by Emmitt B. Feldner
For The Beacon
SHEBOYGAN – The County Board Tuesday slowed down the advance of off-road vehicles onto county roads.
A proposed ordinance to allow all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles on designated county roads was referred back to the Transportation Committee after concerns were raised about some of the language in the ordinance.
The referral by County Board Chair Thomas Wegner came before the full board was set to vote on the ordinance.
“I think there are some concerns,” Wegner said in explaining his decision.
The concerns were raised by town of Rhine resident Christa Bertram Johanson, who had previously spoken against the proposed ordinance at a joint meeting of the Transportation Committee with the Planning, Resources, Agriculture and Extension Committee earlier this month.
Speaking during the public addresses section of the board agenda, Johanson said, “Overall, I hope the board rejects this ordinance. If it votes to approve, I request doing so after making the changes I brought to you tonight.”
Johanson cited several language concerns she had with the ordinance.She suggested a word change in the beginning of the ordinance, where it said “the … Board has determined that portions of certain county highways shall be designated” for use by ATVs.
“I think it gives this body more flexibility and authority down the line to state that certain county highways may be designated,” Johanson suggested. “It gives (county officials) the ability to take the totality of circumstances into consideration rather than reducing them to being a rubber stamp when a requested route makes it through a town board and is submitted to the county.”
She also raised the issue of who will pay for, install and maintain signage for ATV-approved roads.
While clubs and groups supporting the ordinance have indicated that they are willing to pay those costs, Johanson pointed out that state law “suggests that it is the town, village, city or county that shall be the responsible party to erect signs.
“It is a matter of importance to your constituents that you not accidentally obligate the towns, villages, cities or the county to expenses for the benefit of a few ATV riders who may or may not bring economic value to the area,” she warned the supervisors.
It was that concern that led Supervisor Brian Hoffmann, who is also on the Wilson Town Board, to vote against the ordinance at the joint Law/PRAE meeting earlier this month.
Johanson asked that the requirements for which county highways can be designated for ATVs be clarified.
“Rewrite this section so that it is clear that any county highway that becomes an ATV route is for the strict utility of connecting trails or short spurs from the route to allow access to gas stations and repair shops,” she recommended.
Finally, Johanson said she felt the conditions for ATV usage on county roads in the ordinance had one “glaring omission … the rules regarding drivers under the age of 16 and roadways.
“I recommend … added language making it clear that use of ATVs by children under age 16 without an approved accompanying adult or the use of a UTV by children under the age of 16 are strictly prohibited on our roadways even if they are designated ATV routes,” Johanson said.
Supervisor Roger TeStroete, chair of the Transportation Committee, endorsed Wegner’s decision to send the ordinance back to his committee.
“We’ll be glad to do that,” TeStroete said of the reconsideration.
“There’s been a few more things that have been brought up that are hard to consider on the fly.”