Published August 27. 2014 4:00AM
Stonington — A large and sometimes raucous crowd at Tuesday night's town meeting overwhelmingly rejected a proposed nuisance ordinance that could have dramatically curtailed ATV, dirt bike and other recreational vehicle use in many residential areas.
Many of the seats in the high school auditorium were filled, and moderator James O'Boyle had to frequently call for order as the crowd shouted while others spoke.
Many of the speakers said the proposed ordinance was "overkill" and "ridiculous," saying it would infringe on the rights of all residents because of a problem in one Mystic neighborhood.
"This is major overkill. Is the town going to buy back all the bikes and ATVs that people can't use now on their own property?" asked resident Robert Canova to the cheers of ordinance opponents.
But Charlene Fowles, who lives in the Richmond Lane neighborhood where the riding of teenage dirt biker Mason Fusaro has prompted complaints, warned residents they could be next.
"It's not just our neighborhood. It could be your neighborhood next. Believe me, you don't want this," Fowles said.
Resident George Burnside said the problem should have been resolved in the neighborhood.
"It should never have gotten to this point," he said.
The proposed ordinance would have required riders to stay at least 300 feet from the property line and at least 500 feet from all off-site residences unless they had permission from adjacent land owners to be closer. In addition, anyone who built a structure, course or obstacle for riding would have needed to obtain a facility or event permit from the town and install sedimentation and erosion control measures. If four riders or more wanted to ride together, they, too, would have needed a permit. Riders would not be able to cause dirt, dust or debris to cross onto an adjoining property. Violators would have been issued an infraction with a fine of $75.
The town developed the proposed ordinance in response to complaints from residents of the Mystic neighborhood who said last year they were being disturbed by Fusaro. The teen rides his dirt bike for long hours on his grandparents' 2-acre Richmond Lane property, the neighbors said. They pressed the town to enact regulations to curb the riding, which they charged produced noise and dust, hurt their quality of life and damaged property values.
They said their requests that Fusaro curtail his riding were met with resistance and profanity, while the boy's parents have disputed that his riding was excessive.
Richmond Lane resident Aaron Green, who lives next to Fusaro and had led the ordinance effort, told the crowd that the noise can be heard 2,000 feet way and has forced residents to go inside and close their windows. Even then, it can still be heard, he said.
"Everyone has the right to enjoy their property," he said, adding that the proposed nuisance ordinance was a reasonable measure that half the towns in Connecticut have enacted.
After the vote, Greene said "the people got what they wanted.
"They got dirt bikes in their neighborhood. How's that going to affect their property values?" he said. "I did this because of property values. I've lost all the value in my house."