The phones at East Bethel City Hall have not been ringing off the hook with complaints about the city’s new ATV ordinance, which allows these vehicles to be on city streets.
There have been two complaints since the changes went into effect Dec. 30, 2011, according to City Administrator Jack Davis. One caller complained about the council’s decision and stated her opinion of what might occur. Another caller complained about a group of ATV riders cutting the chain across his driveway to access Coon Lake.
Lt. Shelly Orlando of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office told the Anoka County Union that the deputies have not seen any issues that caused concern. Orlando is the sheriff’s office liaison for East Bethel.
The only reason the council addressed this issue April 4 was because Councilmember Heidi Moegerle suggested the city review the changes after 90 days to gauge the impact to the community.
She brought this up in response to Councilmember Steve Voss questioning why the council had no public hearing on the proposed change. Voss and Councilmember Bill Boyer opposed the revised ordinance. Moegerle, Mayor Richard Lawrence and Councilmember Robert DeRoche Jr. were supportive.
DeRoche and Moegerle both live in the Coon Lake Beach neighborhood and previously noted that finding places to ride ATVs in this area was tough because there are no ditches along the road. People can now ride their ATV on city streets throughout this neighborhood to use one of the designated accesses to Coon Lake, go to a local business or visit a friend.
“We’re not going to do away with ATVs. I don’t care how you look at it. They spend a lot of money. They pay a lot of taxes. If they’re not causing a problem…” DeRoche said April 4.
DeRoche is a certified ATV instructor and was the initial promoter of loosening the city’s reach on ATV riding restrictions. The city’s ordinance does not supersede any state laws, he said.
For example, people driving their ATVs on a city street must have a driver’s license and the ATV must have a state license plate clearly displayed. The driver must follow the city’s noise and nuisance ordinances. Anyone born after July 1, 1987 must complete the safety training test in order to operate an ATV. Class 2 ATVs can be operated on the shoulder or extreme right side of a county road, but they cannot be on the shoulder of a state highway.
All other ATV classes cannot be operated on the inside slope, shoulder or roadway of a county or state road, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) rule book.
On the other hand, Boyer has been an opponent of allowing ATVs to ride on roads because of his concern for what could happen.
“We pass ordinances not because of what the majority of people do,” Boyer said. “It’s because of the idiots. That’s the reason we have ordinances. That’s the reason we have laws. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what happens, and we use ordinances and laws to regulate idiotic behavior.”
Doug Tierney told the council that he witnessed an ATV driver hook onto the chain in his driveway and pull the chain out in order to access Coon Lake.
Tierney said he had no trespassing signs. After this incident, Tierney put a second chain up a little higher, but he claimed an ATV driver went under the chain.
Tierney then said he bought cameras in late January to catch them and he has seen many ATVs illegally riding on a trail by Viking Boulevard. He said they are obviously not adhering to the rules.
“These people are not going to follow a city ordinance when they’re already breaking a state law,” Tierney said.
DeRoche said this ordinance has nothing to do with people illegally riding in the county ditches between April 1 and Aug. 1, which is the rule south of Highway 95.
DeRoche asked Tierney if he believes the people he saw only broke the law because the city revised an ordinance to allow ATVs to be on city streets.
Tierney said that it would still happen, but he said the council made it easier for them to do this when they can go farther on city streets.
“I know you want them, but it was nothing but a pain,” said Tierney, who said that he has two ATVs that he uses as tractors to maintain his property.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org