reservation.

Country Estates residents say it sounded like buzzing bees for one day maybe every other week. No big deal. It was a minor irritation disturbing the peace and quiet of country living.

Life went on until several years ago, when the Barona Oaks track seemed to get pumped up on steroids.

The bikes and riders became bigger, the hours of operation virtually all day, five days a week. A popular drag strip was added to the mix. Paintball, too.

On a recent weekday morning, I visited a house on Barona Mesa Road. Sitting on the patio, the homeowner told me that he was recently divorced. His wife, he said, just couldn’t take the noise anymore. He can’t afford to move.
And:Barona has its sovereign rights. Whatever environmental oversight there is from Washington or Sacramento evidently doesn’t include engine noise. The racetrack falls through a giant crack in pollution control.

What’s more, the Ramona residents cannot sue the tribe unless Barona agrees to be sued. (Yes, you read that right.)

A couple of years ago, county Supervisor Dianne Jacob tried to persuade Barona to move the tracks a mile or so farther inside the reservation. No way, the tribe said.

The only locations that might work are “culturally sensitive.” End of conversation.

The tribe’s basic view is that its neighbors moved into an area where a motocross track already existed. If they’re so annoyed by the increased volume, they should build barriers around their houses.

From what I witnessed, the only way to block the noise would be to erect a dome over one’s property. Might suit Mars. But Ramona?

Jacob sighed over the phone and said, “It’s very frustrating.”

A couple of years ago, the county conducted a study that confirmed the obvious: The noise would be illegal coming from anywhere except from a reservation.
Comment:  Let's see...I've got no sympathy for Barona and its "we built the track 40 years ago" argument. If it wasn't a problem for 35 of 40 years, I'd say the homeowners had a right to expect that to continue.

But I've also got no sympathy for the homeowners' "we can't sue Barona" argument. They didn't know the track would change, but Barona could've developed the land in other ways. Moral of the story: You're taking a risk buying a home next to a sovereign Indian nation.

Since I have no use for motocross or the noise and dust pollution it generates, I wish the homeowners well. Unfortunately, they've already tried the things I'd suggest: organizing in a group, contacting their representatives, even protesting with signs. Other than creating a blog and Facebook page to publicize your case, I'm not sure what else to say.

I don't know how active the homeowners are, but I'd encourage them to keep at it. My impression is that a good protest eventually works. Let's hope Barona, the homeowners, and the motocross fanatics can find a compromise that satisfies everyone.

For more on the subject, see Barona's Motocross Training Center and Offroad Racetrack at Pala.

Below:  Homes beyond the racetrack?

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