Suamico board looks at proposed ATV/UTV ordinance
By Kevin Boneske
SUAMICO – The village board room was filled Aug. 2 with residents interested in a proposed ordinance that would allow all-terrain/utility-terrain vehicles on some village roadways.
Supporters and opponents of the measure spoke before the board, which decided to hold the first of two readings soon.
After the proposed ATV/UTV ordinance was recommended last month by Suamico’s Public Health and Safety Committee, the board agreed to have the village attorney review and provide feedback on the wording.
Village Administrator Alex Kaker said state law includes a provision allowing municipalities to enact an ordinance allowing ATV/UTV use on roadways “in strict conformity with the state statute.”
“That strict conformity verbiage is what puts our current draft ordinance in an unchallenged area, because we talk about timeframes, cruising (and) studded tires, all which are not mentioned in (Wisconsin Statutes Chapter) 23.33,” he said. “However, if you look at other local and county ATV/UTV ordinances across the state, many of them do have added or stricter regulations than 23.33. I think this boils down to you can ask multiple attorneys for their opinion on this, and you’ll likely get different interpretations of the statute.”
In the event the board would enact the proposed ordinance, Kaker said the village would have to be aware of changes to the state statute and related court cases, similar to when the board made changes to the village’s sex offender ordinance.
He said modifications to the draft ordinance presented to the board last month include:
• Updating the exhaust/muffler rule to closer align to 23.33’s section on noise limits.
• Adding a section on radio/electronic sound amplification devices to mirror existing village code related to public nuisances affecting peace and safety.
• Removing the allowance of ATV/UTV operation on village streets between 10 p.m. and midnight.
• Operating ATVs/UTVs on village streets between 5-8 a.m. may now only occur east of Interstate 41 for purposes of accessing the Bay of Green Bay.
Kaker said he sent a copy of the draft ordinance to Brown County Public Works Director/Highway Commissioner Paul Fontecchio, who informed him the village would be responsible for installing ATV/UTV signage on county roads, as well as paying for any repairs needed to the county roads due to ATV/UTV usage.
“The example they gave was if there was an ATV that kicked up gravel… from the shoulder onto the roadway, the county would bill the village for their time to correct that,” he said. “In practice, I’m not really sure how it’s going to work, because how are they going to prove it was an ATV or UTV (kicking up gravel)? But that’s a separate conversation.”
Trustee Dan Roddan said an ATV/UTV ordinance in Outagamie County includes the same provisions as the one drafted for Suamico.
“You have to be 16 (years old), you have to have a valid driver’s license (and) you can only operate them during certain times,” he said.
Roddan said he wants Suamico’s ordinance to include ATV/UTV operators not being allowed to exceed 35 mph or the posted speed limit, whichever is lower.
“Keeping them at 35 mph throughout the village, I think, would be important,” he said.
Roddan said he doesn’t have “a huge issue” with having stricter standards in a village ordinance than in state law related to ATV/UTV usage on roadways.
“There is no case law out there that says what we’re doing is incorrect,” he said. “Just like what we do with any state statute … We have stronger verbiage than what the state requires.”
When a community survey was conducted last year among Suamico residents related to the village’s strategic plan, Kaker said the question on whether to allow ATV/UTV use was split by the 10% who responded.
Board members said they were contacted before the meeting by supporters and opponents of the proposed ordinance, with most of the comments being in favor.
Trustee Sky Van Rossum said Suamico residents have the greatest bearing on any issue in the village.
“We’re here for the citizens of Suamico and no one else,” he said. “That being said, we did receive an email from the Consumer Federation of America, which is a coalition of a number of different organizations, obviously taking a very strong position against the use of ATVs/UTVs… on highways.”
Roddan said a flyer recently distributed about the proposed ordinance “created a bit of a stir” in the village.
“You’re not going to see a huge uptick in someone going back and forth in front of your house, and if you do, that’s what we have law enforcement for, and that’s why we have a provision in there that addresses that,” he said. “You’re not going to have overbearing, loud machines running around like you do in the bay with snowmobiles.”
Roddan said ATVs/UTVs would not be allowed to have modified exhaust systems.
He said he doesn’t want ATVs/UTVs to be operated on village streets with front wheels in the air, or driven aggressively, as was depicted on the flyer.
“We don’t want any of that on our village streets, and that’s again, why we have an ordinance that addresses all of those things,” he said. “If someone does a wheelie, they’ll get cited for it, if they get caught. All of those things are covered within the ordinance.”
Roddan said the proposed ordinance designates portions of Suamico where ATVs/UTVs would not be allowed, and an ATV/UTV club has offered to pay sign costs for the vehicles to operate in the village.
Steve Jatczak organized a group of village residents opposed to the proposed ordinance to speak before the board.
Jatczak questioned whether ATVs/UTVs could operate safely on paved village streets, because ATVs include warning labels telling operators not to use them on public roads.
“I love (ATVs/UTVs), but I love them off-road,” he said. “I’m nervous as hell about having them on the public streets in our town.”
Supporters speaking in favor of the proposed ordinance included Jason Nuss, a member of the village’s subcommittee which gathered information on ATV/UTV usage.
Nuss said not all village residents have direct water access, for example, and it would nice to be able to use an ATV/UTV instead of car to go to the bay.
“We have over 20 times the amount of (ATV/UTV) road routes in Wisconsin than we do of trails, so I think it’s proven itself to be safe and efficient,” he said.
The board plans to hold two readings on the proposed ordinance, which would be subject to possible revisions, before considering whether to approve it.