The North Bend Eagle


Council plans to send ATV ordinance to ballot

by Lincoln Arneal
Published 4/30/14

In his 83 years, Dale Kinney has learned to embrace change.

So when Kinney noticed the rise in popularity of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) around North Bend he wanted to embrace that change.

See also: Click here to see ATV policies of towns neighboring North Bend.

Kinney spoke in front of the North Bend City Council meeting last Monday in favor of adopting a city ordinance that would allow residents to drive ATVs on city streets.

“I am 83 and it won’t affect my lifestyle one way or the other,” Kinney said. “But people ought to be able to vote on this. Off-road vehicles are more popular and they aren’t going away.”

At the latest council meeting, 26 guests showed up, almost all in favor of adding an ordinance to allow ATVs. The Council took no official action on a proposed ordinance, but Mayor Jeff Kluthe said they would focus on adding a measure on the ballot in November.

Kluthe said the specifics haven’t been figured out yet, but he wants for the citizens to have a voice on whether to allow ATVs on the street.

“We’ll put it on (the ballot) for the people to vote on,” he said. “We will come up with the parameters for what we want on the ballot with all the stipulations.”

This isn’t the first time the council has considered an ordinance to allow ATVs on city streets. Kluthe said they discussed the topic three years ago, but they received mostly negative feedback and the idea died.

Kinney said he was encouraged by the discussion and glad to see the ordinance move forward to a vote.

Andrew Heller, who was in the crowd at the Council meeting and is a sales rep for P&R Sales, said customers frequently ask if North Bend is going to allow ATVs on city streets. He said he supports adopting the ordinance and was encouraged by the discussion.

“I like the way it was presented,” Heller said. “Let’s define what we want. Then let’s draw up the ordinance and put it on the ballot.”

While no one in attendance at the meeting voiced opposition, criticism of the ordinance in the past included safety concerns and the noise created by the vehicles.

Jana Post said she is against allowing ATVs to drive on city streets. Her concerns included the safety and enforcement.

She said the manufacturers say in their manuals that four-wheeler are not designed to be driven on the road and many do not have the proper safety equipment when they are sold.

She said she is also concerned about enforcement of the ordinance.

“Who is going to conduct the inspections? Who is going to make sure all the four-wheelers have stickers on them?” she said. “Look at the towns that have passed it and they all have city police officers.”

North Bend is the only town in Dodge County without an ordinance for off-road vehicles. Dodge County Sheriff Steve Hepsen said he didn’t know of an increase of complaints related to ATVs in Hooper or Fremont after they allowed off-road vehicles on their streets.

Even though each town has an ordinance, none are the same. The differences include minimum age limits, registration fees and permissible driving hours. However, all of the towns surveyed required drivers to have an operator’s permit, liability insurance and proper safety equipment.

No matter what restrictions are added, Hepsen said if an ordinance was passed in North Bend, ATV operators would have to follow all rules of the road, similar to driving a car; this includes obeying speed limits, traffic signs and not operating the under the influence.

The council debated a few of the restrictions, focusing on the age limit. Kluthe said he wants the age minimum to be at least 19 to eliminate the possibility of high school students driving ATVs to the school.

“It’s an option, but it’s not an option,” He said. “We won’t put it on the ballot with anything less than 19.”

Hepsen said he thinks setting an age restriction on ATV use is a good idea.

“The focus is on keeping people safe and setting the limit at 19 is a step in that direction,” Hepsen said. “With 16- to 18-year-olds, they are more at risk for taking unnecessary chances while driving.”

Kinney, however, said he is in favor of a more direct approach and is against attaching a minimum age.

“I want this ordinance to be as simple and straight-forward as possible,” he said. “Adding other parts to the equation doesn’t solve the problem.”

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