Avon passes ordinance to allow off-highway vehicles on Wildridge roads
Following months of discussions and hundreds of public comments, the town moves forward with legitimizing OHV use in subdivision
Although the public remained passionately divided until the end, the Avon Town Council passed an ordinance Tuesday night allowing the use of off-highway vehicles on public roads in the Wildridge subdivision. The new ordinance will go into effect in 30 days.
The decision came following months of discussion over the topic, including hundreds of public comments on both sides of the debate. The Town Council passed the ordinance on first reading, with a few amendments, earlier this month. Ultimately, the ordinance will legalize a practice that has been a core part of the subdivision’s culture for many of its residents.
“It is legitimizing what we do, and we will have the capability of educating people,” said Council member Chico Thuon, who is a staunch supporter of the ordinance as a Wildridge resident and off-highway vehicle user himself. “We need to reflect what our neighbors are doing.”
As written, the ordinance will allow the use of off-highway vehicles on town roads and streets within blocks one through four of the Wildridge subdivision, beginning at the intersection of Wildridge Road and Old Trail Road. It allows riders to travel on certain roads with the limited purpose of getting to or from the operator’s residence or place of storage to U.S. Forest Service Road 717.1B and 779.
This ordinance does not concern the use of off-highway vehicles on Forest Service roads, something that will be discussed at future Town Council meetings.
The ordinance includes a number of additional requirements aimed at addressing safety and noise concerns related to the use of these vehicles. This includes requiring insurance for all vehicles, implementing a 15-mph speed limit for off-highway vehicles on the road, requiring brakes, mufflers and spark arrestors, regulations regarding underage drivers and more.
Education and enforcement
Proponents of the ordinance shared Tuesday that they were willing and ready to help educate and enforce such elements in order to keep this privilege alive.
“Our community is now going to police this so significantly. My wife and I personally are going to very respectfully remind anybody on an ATV, dirt bike, side-by-side that, ‘Hey guys, this is a privilege,’” said Spencer Ball, a Wildridge resident.
In addition, Avon Chief of Police Greg Daly provided new information as to how the ordinance would be implemented and enforced. Before the ordinance goes into effect, Avon Public Works will be installing new speed limit signs for off-highway vehicles throughout the neighborhood.
One of the main arguments for the ordinance held that in legitimizing this practice, off-highway vehicle users could be educated on proper etiquette and establish rules for riding on roads. In accordance with this, Liz Wood, the town’s communication manager, will be spreading information and education regarding the new ordinance.
In addition, the police department is intending to station officers, as much as possible, at the trailhead for U.S. Forest Service Road 717.1B and 779 for the first two weeks the trail is open to share information about the ordinance and its requirements.
According to Daly’s report on the ordinance, once in effect, the police department will enforce this as any other law. “We will take the approach of educate first to effect behavioral change, and if that is not effective, we will write the violator a citations/summons into municipal court and the violator may face a conviction and fines for lack of compliance,” Daly said.
This is a shift from previous police enforcement of the issue, which Daly described in a previous meeting as “passive.”
“It is a health and safety issue, having a speed limit and having licensing requirements and having enforcement is the best thing we can do for an accepted use that provides access for many of the people who live in Wildridge,” said Avon Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes.
One more review
Due to the disputed nature of the ordinance, the council promised to discuss the ordinance in the fall, reviewing it, amending it or repealing it based on the use and application this summer.
“The people who are using it now are going to continue to use it, and they’re going to use it in a different way. They are going to police each other, because they know that we are watching, and they know there is the potential of repealing this ordinance,” Smith Hymes said.
This decision was made as multiple residents, and Council member Tamra Underwood, expressed concerns at each public hearing regarding possible “unintended consequences” of the ordinance passing. These included increased traffic and noise to the area, higher chances of wildfire, and, in the case of Underwood, complications with an easement leading up to the trailhead.
“I, for one, am feeling rushed with respect to this ordinance, which is not the way I like to do things in our town. When we consider ordinances, typically we consider them for a long time and we fine-tune issues that we talked about,” Underwood said. “I have unanswered questions.”
This feeling led to Underwood being the only council member to dissent in the passing of the ordinance. Council member RJ Andrade was absent from the vote, but he has voted in favor of the ordinance at previous meetings. The ordinance passed with minor amendments, including mainly grammatical edits as well as wording changes to bring clarity on intended use.
After the vote was determined, Smith Hymes closed the discussion by thanking the council and the community for the input and with a nod to Chief Daly. “Chief, you have your work cut out for you this summer,” she said.