International motocross star Chad Reed has legions of fans, but he's quickly wearing out his welcome in his adopted hometown.
Pasco County commissioners were ready earlier this week to yank the conditional use permit that allowed the racer to keep his personal training compound on 63 acres off Duck Lake Canal Road. Neighbors have complained for six months that Reed violated the conditions by racing at night and on weekends and by building a mile-long paved go-kart track.
Commissioners reluctantly agreed to postpone the hearing because his attorney, Barbara Wilhite, said she had been hired two days earlier and didn't have time to prepare a case.
"He waited until the last possible minute to hire a lawyer," neighbor Melissa Stoll said. "He thumbs his nose at the county."
Wilhite asked for a three-month delay but agreed to a one month continuance. Reed agreed to the commissioners' request that nobody use the training tracks unless he is present, but he wouldn't agree to stop riding his go-karts in the interim.
Commissioner Pat Mulieri was disgusted. "I think your client should be ashamed of himself," she said. "These people have been suffering for months and months and months. If he was a gentleman, he would step forward and say he'll stop go-karts."
Zoning Administrator Carol Clarke said go-karts are not permitted in agricultural areas.
Wilhite has appealed that ruling. "We have never received a notice of violation," she said. "We have rights as well."
Reed said go-karts are no different than all-terrain vehicles, which are common in the area and do not require a conditional use. He believes he's being singled out.
"Yes, I have a conditional use permit related to operating a motocross practice facility for my career as a professional racer, however that permit does not say that I am stripped away all of the other ordinary rights the other owners have to use and enjoy their property," he said in a written statement to the Tribune.
Neighbors Bud and Jacque Klein, who live next door to the track, said the go-karts are just as loud as the motor bikes. "I have a decibel meter," Bud Klein said. "I've stood at the property line and it's over 70 decibels."
The Kleins filed multiple complaints against Reed in 2012 for riding after hours and racing go-karts. In late November, a dozen neighbors signed a petition asking the county to revoke Reed's permit. They included more than 40 photos of go-karts on the property.
Reed didn't try to hide the go-karts. He often tweeted and posted photos online about his new hobby. He gave interviews to motocross websites and posted videos to YouTube.
"I do it because it's fun, and that's me," he says in one video. "I built a go-kart track at my house because I love to just go out there and be a kid, still. Of all the kids that I see and hang out with, I'm the biggest of them all. I don't want to change that."
On Feb. 1, the same day he hired Wilhite, Reed tweeted he had purchased five new go-kart engines.
Reed pointed out he was never cited for a code violation for the go-karts or for riding after hours. "All of the code enforcement files except one were investigated and closed with no violation found," he wrote. "The one remaining file is open for ongoing monitoring with no violation found to date."
Clarke said code enforcement officers responded to the complaints. "It was often very hard for our staff to verify and catch them in the act," she said. "As I looked at the totality of this, it became very clear to me it was operating in a manner it was not approved."
Clarke said if the department issued a code violation, Reed could have appealed it to a county court judge or paid a fine. By going after his conditional use permit, the case goes directly to commissioners familiar with Reed's history of flouting county zoning laws.
Reed was granted a conditional-use permit in 2004 for a four-acre training track on his property, but six years later he expanded it to 24 acres without a permit. The expansion included a paved track on less than an acre.
Pasco commissioners granted a new conditional-use permit in 2010, giving Reed 30 days to submit the new site plan and study. He met the deadline and was fined $1,000 for the code violation.
"We tried to give him what he wanted, and this board was not happy doing it," Mulieri said. "Why can't he stay within the parameters of his conditional use? It's ridiculous."
Chairman Ted Schrader said he sympathizes with the neighbors but doesn't want to weaken the county's legal position by pulling the permit without allowing Reed his due process. "This is going to the courts irregardless," he said.