East Bethel allowing residents to ride ATVs on city streets

by Eric Hagen
Staff Writer

The East Bethel City Council on a split vote has decided to allow ATVs to use city streets.

Councilmember Robert DeRoche Jr. riding his ATV. East Bethel citizens can now drive ATVs on city streets as long as they have a Minnesota driver’s license, have Minnesota license tabs on their vehicle and pass the state’s safety training test if they were born after July 1, 1987. DeRoche, who lives on Colleen Street in the Coon Lake Beach area, was a proponent of changing the city code to allow this. Photo by Eric Hagen

The 3-2 vote came during the Dec. 20, 2011 council meeting and the change went into effect Dec. 30, 2011.

Councilmember Robert DeRoche Jr., an ATV owner who suggested the change, emphasized that ATV drivers must still obey state and county rules. They can only drive a vehicle that has a valid Minnesota license, so go carts are still not allowed on city streets. The driver of an ATV must have a Minnesota driver’s license, meaning they must be at least 16 years old. Anyone born after July 1, 1987 must complete the safety training test in order to operate an ATV.

DeRoche said people who are reckless drivers or cause noise complaints should be fined under the city’s nuisance ordinance, but people using their ATVs for legitimate purposes should not be punished because some people break the rules.

“People moved up here because it’s somewhere rural,” DeRoche said. “They want to be able to use their snowmobiles and ATVs.”

Snowmobiles will still not be allowed on city streets, however, according to City Administrator Jack Davis. Only Class 1 or Class 2 ATVs, off-road vehicles or off-road motorcycles will be allowed on city streets as long as the person driving or riding in the ATV is an East Bethel resident.

Non-East Bethel residents could briefly be on a city street if their goal is to cross the road to continue riding on another path permitted by the state or county rules. The ATVs could also be on a city street in an emergency situation.

DeRoche, Mayor Richard Lawrence and Councilmember Heidi Moegerle approved the ATV ordinance revision. Councilmembers Bill Boyer and Steve Voss voted no.

One concern Voss had was the city council held no public hearing on the issue of allowing ATVs to use city streets. He suggested including an article in the next city newsletter stating the city was seeking input from residents on this change.

Moegerle asked if there was a seasonal reason to make the change now.

DeRoche responded that some people like to use their ATVs for plowing snow or working on their property. DeRoche said if he wants to use his ATV during the winter to work on his property, he needs to warm it up and driving it on the street is the best way to do that.

In response to Voss’s concern, Moegerle amended her original motion of approval to include a review after 90 days to see if there have been any issues.

Boyer said he agreed with the issue of people wanting to use city streets to get to a trail, for example, but he said this is different than allowing someone to drive their dirt bike in a cul-de-sac for many hours.

A neighbor to the east of Boyer and across the street runs dirt bikes on the property, he said.

He has never complained about the noise, but Boyer said it is annoying to hear the dirt bikes running when he is outside. He noted how the council chambers filled up with people from a neighborhood who were concerned about dirt bike races on a property.

Moegerle pointed out that Boyer had a remedy for his situation, but chose not to assert it.

DeRoche believed the city needed to approve this ordinance revision to see how it would actually work.

“People are going to do it,” DeRoche said. “You might as well control it other than just plain banning everyone from doing it.”

One area of the city that will benefit from this change is Coon Lake Beach.

Moegerle said the Coon Lake Beach area has quite a few residents with ATVs. People use ATVs to launch boats, for example. Because there are no ditches in the Coon Lake Beach area, people would have to ride on the road to get most places unless they live by the lake, she said.

DeRoche said people can now drive their ATV to the grocery store, gas station or the Purple Reign Supper Club. During the summer, they can bring their yard waste to the designated dumpster at the fire station parking lot with their ATV instead of using their vehicles.

Greg Globensky, who grew up in Ham Lake and now lives in East Bethel, said the restrictions cities have put in place has made it difficult to ride ATVs. He used to ride in the area all the time when he was a kid and would stop by Purple Reign, whose parking lot was full of ATVs. He now mostly rides on property he owns north of the Twin Cities.

Globensky just heard about the revised ordinance and wanted to read more about it, but was happy about the possibility of being able to ride his ATV on his city street.

Globensky would also like to hitch a trailer to his ATV that his children could ride in when going trick or treating during Halloween, he said.

