About a year ago, the Ione Sands Motorcross Park
outside Ione was in the news due to neighbors’ concerns about noise and public health impacts from the project. The motorcycle park was constructed on the site of a sand and gravel mine in early 2017 and began operating without a county permit and in conflict with the general plan designation and zoning for the site. Numerous videos of the project as well as facility and event descriptions have been posted on the Internet.
In March 2017, the landowner, U.S. Mine Corporation, applied to the county for a general plan change, zoning change, and conditional use permit for the facility that proposed holding events with up to 10,000 attendees. It did not disclose that motorcycle tracks had already been constructed on the site.
The company later withdrew the application and submitted a new one, again failing to disclose the presence of an operating motorcross facility, according to concerned neighbors who have carefully documented the site’s history. The revised use permit application is for a private motorcross facility open daily for training, testing, and product development with up to 50 participants per day.
Due to the neighbors’ complaints last winter, the county issued a notice of violation to the park’s owners and required them to close the facility until it was legally permitted. However, neighbors allege that Internet videos show the facility available for use well into 2018.
This summer, at county Technical Advisory Committee meetings regarding the application, neighbors raised concerns about crystalline silica blowing off the site and into their neighborhoods. Exposure to crystalline silica dust can cause serious diseases, including silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease. This and other concerns about the project led the committee to recommend that a full environmental impact report be prepared for the project.
On November 13, the Amador County Planning Commission held a “scoping session” for the EIR. On Foothill Conservancy’s behalf, attorney Michael Graf submitted a letter for the meeting. It expressed our concerns that the EIR address issues including air pollution, runoff, noise, biological resources, and traffic. We also expressed concern about the lack of specificity in the project application and pointed out that the EIR must detail exactly what is being proposed for the site. Conservancy Director Susan Bragstad summarized our concerns at the commission meeting.
At the meeting, a number of Ione-area residents expressed similar concerns, especially about noise and the health hazards posed by silica dust. One resident said he mistook the dust from the track as a fire when he was driving home one day. Others were concerned about traffic, reduced property values, and reduced visibility on Highway 124 due to blowing dust. Since the tracks are built on mine waste that likely contains valuable minerals, mining consultant Tim Smith expressed concern that permitting the project could prevent mining of those resources.
The planning commissioners voted to extend the scoping period for the EIR to the end of November so that more local residents would have time to comment. Unless the applicant chooses not to go forward, the county will select an EIR consultant and release a draft EIR for public review sometime next year.
We will continue to follow this project and coordinate with concerned local residents as it moves through the EIR process.