Twelve-year-old Tanner Stack, of Oakgrove, Mo., takes a leisurely spin on a pit bike Friday around Onorio Izzi’s super-cross track in east Albany after his daily motorcross practice earlier that day.
ALBANY — Onorio Izzi, owner of the 42.6-acre motocross training facility at 100 E. Oakridge Drive here, is scheduled to be in Municipal Court on Monday to answer to charges that he is operating a commercial RV park within the city limits and is dumping raw sewage into a sink hole on the property.
Expected to testify during the hearing are representatives of Albany’s Code Enforcement and Planning and Development Services offices and Dougherty County Environmental Health.
“(City officials) are saying that we’re dumping raw sewage on the grounds out here, and that’s ridiculous,” Izzi said. “If that was happening, you wouldn’t be able to bear the smell. They’re saying we’re contaminating the river, but there’s absolutely no proof of that.
“And some of them are saying that we’re running a commercial RV park, but this is a private venture. What we’re actually doing on this land is what we’ve always said we were going to do. We’re running a motocross training facility. I don’t know if they’re just trying to get some money out of me or what, but I’m not a liar. What I told them I was going to do is exactly what I’m doing.”
City officials will challenge that position at a hearing before Municipal Court Judge Willie Weaver.
“The two key points in this case are that Mr. Izzi is running a commercial mobile home park and that he is dumping raw sewage on the ground,” Albany Code Enforcement Director Mike Tilson said. “He’s not zoned to run any kind of commercial facility, and the sewage issue impacts environmental and health issues.
“This office does not have the authority to make charges against a citizen such as Mr. Izzi unless there is probable cause. The environmental health issue provided us with cause to inspect the facility.”
Dougherty County Environmental Health Specialist Clay Poole inspected Izzi’s property and said he will testify to finding violations at the site.
“That property does not meet the qualifications to provide tours accommodations, so our evidence indicates he’s running such a park illegally,” Poole said. “We have witnesses who will testify that they’ve lived out there for extended periods, some as long as two years.”
One of those witnesses is Carl MCulloch of Michigan. His wife and son stayed at Izzi’s facility for several weeks two years ago, he said.
“(Izzi) had some riders in a race up here, and my son Cody whupped all of them,” McCulloch, who will testify at Monday’s hearing electronically, said in a phone interview. “Mr. Izzi solicited Cody to come train with him, so he and my wife went down there to Albany and stayed at the facility he has there.
“They lived there on the site in an RV for several weeks at a time.”
According to witnesses, the McCullochs were not alone. Several say that at any given time, members of as many as 11 families lived and trained at the track for extended periods. But Izzi said he did not charge rent on the RVs, so he did not feel he was in violation of city ordinances.
“We had water and electrical hook-ups, and people paid for their own water and electricity,” he said. “And we paid ‘Johnny on the Spot’ $25 a week to come out and pick up the sewage every week. Some people made donations to help with the maintenance, but it was voluntary. We didn’t charge anyone rent.
“Georgia law says you can’t live in an RV for a period of longer than two weeks, that if you do you have to have a sewer hook-up. But the people were basically living here a week at a time. These kids were coming from all over the United States to work out at our local gyms, eat at local restaurants, buy gas and other necessities here. I feel like we’ve been an asset to this community.”
Poole said Izzi’s violations extend beyond the operation of an illegal business.
“They had sewage running out of their RVs into pipes that were dumping into a sink hole,” he said. “Under the right circumstances, that sewage could easily make its way into the (underground) aquifer and into people’s drinking water.
“Our priority concern is to make sure that doesn’t happen. We want him in compliance with environmental laws at all costs, whether he fixes it to our satisfaction or they shut him down. We have evidence that he is in violation of zoning and environmental laws, and we’ll present that evidence at the hearing.”
Mary Teter, Albany’s interim director of Planning and Development Services, said a combination of citizen complaints and observations of Izzi’s property prompted an investigation by city and environmental officials.
“When a lot of RVs showed up on the property, we looked into it,” she said. “That’s not allowed unless he goes through a special approval procedure, which he hasn’t. Also, under the city’s Floodplain Management Ordinance, he’s not allowed to have a septic tank on that property, so he can’t have a permanent residence.”
Izzi is no stranger to mixing it up with city officials. He fought an extended battle in 2008 before buying the Oakridge Drive motocross training site from Applewhite Properties so that his son Nico, a professional motocross racer, could train at the property. Officials with the nearby Industrial Control Associates engineering firm and others complained about the noise made by the racing bikes.
Industrial Control owner Russell Roe told the commission at that time, “The noise from those bikes is distractive; it’s impossible (for engineers) to focus with that going on. We had sales of $1.4 million last year ... and we paid $75,000 in taxes. If you vote to allow this noise at this property, we will consider moving our business elsewhere.”
Roe eventually signed off on a letter saying that efforts to reduce the noise, including the installation of special mufflers on the bikes, were satisfactory.
Izzi and his wife later moved an RV onto the Oakridge Drive site and have resided there since.
“From the beginning, Mr. Izzi has done everything the city has asked him to do,” Albany City Commissioner Tommie Postell said Thursday. “He’s met all the specifications we required of him. He’s not running an RV camp on that property; I’ve been out there and I haven’t seen any violations. I think there’s a degree of jealousy from some in the community.
“I don’t see that he’s doing anything wrong, just training young boys to ride those motorbikes. I see him as an asset to this community.”