Surface already paved, Alan Wilzig plans first ride for May
TAGHKANIC — Alan Wilzig has waged a determined and costly legal battle for the right to complete and use his paved motorcycle track on his estate here. After a roller coaster ride of legal battles he finally prevailed when the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, declined last month to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling permitting the track. The judges’ decision, issued February 21, ends the legal case brought by opponents of the track.
“The legal struggle is now over. All the appellate courts have now upheld the town’s approvals of Mr. Wilzig’s sporting course. No further appeals are possible,” said Dave Everett, Mr. Wilzig’s attorney. The appellate court might have taken the case if they thought it had statewide significance, or if they thought the lower court had made a mistake, he said.
Tony Gravett, a spokesperson for the Granger Group, the local residents’ group that had sought to block the track, said of the decision, “It’s not a victory. It’s the state’s highest court saying they will not take our case.” Warren Replansky, attorney for The Granger Group was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
It’s been more than five years since Mr. Wilzig first ran into trouble after town residents noticed he was building a mile-long, professionally engineered motorcycle race track on a hilltop above Post Hill Road in Taghkanic without a permit. Mr. Wilzig was told even before he bought the property by his real estate agent that a motorcycle track would not be allowed under town zoning laws.
Some town residents, concerned that noise from the track would affect their property values, formed The Granger Group to oppose the project. In early 2006 state Supreme Court Justice Patrick J. McGrath issued a permanent injunction forbidding use or maintenance of the track it appeared that the track would not be completed. But Mr. Wilzig appealed, and in October 2010 the injunction was removed by an appellate court. The Grangers sought to challenge that decision and it was that motion the Court of Appeals denied.
The injunction from Judge McGrath was not the only hurdle faced by Mr. Wilzig. In 2007 state Supreme Court Judge Christian Hummel found that the track was not permitted under town zoning laws, but in the summer of 2010, Mr. Wilzig applied for permission to have the track reclassified as a recreational use, rather than as an accessory to his residence. The Grangers challenged that move too, but their case failed to persuade the state’s high court justices to take up the matter.
Meanwhile, Mr. Wilzig, a wealthy man who collects and races motorcycles, didn’t wait for the outcome of the Granger’s final appeal. He paved the track in spite of a handwritten note from appellate court judge cautioning that “any work on the facility may well have to be removed if on subsequent review any or all of the [court’s] decision is modified or reversed.”
He said the track cost about $1 million to pave, a process that included an extra 15,000 tons of crushed stone he had not anticipated needing to level the track before topping it off with 5,000 tons of asphalt from Colarusso Gravel. Next the track will be coated with a special surface designed for motorcycle use. He’ll plans take his first ride on the newly paved track in May.
“They’re never going to hear me,” said Mr. Wilzig, who volunteered to abide by noise limits comparable to the strictest ones observed by professional tracks. He will install his own machines to monitor noise at the track.
News of the track first broke in the New York Post shortly after Mr. Wilzig purchased the Taghkanic property. At the time he was quoted as saying he would create something called Wilzig Racing Manor, an idea he has since disavowed. He said after the court decision that he will not invite crowds of people to use the track. As the father of two young children, he said, “I don’t want strangers coming in.”
He says he built the track because he’s given up riding motorcycles on the street because it’s too dangerous. When he’s riding on his track, he said he’ll probably do it just two hours a day, once in the morning and another hour in the afternoon during the warm months only and weather permitting. He estimated that might add up to around 50 hours annually.
He has ridden his mountain bike on the track before it was paved and says it’s wonderful, but he won’t be driving his four racecars there. Even though the track is 40 feet wide, it’s not designed for cars.
Mr. Wilzig, who has hosted events for kids from nearby Camp Sundown annually, said he may host a charity bike race at the track.
He says what he regrets most is that he could not take his kids for rides during the past year on the track because of the injunction. But he says he is not bitter about the legal battles. “You can’t be a sore winner,” he said.