Although the Plattekill Town Board passed a budget that would increase the amount to be raised by taxes by 8.6 percent in 2024, the hot topic at Wednesday’s meeting was a public hearing on a local law that would change its zoning to ban motor vehicle racing in the town.
Most of the speakers at the November 15 hearing spoke in support of a drag strip in Modena proposed at last month’s planning board by Anthony Dirago and Tina Bucci, who own Modena Collision, an auto body repair shop. The controversial drag strip was first proposed by the couple in 2018, but it has faced opposition by nearby neighbors over the past five years.
The drag strip property is located on Freetown Road next to the New York State Thruway and near the Old Orchard Airport. The proposed strip would be built on a 30-by-1,300-foot paved road that would allow for racing by “street legal” cars that would have their exhaust pipes intact and wouldn’t be too loud, according to the owners.
Kingston attorney Charles Rock, who represents Dirago and Bucci, addressed the Town Board first during the public comment period. Rock said his clients have applied to the town’s planning board for approval of a “test and tune track” on their property with areas for spectators.
Rock said former Town Building Inspector/Code Enforcement Officer Scott Mandoske ruled on October 5 that the drag racing venue was “a lawful outdoor recreational use” under the town zoning code. Mandoske resigned on October 20.
Rock said the owners also planned on holding car shows, craft shows, weddings, flea markets and other events at the track. Rock said the owners of the proposed drag strip have hired a sound engineer to work with them to come up with solutions on how to solve the noise issues so the sounds from the track would be in compliance with the town’s current zoning laws.
“Tina and Tony do not expect the planning board to approve their application (filed in October) if their sound engineer doesn’t provide acceptable proof that the mitigation measures will work,” Rock said. “So, there is no real reason for this board to change the town code to outlaw the proposed use of the property as a test track.”
Rock said the track was less than 1/8 of a mile in length and only “street legal” vehicles with exhaust systems and mufflers would be using the track.
“It’s not the type of track you’re familiar with seeing from watching National Hot Rod Association events on television,” Rock said. “We believe that the proposed change in the law to outlaw this proposed use is a rush to judgment that’s being made without knowing the facts and without allowing the planning board to perform its duty.”
Vinnie Fazio was the first town resident to address the board when the public hearing opened.
“We’re all curious why everybody up there (town board) is so against the track when there’s really nothing in this county for any of our families and kids to do,” Fazio said.
Town Councilman Dean DePew Sr., who will start serving as supervisor in 2024 after beating Michael Lembo in the November general election, said he had yet to make a decision on how to vote on the proposed local law.
“The assumption that I myself or any of the other board members are for or against it is incorrect,” DePew said. “We’re here to get as much information as we possibly can to make the best informed decision that we possibly can.”
Mark Riccio said the local law is infringing on the rights of landowners to open legitimate businesses on their properties.
“I think proposing a law like this is too little and a little too late when there’s an application in for a drag strip,” Riccio said. “It’s very punitive and it’s taking away people’s rights.”
Linda Yellin said having a drag strip nearby would adversely affect her lifestyle.
“One of my hobbies is going out and gardening,” Yellin said. “If I have a race track I’m going to be listening to for four days a week, I will no longer be able to have that enjoyment with my hobby.”
The public hearing on the zoning change will remain open for public comments via emails and correspondence until December 6 when the town board is expected to vote on the local law.
In other news, the 2024 budget was approved by a 4-0 vote with Councilman William Kras absent. There was no comment from the board about the 8.6 percent increase in the amount to be raised in taxes compared to the 2023 budget.
The amount to be raised in taxes will be $4,609,512, an increase of $365,029 over 2023’s tax levy of $4,244,483. The board was only able to pare 1.7 percent from the tentative budget that was released at its October 4 board meeting.
The town also announced that the annual Christmas tree lighting will be held December 8 at Thomas Felten Park.