Proposed Suamico ATV/UTV ordinance moving forward
By Kevin Boneske
SUAMICO – A proposed ordinance to allow all-terrain/utility-terrain vehicles on some village roadways will be considered next month for final approval.
The Suamico village board held the first reading on the measure Aug. 16 and agreed to schedule a final vote Sept. 20, at the next board meeting.
A motion by Village President Sky Van Rossum to instead hold an advisory referendum next April on ATV/UTV use on roads failed when no other board member would second the motion.
Van Rossum said he wanted to hold the referendum, because of how the issue has divided the community and the impact ATV/UTV use could have on the quality of life.
“We didn’t have this much difference of opinion when it came to the (construction of a new) fire station,” he said. “But for some reason, ATVs/UTVs, we’ve got a lot of difference of opinion.”
Van Rossum said 62% of those who contacted him favored the proposed ordinance, compared to 38% against.
“For those who spoke in favor of this, the vast majority of these – and I do mean a significant majority – were located on Riverside Drive, Huntington Way, Quiet Harbor, Seafarer, Harbor Winds… which intuitively makes complete sense, because you have the river there – of course, you’re going to (want to) have access there,” he said. “Those who were against this, or speaking opposing this, were in some of the… more heavily populated residential areas.”
When the village included a question about whether to allow ATV/UTV use in a survey last year, Van Rossum said of the 607 responses, 249 agreed or strongly agreed, compared to 268 who disagreed or strongly disagreed and 90 having no opinion.
“That survey went out to every citizen in the community,” he said. “Six-hundred-seven responded, which I think is 12%.”
Village Administrator Alex Kaker said about 4,800 postcards were sent out to urge village residents to complete the survey.
Given a majority of survey respondents opposed ATVs/UTVs on village streets and now the majority of people contacting the board want to allow them, Van Rossum said he believes the issue needs to go to a referendum.
“As much as that pains me, as much as I’d like to be done with this, I think that it’s the only way to make sure that we get everyone’s opinion covered,” he said.
However, other board members said they preferred taking a final vote on the proposed ordinance next month, rather than waiting until April to hold a referendum.
“At this point in time, we’ve already been talking about it a very long time,” Trustee Michelle Eckert said. “And as you well know, referendums are only advisory… We’re just going to end up in the same place we were before.”
Van Rossum said the board could accept the results of a referendum as binding.
Trustee Dan Roddan said the survey question on ATV/UTV use was “very generic,” and the proposed ordinance addresses concerns people have about allowing them on village streets, such as safety.
“We took all the concerns and tried to address them best we could,” he said. “No more than 35 (mph), no cruising, driver’s license (required) – all these other provisions to provide some answers to some of the concerns, and I think we’ve done a great job of that within this ordinance. I’m excited for it to move forward.”
Opponents of ATV/UTV use on Suamico’s streets backed the idea of holding a referendum and were disappointed in the board not supporting Van Rossum’s motion.
“I think the fact that Sky’s motion for a referendum died for a lack of a second tells us pretty clearly where the board is,” Suamico resident Steve Jatczak said in an email to other opponents of ATVs/UTVs on village streets. “We are going to face a tough fight.”
Two weeks earlier, Jatczak organized a group of residents opposed to the proposed ordinance to speak before the board.
The board again heard from supporters and opponents of the measure this week when it opened the floor to public comments.
Supporters in favor of the proposed ordinance included Michael Brandt, a member of the village’s subcommittee which gathered information on ATV/UTV usage.
“It’s not any more dangerous or less dangerous than me being on a bike,” he said. “I don’t believe there’s going to be a dramatic change in the traffic or anything that would impede me enjoying riding a bike or taking a walk. The traffic will be the same. The vehicle will simply look different.”
Though the proposed ordinance would prohibit ATV/UTV use on specified village streets, some opponents, such as Susan Erickson, suggested a “trial run” with limited areas where the vehicles could operate, before allowing them on roads throughout the village.
“(An ATV) sounds like a chainsaw, to me, in the woods, which I hear a lot, because people cut down trees, also in the woods,” she said.
Since the proposed ordinance was discussed by the board last month, Kaker said the following provisions were added:
• ATV/UTV operators shall observe a speed limit not to exceed 35 mph or the posted speed limit, whichever is less.
• ATV/UTV operators will be permitted to operate those vehicles under state law if they are used exclusively for agricultural purposes.
• ATV/UTV operators will be permitted to operate those vehicles under state law for the purpose of removing snow.
If the proposed ordinance is approved, Kaker said it wouldn’t take effect until Oct. 19 to allow enough time for signage to be posted.