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Suamico board approves ATV/UTV ordinance

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

SUAMICO – An overflow crowd was in attendance Monday, Sept. 20, when an ordinance to allow all-terrain/utility-terrain vehicles (ATV/UTV) on a number of village roadways was approved 4-2 by the Suamico Village Board.

Trustees Steve Andrews, Michelle Eckert, Jason Ward and Dan Roddan approved the ordinance, which takes effect Oct. 19.

Village President Sky Van Rossum, who suggested holding a referendum on the matter, and Trustee Mike Schneider, who suggested a pilot program allowing the vehicles to initially only operate east of Interstate 41, were opposed.

The issue of whether to allow ATVs/UTVs on village streets attracted supporters and opponents in recent months to multiple board meetings.

Both sides had another opportunity to speak Sept. 20 when they were each given up to 5 minutes.

Roddan – who chaired a subcommittee on the issue, and also chairs the village’s Public Health and Safety Committee, which recommend the ordinance to the board – spoke at length about what was included in the measure.

“It’s just not a blanket ordinance that just says, ‘Hey, you can drive your ATVs and UTVs wherever you want, whenever you want or however you want,’” he said. “We follow, and it states in this ordinance that we follow state Statute 23.33, which is a statute through the (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources) that regulates ATVs and UTVs for the State of Wisconsin. We also abide by Chapter 340-348, which is (what) the operators must observe (for) all applicable rules of the road.”

Roddan said the ordinance also requires ATV/UTV operators to be at least 16 years old with a valid driver’s license, have a vehicle registered with the State of Wisconsin and have insurance coverage.

He said ATVs/UTVs are allowed on village streets from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the allowable hours also including 5-8 a.m. east of Interstate 41 for the sole purpose of accessing the Bay of Green Bay.

Roddan said ATVs/UTVs must observe speed limits, which for those vehicles is either 35 mph or the posted speed, whichever is less.

He said “cruising” is not allowed to eliminate “the potential of individuals going up and down a street, or a group of streets, or making a race track out of a square mile.”

“Whatever the situation may be, you need to go to and from wherever you’re going to, not back and forth, back and forth, back and forth,” Roddan said.

He said the noise level for ATV/UTV exhaust systems is limited to 96 decibels, and sound systems also are not allowed to be amplified.

“There are penalties for any of these violations,” Roddan said.

He said the village has a map showing the roads listed in the ordinance where ATV/UTV use is prohibited, including:

• School Lane (County B) from Pittco Road to West Deerfield Avenue.
• Flintville Road (County M) from Autumn Wood Trail to Church Hill Drive.
• Reforestation Road from School Lane (County B) to Westview Road.
• Lakeview Drive (County J) from Lineville Road to Parkland Way.
• Lakeview Drive (County J) north of Transfer Trail.
• Lineville Road in its entirety.
• Pirates Cove in its entirety.
• Cardinal Lane from Honey Clover Court to Lineville Road.
• Carolina Cherry Drive in its entirety.
• Rockwell Lane in its entirety.

Roddan said roadways could be added to the restricted list with an ordinance amendment.

“(The current Village Board and future boards) have the power to modify or change this ordinance at any time,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, or if there are issues, or if there are streets, or whatever it may be, it can come back to this board, and we can modify it and we can change it.”

Roddan said the village isn’t setting any new trends by enacting the ordinance, because there are now more than 41,000 miles of paved roads in Wisconsin where ATVs/UTVs are allowed.

He said the village has been transparent with the ordinance, and the board and committee conducted multiple meetings where ATVs/UTVs were on the agenda.

Postcards for poll

An email poll recently conducted to register support or opposition of ATVs/UTVs on village streets was put together by a group of residents opposed to the ordinance.

It also generated discussion Sept. 20.

Postcards with photos of the vehicles were sent to households throughout Suamico urging them to participate in the poll by emailing their “yes” or “no” vote to a village address, [email protected], with Village Administrator Alex Kaker forwarding the results to interested parties.

Roddan referred to the postcards and a flyer the group previously sent out with the same photos as being “propaganda pieces.”

