Hobart approves dirt bike track — with restrictions
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent September 7, 2012 12:46PM
Updated: October 9, 2012 3:01PM
HOBART — Robert Berndt can continue to operate a dirt bike/ATV track on his Grand Avenue acreage, provided he complies with a list of rules worked out with the city and has access to the trails located at the western portion of the property.
The Board of Zoning Appeals Thursday gave Berndt conditional approval to operate the track at 6814 Grand Ave., which Berndt said is used by hundreds of area enthusiasts.
City Planner A.J. Bytnar said Berndt provided a list of rules and regulations at the property as requested. Berndt said the track would operate from 9 a.m. to around 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to dusk on weekends. He agreed to have portable bathrooms at the site and said he would not allow loud mufflers on the vehicles to keep the noise level down.
Bytnar said the city has the authority to enforce the rules.
The major concern, however, is access to the property.
Berndt has been gaining access to his farm at the same address through a driveway that is actually on his niece’s property to the north, as a result of the way the land was divided in his parents’ will. The niece, Virginia Johnson, said at last month’s meeting that she has been letting Berndt use the driveway to do his farming as a goodwill gesture, but does not want the ATV and dirt bike riders to use it because of liability issues.
Berndt said he doesn’t have the funds to put in a new commercial driveway on his property, which could cost $40,000, but he has offered to pay his niece’s liability insurance.
“I need to let my niece decide. I’ve been using that driveway for 30 some years now,” Berndt said.
Bytnar said if the niece doesn’t agree, Berndt could hire an attorney.
“It’s been the access road to his property for years,” Bytnar said.
Two residents raised concerns about the track at the meeting. Ray Rodriguez, of Deep River Drive, complained of annoying sounds coming from the track from morning into night.
“If he wants the track, then he should build noise buffers,” said Rodriguez, who lives two miles north of the track.
A resident on 62nd Place said he doesn’t mind the track or the noise, but he doesn’t like four-wheelers coming down his street to get to the track.
Mark Ulinski, of Chesterton, who helped Berndt prepare the rules, said there is no riding allowed outside of the track.
The matter still must go before the City Council for final approval.
In other matters, the commission approved a request by Andrew Thomas to build a 30-foot by 36-foot pole barn with a 216-square-foot covered porch on his property at 62nd Place and Grand Boulevard, despite objections from his neighbors on 62nd Place.
Harold Johnson said all the people on 62nd Place have one-story homes with the exception of Thomas, who lives at the entrance to the dead-end street.
“I don’t want a big pole barn on that property. It’s all you can see as you come in,” Johnson said.
Another resident said he would not object to a larger garage built on the site, but he is against a pole barn that he said is almost the size of Thomas’ house.
Bytnar said the height of the pole barn is permitted at the site, adding that the look of the pole barn matches the architecture of Thomas’ house.