ATV use divides neighbors

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    WARWICK-They seem like two reasonable guys. They have lived adjacent to each other for 18 years. Last year, though, Tony Tanzosh brought out his ATVs. He loves to ride on his four-acre property, remotely set near Mt. Peter. He had a path cleared on his property so he and his son could ride together. His long-time neighbor, Bill Murnion, likes the peace and quiet of this mountain-residential setting. The two never had words before. They even have respectful things to say about each other. But the two are at odds over the town's ATV law. Tanzosh went to the Town Board two weeks ago to get clarification on the revision it made to the ATV law last August. The section of the law that was changed now states it is prohibited to "operate an ATV that causes noises that are disturbing and bothersome to adjoining property owners and those properties within 500 feet of any property upon which an ATV is operated." Previously, the law stated that only adjoining property owners could report loud ATVs. This change allowed property owners within 500 feet to also weigh in. Tanzosh said this is too vague-leaving too much up to the discretion of the police. What exactly is "disturbing and bothersome?" Tanzosh presented the board with a 150-signature petition asking that the board clarify the wording. Tanzosh said he took out his ATVs for the first time this year on April 17. Within an hour, police came to him with a complaint from his neighbor. "This was the first time we started them up and it was 2 in the afternoon," Tanzosh said. "We could have discussed it. There was no need to call the police." Murnion said he had tried to discuss the ATV noise last year with his neighbor but said Tanzosh wasn't cooperative, saying he could ride them on his own property. Murnion admits he does not believe ATVs have any place in residential zones. He is not the only one. Last year at the hearing to amend the ATV law, a few residents asked the Town Board to make that change. Supervisor Michael Sweeton said that would be extreme. The Village of Warwick prohibits ATVs in residential zones. Murnion also said he would be willing to compromise on the issue, as long as people are being reasonable about it. Tanzosh said this rule is unfairly picking on ATV owners. "Why only have a sound ordinance against ATVs?" he asked. "If that's the case, you must regulate all engines then. My lawn mower and chain saw make more noise than my ATV. A chain saw is the most obnoxious motor to start." Tanzosh said he uses his ATV in the winter to plow his driveway as well. Murnion said he lives in a mountain-residential zone for the peace and quiet. He said the other motors - lawn mowers and chain saws - are needed for the upkeep of property. The ATVs are not necessary. "If people want to ride ATVs, there are public places to ride them," he said. "Why not use paths in parks or create a place like they did for skateboarders in the park?" Both men use the same words to describe what they both want out of the law: Reasonable, respectful, tolerant. Murnion even says he doesn't find the petition his neighbor submitted unreasonable. He agrees, "The law is too subjective." Sweeton said the law is vague for a reason. "It gives room for everybody to live together here," said Sweeton. "We're always open to suggestions to make the law better." When police are called because of ATV noise, if they find the complaint within reason, they refer it to the building inspector, who will come out with a device to measure the sound. If it is above a certain decibel level, the ATV owner is fined. Murnion doesn't find that effective at all. "What are you going to do when the building inspector gets there? Call and say run your ATV so we can measure the decibels?" he asked. And nowhere in the law does it mention the building inspector. Both Murnion and Tanzosh said their relationship has always been fairly friendly. They consider each other reasonable people. They both told the story of how Tanzosh's wife, Felicia, recently found Murnion's dog running loose and returned him to the family. "They are very neighborly," said Murnion.