Select Board expected to consider ATV ordinance

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POWNAL — The Select Board is expected to consider a new ordinance on ATV use, in light of requests to establish one.

"Everyone I've talked to so far that's in favor of it wants to do it responsibly," said Michael Walker, town administrator. "Very responsible people are coming and asking to do this."

Walker drafted the ordinance, which is being reviewed by the town's attorney. He said he considered other town ordinances, and also the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

"The board's going to have to make some decisions based on quite good arguments on either side," Walker said.

Namely, he said, there's two types of concerns about ATVs. People who enjoy them want to be able to use them. "And then there are people who are affected by a very small minority of riders — trash, garbage, tearing up lawns, things of that nature," he said. "I'd like to think that's a very small minority. The board has a balancing act to do here."

The ordinance, if adopted, would replace the town's current ATV regulation, contained in its traffic ordinance. The traffic ordinance was adopted by the prior Select Board Dec. 27, 2018.

Pownal's traffic ordinance prohibits operating a recreational vehicle, including an ATV, on any town or state aid highway in Pownal except on designated open roads.

Those roads are Schenkar Road from the intersection of Old Military Road, Old Military Road from the intersection of Schenkar Road and Old Military Road heading south to the Williamstown, Massachusetts, town line, County Road from the point of intersection with Schenkar Road to the Stamford town line, Cross Roads from the intersection of Maple Grove Road to the intersection of South Stream Road to South Stream Road, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance provides for fines of $15 to $500 for each offense.

Discussion about ATV riding in town is also being addressed by the Recreation Task Force, which considered the issue at meeting Monday night at the Solomon Wright Public Library.

An at-times heated crowd clashed over the issue.

John Bushee, who attended the meeting, said he's been trying to put together a four-wheeler group in the town, and through research, determined it would be a Pownal-specific group. He expressed interest in speaking with some audience members about joining that group.

He suggested a couple weeks to get a conversation going and put a plan together.

Resident Jim Kocsis said he's concerned that people are going to want to make all roads ATV trails in town.

"That's the economic development you want for Pownal?" he asked.

"I'm afraid that all of this is happening without public knowledge," he said. "I want this to be a Pownal discussion."

In response to a question from Bushee, Ray Rodrigues, a member of the task force, said he had requested the ATV issue be put on the task force's meeting agenda.

Most of the attendees expressed support for ATV use, saying they ride respectfully and responsibly.

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"Most of us bought [property] in Pownal because we can ride our ATVs from our driveways," one woman said.

A member of the task force, Doug Robertson, said he objected to the way some people ride ATVs.

"The kids in the trailer park whipping down there all day long," he said. "We have just as much problem we've always had. What kind of control is this?"

"It's going to happen," Nathan Rowe, husband of Select Board Vice Chairwoman Elizabeth Rowe, responded. "So let's embrace it, instead of shunning it."

"Would you rather have heroin needles up and down the street?" he said. "You're going to take away stuff from kids. There's nothing to do anyways."

One woman said people couldn't change how kids ride through other people's yards. But, she said, they can set an example.

"We're not law enforcement," she said. "However, we're riding appropriately, and following the rules."

Richard Williams said he strongly believes that ATV riding is like anything else in life — there are responsible riders and irresponsible ones.

He said he feels ATV riders, in general, don't respect his complaints about bad ATV riders.

"The people whose garbage I'm constantly picking up," he said. "It's absolutely disgusting, the amount of beer cans that are left behind."

Williams said he sees the problem before the group as how to designate certain areas where ATV traffic is okay, and certain areas where it's not.

Kocsis said it needs to be determined where the ATV trails currently are in Pownal.

"So that people know where these trails are — I think that's a big accomplishment," he said.

In response, one audience member said most of the trails start on private property. There's also no place to park ATVs, she said.

Most of the places where people ride are currently private property, Miller said.

"I would definitely want to hear why people are hostile to ATVs on the road," he said.

"They fly by," Robertson said. "Tell me what to do about it."

"Be patient," Miller responded. "They're going to grow up."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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