Although the public hearing on the proposed local law banning motor vehicle racing in the Town of Plattekill was open to only written comments at the January 17 Town Board meeting, more than 15 people voiced their displeasure with the local law during the time usually reserved for public comment.
Supervisor Dean DePew Sr., who insisted at the December 7 Town Board meeting that the proposed local law is not “a done deal by any means,” allowed large pro-drag strip crowd to vent its frustration for about 45 minutes.
Previously DePew had assured supporters of the drag strip that the board was not targeting the owners of the track who currently have an application for it before the Town Planning Board.
At first, the Town Board voted 4-0 to leave the public hearing open through February 7 for written comments only.
When one member of the audience interjected that “we’re all here for the public hearing,” DePew responded: “The public hearing is continuing. So, you have plenty of opportunity to write your comments down. Send them in. Email them in. We’ll be glad to hear them.”
But once the public comment was opened five minutes after the start of the meeting, those who signed a sheet to speak ignored the board’s plea to just submit written comments about the local law.
Pat Laffin, who lives in Dutchess County and had spoken at the first public hearing in November regarding the racetrack, kicked off the succession of speakers who urged the board to reject the proposed local law.
Laffin called the proposed law “ambiguous” and said as written it could apply to all vehicles as opposed to just race cars.
“What you’ve written here is that a vehicle with a combustible engine can’t even drive on a public street in any zoned area in the whole town,” Laffin said. “Now I know that’s not what you meant when you wrote this, but it could be interpreted that way. If I was on that (town) board, I would not vote to put my town at risk of being sued by passing a law such as this.”
Mark Riccio of Wallkill said any suggestion that racing at the drag strip would impact the environment negatively was false.
“We have other businesses like Stewart’s and Dunkin’ Donuts where cars go in and out of there all day long,” Riccio said. “Pulling out. Hitting their brakes, getting their gas. Were they asked to do these kinds of studies? Were they put under scrutiny? If you didn’t ask them, how dare you ask ‘TJ’ (Dirago, the owner of the proposed drag strip)?”
DePew said that there is a process in the town where incoming businesses must answer questions.
“There is a process to all of those things you mentioned,” DePew said. “And they are addressed during the whole process of the planning board.”
In April of 2021, Anthony “TJ” Dirago and Tina Bucci, who own the auto repair shop Modena Collision, applied to operate a drag racing strip on a 46-acre plot of land at 153 Freetown Road, which has caused numerous complaints from nearby homeowners.
Four months later, the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals denied their variance with a unanimous vote.
Dirago and Bucci and a large group of supporters have attended the town board’s public hearings on the local law that would ban all motor vehicle racing within town boundaries, not just in residential areas.
Residents packed the Town Hall for the first public hearing on the controversial local law on November 15. Nearly all of the close to 30 speakers spoke in favor of the drag strip.
DePew said there was no timeline for the board to vote on the proposed local law. The first time the board could vote on it would be at its next regular meeting on February 7 if the public hearing is officially closed.