County planning commission to consider bike track use permit. 

August 15, 2022

DeHaan’s layout of the facility on West Conrad Road.

County planning commission to consider bike track use permit. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

AMBER TOWNSHIP — The Mason County Planning Commission is scheduled to hear a request from Colin DeHaan who is asking it to amend the county zoning ordinance to allow a special land use permit to be issued for a commercial dirt bike track on land zoned agricultural. DeHaan owns a 24 acre parcel on the north side of West Conrad Road east of South Victory Corner Road in Amber Township. Since early July he has been excavating the land in preparation of beginning a business he calls Boom MX Compound. Amber Township does not have its own zoning and therefore its zoning is enforced by the county’s ordinance.

Existing special land uses for agriculture zoned land include:

  • Agribusiness uses exceeding 1,500 square feet in total floor space dedicated to such use. 
  • Migrant labor housing. 
  • Cemeteries. 
  • Airports. 
  • Wineries. 
  • Forest industries. 
  • Utility grid wind energy systems. 
  • Agricultural equipment sales and service. 
  • Veterinary clinics. 
  • Commercial or boarding kennels. 
  • Wireless communication support facilities. 
  • On site use wind energy systems (over 66 feet). 
  • Golf course driving ranges. 
  • Sand and gravel extraction operations. 
  • Golf courses. 
  • Transitional or emergency housing. 
  • Meteorological or met towers. 
  • Agricultural storage facilities. 
  • Mud bogging pit. 
  • Agricultural tourism enterprise, class II. 
  • Accessory structures and uses customarily incidental to the above permitted uses. 

Currently, a dirt bike track is allowed as a special land use within the highway commercial zoning district. There are no commercial dirt bike tracks currently in Mason County. The zoning restriction is only for commercial use. A privately-used dirt bike track can be built on agriculturally zoned property. 

DeHaan said he and his family got involved in the motocross racing sport about a year ago. 

“The community of motocross racing is awesome and inspiring,” DeHaan said. “We have a bunch of friends from Mason and Manistee counties and we all travel two-plus hours every weekend to do these races. There, we meet up with other friends. These are like lifelong friends.” 

When he purchased the land on West Conrad Road DeHaan said he initially intended to build a house there, along with a dirt bike track. However, recent talk about solar farms being placed in the area gave him second thoughts about living on the property and, instead, just develop it as a commercial entity. 

“Regardless of the planning commission’s decision, I plan on having a track there,” he said. “I am allowed to have a private track to be used for personal use. But, my big dream is to have a place where we can cultivate this motocross community. I want to have a place where people can learn to ride, rent dirt bikes, bring their own. This facility would be open two or three days during the week for practices and then we would have weekend races that would start at 10 a.m. and go to either 2 p.m. or 5 p.m., depending on how many entries there are.”

DeHaan said he plans to employ one or two full-time people along with creating up to 50 seasonal jobs. 

DeHaan’s request has gained opposition from residents who live near the track. In advance of its meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 16, the planning commission has already received letters from some nearby residents.

Susan Scott and her husband, Steven, live on Dennis Road less than half mile away from the proposed track. Scott said in a letter that she and Steven recently purchased the Bentz Stoney Hill Farm, located adjacent to the proposed track, to build their retirement home and are opposed to allowing the special use permit. She said the land they purchased is near land where their son, Mark Scott lives, across the street. Mark Scott and his family own part of Cherry Hill Farm, which is the historic 70 acre fifth generation Hansen farm. 

“To be part of the area where lands continue to be owned, lived and farmed for multiple generations as centennial farms, is history that should not be lost,” Susan Scott wrote. 

Mark Scott also wrote a letter in opposition to the special use permit. 

“As a hobby farmer and a champion of continuing agricultural heritage for future generations, I do not feel that dirt bike tracks have a place in the agricultural community of Mason County, especially Amber Township,” Mark Scott wrote. “Conrad Road is a unique part of Mason County’s agri-tourism destinations (Amber Elk Ranch and Trillium Creek wedding barn). There are very few weeks that Conrad Road doesn’t have one of the following: photographers stopping for pictures, a group of old cars, motorcycles, bicyclists, runners and even a few tractor tours enjoying what Conrad Road, Amber Township and Mason County has to offer.” 

Marcia Hansen, owner of Cherry Hill Farm, and a resident of South Victory Corner Road, also stated her opposition to the request. 

“Amber Township, especially along the Conrad Road corridor, was zoned agriculture for a reason. The rich fertile soils produce abundant crops, fruits, vegetables, grows hay and pasture land for animals…”

“Motorized recreation in my view is not compatible with agriculture or residential zoning. I question how one would control noise, traffic or provide law enforcement when in this case Mr. DeHaan doesn’t reside on the property.” 

Mary and Konnor Brown, who also live in the area of the track, stated their opposition stating they are concerned about the closeness of the track to the Amber Elk Ranch, located about half mile east of the facility. 

“DeHaan’s plan for owning a dirt bike track business might work well in a larger and more appropriate location,” the Browns wrote. Perhaps his 40 acres of land north of here (this site is only 24 acres) or a larger more remote area similar to Whiskey Creek would be a good location.” 

DeHaan said he realizes that having a motocross facility nearby may not be ideal for some people. 

“I understand that not everybody wants to live next to a dirt bike track,” DeHaan said. “I don’t blame them. There are a handful of neighbors out there who have derby cars and they are racing those around their fields all the time.”

DeHaan said a commercial track would mean limited hours. A private track would not have limited hours since Amber Township does not have noise restrictions. 

The planning commission meets at 7 p.m. at the Mason County Airport board room, 5300 W. US 10 in Pere Marquette Township. 

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