Clearview council votes down ATV survey

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Clearview council has voted 6-3 against conducting a survey to gauge public opinion on increasing road access for ATVs.
The request for a public survey came from Creemore area councillor Thom Paterson who said it is important to find a way to facilitate public engagement at a time when a traditional public meeting cannot be held, due to the pandemic. He said there is a high interest from the public to voice their opinion on the matter.
At its July 27 meeting, a replicate 6-3 vote directed staff to develop a report and bylaw allowing greater access for ATV and side-by-sides on Clearview Township roads, including undeveloped roads, road allowances, and trail systems. The report and bylaw will be brought forward at the Sept. 28 council meeting.
“We are at a crossroads here. People are frustrated and I don’t want them to feel they have been left out. This is not a matter of who’s taking the higher risk or who’s afraid that the result is not going to come out the way we want,” said Paterson.
He said it’s not about delaying the process, it’s about public engagement and easing some of the frustration out there.
At the August 10 meeting, Paterson proposed a vote using the same technology used in the municipal election. His research showed that the same company could hold a vote on the subject at a cost of $25,000 to $30,000.
Councillor John Broderick, who first brought forward a motion to allow all-terrain vehicles access to all municipal roads took issue with the survey, and the cost.
“It comes across to me as mean-spirited and I’m sure it will to the thousands of long suffering ATV owning residents within the township who’ve been waiting for a long time for this to be resolved,” said Broderick. “It needs to be resolved, plain and simple. I’m disappointed.”
Many councillors, including Councillor Robert Walker, said they have been pleased with the amount of public opinion they have been receiving via e-mail and phone calls and feel they have a good handle on how residents feel, without the added expense of conducting a survey. Councillors Phyllis Dineen and Connie Leishman voted against the survey saying it was premature and would rather see the bylaw first.
Council took “all-road access” off the table, but Broderick said he is still hoping for full access for ATVs.
He said, as the owner of J&R Cycle and a member of the sports vehicle community, he has been hearing from residents that they want greater ATV access since he was first elected.
Part of the issue for riders of off-road vehicles is that they wish to use the roads to link to trails and access in-town services, such as food and fuel. Broderick said there is another segment of the local population that wishes to use their off-road vehicles as a form of transportation, to run errands and go about their business.
In 2017, after a year of consultation with the Central Ontario ATV Club, council gave ATVs permission to use a certain number of township roads. That route was altered later that year to allow riders into New Lowell. The last online survey was conducted in September 2016, in which only a 4.7 per cent response was achieved.
Supporting Paterson on the yay side was Deputy Mayor Barry Burton and Councillor Doug McKechnie.
Burton said he is in support of a proper survey that is specifically targeted toward residents of Clearview, using a platform more substantial than an online survey.
“We need to get an accurate idea of where the public stands. There is large opposition to it. I know the ATVers don’t want to hear that,” said Burton. “The only way we can make an educated decision is to have a survey. We owe it to the public to have a survey or a public meeting or both.”
McKechnie agreed, saying, “We should take our time. As council we need to put on our big boy pants and our big girl pants and get together. We owe it to our residents to do this properly.”
He said with the imminent adoption of Bill 107 (Getting Ontario Moving Act), the province is set to open up many municipal roads to off-road vehicles.
“By doing it this way, if we do it properly and we do open up all the roads, which is my intention – and I don’t see any good reason for not doing so, perhaps there is but I haven’t seen it – then we will have no reason to revisit, it’s dealt with, it’s done with,” said Broderick.
“It’s a form of transportation. People would rather use it than their car. It’s more fuel efficient than their car. It’s more fun than their car. So where’s the harm? It’s not taking anything away from anybody. It’s just adding to.”
All the rules of the roads apply when ATVs are driven on roads, including licence and insurance. With regard to speed, an ATV can travel 50 km/h where the speed limit is 50 km/h or higher and 20 km/h where the speed limit if less than 50 km/h.
All feedback can be directed to council@clearview.ca. To comment on public record via council’s public participation period, fill out the form at www.clearview.ca/government-committees/council.

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