Public Meeting on the recreational use of ATV/UTVs on town roads

Minutes from the June 1 Public Forum

Meeting topic: Should the Town of Wyoming create an ordinance allowing ATVs and UTVs on public roads within the Town?

Mike Degen, Town Supervisor, called the meeting to order at 6:05 pm on Thursday, June 1, 2023, at the Town of Wyoming Cultural Center. Approximately 40 people attended the meeting in addition to supervisors Degen and Stapleton and Town Chair Dick Cates.

Degen explained this is a listening session to enable the Town Board to make decisions based on considerations, suggestions, and sentiments from Town residents. It was not intended to produce a final decision at the end of the meeting.

Dick Cates, Town Chair, welcomed the group and thanked all for participating as he offered his belief that a local listening session is an opportunity for democracy at its best. He then noted the meeting ground rules/protocol (Speakers would be identified by raising a hand, comments would be limited to 3 minutes per person, and side conversations would not be tolerated). He asked that the conversation be always respectful, and that we listen thoughtfully to each other’s point of view.

Applicable ATV/UTV rules

Degen confirmed that ag use of UTVs is permitted on Town roads as long as vehicles are registered and following WI DNR rules for agricultural use. A town ordinance could range from allowing all roads with no restrictions (other than observing all State of WI laws) to specifying conditions for use (time-of-day, seasonality, exclude some roads or parts of roads, noise, etc.). An ordinance can be enacted for a trial period, modified, or withdrawn. Recreational use on state highways (Hwy 23 in our case) is not allowed by state law. A town ordinance cannot supersede state law.

Public Comment

  • Terry Shifflet spoke in support of an ordinance mainly for the purpose of allowing family and friends to use the roads for convenience, neighborliness, and recreation. Terry mentioned a UTV citation that triggered some citizens’ interest in opening the roads for recreational use. He believes Hwy 23 is an effective barrier to heavy use to non-resident recreational use. He and others have drafted a sample ordinance as a starting point for the Board’s consideration. His preference is a) open all roads, or b) exempt Golf Course Road and part of Hwy C adjacent to Taliesin.
  • Rich Butusov cited a past RTV fatality, leading to safety questions about who can operate an ATV/UTV, age requirements, seat belts, helmets, etc. RESPONSES: drivers on roads must be 16 and licensed, vehicle must be registered, seat belt and helmets must be used according to laws, and maximum speed allowed is 35 m.p.h.
  • Alex Elkins described recreational use as a growing nuisance at his properties in Northern WI. He does not want Town of Wyoming to be subjected to the loud radios, early morning noise, associated drinking. Alex is concerned our experience would be similar. RESPONSES: A draft ordinance can specify noise, time-of-day restrictions, etc. A problem with enforcement of any restrictions was cited.
  • Krista Browne asked if an ordinance can be for residents only. Her main concern is safety for kids and families and maintaining a safe environment in the Town. She is generally opposed but would accept some limited access. RESPONSE: An ordinance cannot limit access to public roads to a specific population. However, access can be very limited, even down to a fire number-to-fire number level.
  • Dale Koehler is a condo resident at House of the Rock and is concerned about loss of control once roads are opened for this use. He is also concerned about noise and safety especially as it relates to Taliesin visitors and APT traffic.
  • John Hess provided some background on origins of ordinances, citing confusion because each municipality may have different restrictions. Enforcement is difficult when a rule here is not a rule there. He believes an ordinance would be unfortunate for the town.
  • Sylvia and Dan Limmex submitted a comment via email suggesting they would be comfortable with some restrictions such as use between 7:00 am and 9 PM only, and a two-year trial period.
  • Monica Sella asked about feedback from towns allowing ATV/UTV use and asked about permitting use fire number-to-fire number. RESPONSE: Numerous people cited other towns reporting no problems. Village of Spring Green was mentioned, among other municipalities, that initiated trial ordinances and then made them permanent.
  • Jeff Jacobsen handed out a map showing ATV/UTV permitted roads in surrounding towns ending at Town of Wyoming borders. He is opposed to an ordinance and wonders about enforcement, how large of a group would be allowed (would it be like motorcycle groups of 50+?), and also asked about residents only and speed limits. RESPONSES: Iowa County sheriffs and DNR wardens would enforce ordinance, ordinance cannot be for residents only, and number of bicycle riders, car enthusiasts, motorcycles are not controlled so it would be difficult to control ATV/UTV use.
  • Allen Deschepper asked about speed limits. RESPONSES: Even on a road with a 55-mph limit, RTVs and UTVs are only allowed a maximum speed of 35-mph. If the road is posted under 35-mph, recreational drivers must observe the posted speed limit. Allen also asked about Town liability.
  • Dick Cates clarified that the Town can be liable, in the case ofan accident or injury, if we are not properly maintaining our roads (pothole repair, shoulder maintenance, etc.).
  • Richard Limmex asked why we would seek to control recreational vehicles when we don’t control bicycles, motorcycles, car rallies, etc. He thinks we should try it for a year. Also Richard: require liability insurance from those using township roads.
  • Michael Browne is opposed to recreational use for three reasons, a) noise, b) pollution and energy use, and c) increased cost to town for road use and maintenance.
  • Russell and Quentin Greene referred to the Town map divided by Hwy 23 and believe that we will have naturally occurring limited access and attractiveness to non-residents due to the highway the river to the north, and Clyde to the west.
  • A Sneed Creek resident referred to Spring Green’s trial period and no problems there. He also said he would be ok with excluding Golf Course Rd. and APT.
  • Laurie Baruch also expressed concern about enforcement. She also wondered if the Board could manage changing an ordinance from year to year, especially if it gets down to the level of fire number to fire number? For instance, what would happen in the case of a property sale and a new owner wanting or not wanting access at their fire number?
  • Linda Kietzer expressed concern about Town liability and asked why machines not recommended for road use are being allowed on pavement? RESPONSE: It is a manufacturer’s warning that AV/UTVs  are not intended for highway (paved surfaces; higher speed) use.
  • Kevin Kahl supports an ordinance and asked for a show of hands and a voter referendum.
  • Lawrence Mayhew fears an ordinance will put peaceful enjoyment of his natural surroundings at risk. He hoped to hear some compelling reason(s) to have an ordinance, but he is not convinced. He also suggested a referendum.
  • Mary Kritz described much traffic on Far Look Road and offered that an ordinance with any restrictions will not make a difference because the road is already used without an ordinance.
  • Mike Stoddard (Spring Green) reported that Spring Green started with some restrictions then opened it up. He reported only four complaints is the past two years.
  • Jeff Kalsow  is indifferent but does not want the noise. He wondered if we are kind of an inaccessible island, could that change if something changed in surrounding communities?
  • Joe Stapleton expressed concern about safety and farm equipment with ATVs/UTVs on the roads. He is also concerned about noise and vehicle passing laws but is in favor of neighbor use.
  • John Hess summarized his position as being in favor of what is in the best interest of the Town and best for everyone.
  • Eric Cates is worried about passing traffic. Double-yellow traffic lines do not permit passing of recreational vehicles going just 30-mph (more than fifty percent of the posted speed limit). Ok to pass bicycles, not ok to pass farm equipment.  Will this be observed? He is not an ATV/UTV owner, but would like his neighbors to have the opportunity to use neighborhood roads to travel to each other’s farms for hunting and fishing, as examples.
  • At the end of the meeting a show of hands was requested of those who would be against an enabling ordinance and those who would be inclined to allow an ordinance specifying some of the conditions discussed at this meeting. Of those present who wished to participate, seven were against and thirty-one were in favor.