Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Sparta council to vote on ATV/UTV ordinance

Sparta aldermen will vote on a new ATV/UTV ordinance when they meet this coming Wednesday.

The Sparta Public Safety Committee last week shored up a few loose ends before approving the ordinance that outlines rules and regulations for the use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility-terrain vehicles (UTVs) on city streets.

The committee amended the proposed ordinance to mirror times of operation in the snow mobile ordinance, which restricts use of those recreational vehicles within city limits between 10:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. An exception to that is for ATV/UTVs being used for snow removal.

The proposed ordinance was to expire one year from the date it is adopted unless the council voted to renew it. Committee chairman Jim Church said that clause was included in case there was abuse by ATV/UTV operators or there was a public outcry against it.

However, public safety committee members voted to delete that wording after Co-City Administrator Todd Fahning pointed out it would be the only ordinance on the books with an end date.

“If you don’t like it, you just get rid of it,” he said, noting that would be the cleanest way to deal with it.

The ordinance was being worked out in conjunction with the Sparta Public Works Board, which began the process at its October meeting, where a number of ATV/UTV enthusiasts lobbied to allow the vehicles on Sparta streets.

The action was prompted by the county’s decision last summer to open all county trunk highways to ATV/UTV traffic.

Under the proposed ordinance, operation of the vehicles is confined to those with a valid driver’s license. It also opens all city streets to use by the recreational vehicles since it would be difficult for people to know which streets are restricted and which aren’t, especially for those unfamiliar with the city.

Sparta Police Chief Emilee Nottestad has indicated allowing ATV/UTV use within the city would not create major problems for the police department, but there would be statutes officers would have to familiarize themselves with.

The city used Tomah’s ordinance as a guideline. The City of Tomah allows the vehicles to operate on almost every street in the city between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Its ordinance includes restrictions on speed, age and safety equipment. 

At October’s public works board meeting, chairman Norm Stanek was the only alderman who objected to ATV/UTV traffic in the city.

At that same meeting, several ATV/UTV enthusiast spoke in favor of allowing their use on city streets.

 

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