“It would be nice if I could cruise a quarter-mile to my buddy’s house and not be worried about getting a ticket,” Globensky said.

Other communities have addressed existing ATV rules to make it easier for ATV riders to get around. In May 2011 Moegerle was at an Oak Grove meeting in which the Oak Grove City Council told the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office to not enforce the ordinance that did not allow residents to ride ATVs on city streets.

The Ramsey City Council last December amended its recreation vehicle use ordinance to allow snowmobiles to use city streets to get to designated snowmobile routes, including south of 167th Avenue where snowmobiling had previously been prohibited.

Globensky said he would be tougher on his kids for following ATV regulations than the government would be.

“I’m a big advocate with my kids going through the training seminar,” Globensky said. “It’s like gun safety. You could kill yourself in a heartbeat.”

Unfortunately, Globensky said there are some people who do not follow the rules and that impacts everyone else who does obey the law.

“Enforcement has got to be a big part of it,” DeRoche said.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]

  • Jake Mattakat

    It is about time! I moved here to get out of all the rules and regs in the city. It is time to take back East Bethel. I am very disapointed in Voss and Boyer for not approving this.

  • Finally some common sense

    It is about time that most of us that ride a ATV can now do so in a professional manner. Its always some sour apple that ruins it for the rest of us, by not following the rules, punish them not us. Sorry Voss and Boyer do not see the light. Nice job Robert and the rest!

  • Mike

    Do you complain or do you compliment?

    I find this story interesting because it addresses Politics that I have seen going on in the city for a while now. Even though not a very big issue at hand it shows the tatics that they use. First I would like to point out that Voss and Boyer wanted to have a public hearing on this issue, thinking that because they do not like atv traffic that the rest of us are like them, and as they said in the past, only complainers show up at meetings, so that in effect would support their view, if only complainers showed up. With that in mind, I would like to point out that they do not like to have public hearings on the things they want to pass, like huge city water projects, where just complainers show up. It was not so long ago that closed door meetings went down.

    I personally think that it is good thing that it passed. I do not think that the intention is let a atv rider or biker run around in a circle for hours. Most of the atv riders just want to do agriculture work or go to store or fiends down the road. Lets make the the ones that intentionally cause harm and noise to pay for their actions.

    So I compliment Robert for bringing up the issue and the others who voted for it. As I see it, next time I like the issue on hand, I should show up for support, because as the old city council has instilled in me…I would represent the majority…we will see.

  • I do not live in East Bethel, but I do follow ATV Legislation very closely. It is getting harder for me to trailer my machines 2 hours up north at $4/gallon. So I really appreciate when a city or town close to the metro passes an ATV ordinance in favor of ATV access. I love to ATV, and appreciate East Bethel passing this ordinance. I think Its time for me to buy a house in East Bethel. And a big THANK YOU ABC News for not being ATV biased, like the Star Tribune!!!

  • Phill Morud

    I commend the East Bethel City Council on their decision to allow ATV’s to be used as alternative transportation. Where I live we have done this for the last few years and have had nothing but success. ATV’s are very economical compared to the average vehicle on the road, smaller, lighter, and much less thirsty. I have ridden my ATV to work every day this week and here in Thief River Falls, birthplace of the finest ATV’s on the Planet, that is a great way to start the day!

  • John McClure

    I am glad to see the attention ATV riding is getting. If you read the state statute on ATV you will see that in ALL Cities in Minnesoat it is legal to ride ATV UNLESS the City Council passes an ordenace against ridinf in the city. So in East Bethal, you were allowed to ride if there was not an ordenance against riding. It is just the oppisite for county roads. The county must pass an ordenance to allow riding on their roads. I live in Grand Marais and that is what we got passed. Now we can ride on all county roads execpt a portion of the Gunflint Trail and all city streets were already legal to ride on. There was a small technical issue about riding on County roads that were inside the city limits, but with the county ordinance we can now ride on all roads except that protion of the Gunflint. The major stat highways like hwy 61 are closed. There you have to ride in the ditch. Good safe riding.

  • Rick

    I, as an avid 4-wheeler rider, think its great to be able to ride on city streets. After all, its the only legal place we can ride from April to August. I think that its is ridicules that it is unlawful to ride in ditches all summer due to pheasants nesting in them. Still have to trailer them north, out of the agriculture zone, to even find an ATV trail. Now we have to work on the state level