“I don’t think anybody in this room wants ATVs flying down our streets,” he said. “I don’t think anybody in this room wants ATVs doing wheelies down our streets, and I don’t think anybody wants ATVs driving recklessly. Both of these propaganda pieces indicate lawlessness when it comes to ATVs… We want none of this stuff that’s on the side of this postcard.”

Roddan said the ordinance includes provisions to address that type of behavior.

Supporters and opponents of the ordinance had different interpretations of the poll results, which both acknowledged had duplicate responses, though the final tallies each side had were different.

“If you took out all the duplicates, you come up with 1,036 emails ever received – 612 are for the ordinance, 424 against,” Roddan said. “That puts you at a 59% in favor, 41% not in favor.

Steve Jatczak, who was involved with the postcards, said they were mailed out to “elicit a response.”

“The reverse side of the picture says, ‘Vote no or yes,’” he said. “It doesn’t tell people how to vote. It simply gets their attention, so they wouldn’t throw that piece of paper away that might look like another advertisement stuffed in the mailbox.”

Jatczak said the purpose for the poll was based on the premise most Suamico residents weren’t aware of the ATV/UTV initiative.

Of the 4,945 mailings sent out, Jatczak said his tally, for which he eliminated duplicates and only counted “yes” and “no” responses listing the voting numbers provided on the postcards, included 783 responses with 381 households (48.6%) in favor and 402 (51.3%) opposed.

Jatczak said the poll’s margin of about 2.7% is close to the difference between “yes” and “no” votes last year in a question on whether to allow ATV/UTV use in a survey conducted by the village.

“We don’t see a major shift in the relative acceptance of this proposed ordinance in (the) community that at least responded to the initial survey and the most recent mailer,” he said.

Board members said the contacts they received directly from village residents were more were in favor of enacting the ordinance than against it.

Public comments

Those speaking against the ordinance included former Village President Laura Nelson, who questioned the legal ramifications of enacting the measure.

Nelson stated ATVs/UTVs are excluded from various provisions of state law that apply to other motor vehicles.

“My concern here… is by taking this action here today, are you stepping into the shoes of that national manufacturer by passing this ordinance?” she said.

Nelson said she provided the board information from national organizations stating ATVs/UTVs “are not safe to be driven on paved surfaces.”

“If I, driving my husband’s three-quarter-ton diesel, fail to see an ATV next to me, and that young rider has to swerve, and that young rider is seriously maimed, injured or tragically killed – because he’s ejected or she’s ejected – and I’m sued, guess what?” she said. “The village steps into the place of the manufacturer, and now I implead you in place of that manufacturer, because you have forsaken, disregarded, or negligently ignored these warnings and put into place this ordinance. And now because I’m liable, you are liable.”

Other opponents of the ordinance, such as Ellen Sarns, who lives on Riverside Drive, said there would be a problem with noise by allowing ATVs/UTVs on village streets.

“I’m afraid that adding ATVs and UTVs to this mix will only increase noise, the traffic, and we have some serious safety issues that we’re looking at,” she said.

Supporters speaking in favor of the ordinance included Michael Brandt, a member of the village’s subcommittee which gathered information on ATV/UTV usage.

Brandt said postcards recently sent out for the email poll were “not really objective.”

“It was really just an advertisement for ‘no,’ and that’s OK,” he said. “You have your right to go and send your advertisement out and say this is how I feel, just like I’ve sent emails to my friends.”

Brandt asked for a show of hands among those attending the meeting in support of the ordinance and most raised their hands.

He said support for the ordinance included 56 businesses in Suamico.

Brandt said an ATV/UTV club in Suamico raised money for signage for the vehicles to operate on village streets.

Though the board approved a motion to authorize the use of $5,500 in contingency funds for sign installation, Brandt said a check for that amount would be provided to the village.

“You have my assurance, as one of the members of the Suamico (ATV/UTV) club, and all of these other supporters here, that we are going to do everything we can to keep this privilege reasonable and in place and not lose it,” he said.

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