Pump the brakes on ATVs
It is a shame that we can’t have a good old-fashioned public meeting about ATVs.
The question of whether or not to give off-road vehicles greater access or all access to township roads is a divisive topic and one that would warrant a public meeting where people could show up, speak up, and hopefully listen.
During the pandemic, that option is not available to us. We are left with e-mails to council members and letters-to-the-editor. The face-to-face conversations are happening solely with people in our own bubbles, so it can be challenging to try to understand the other side’s perspective.
Councillor John Broderick who is fighting for an all-access pass for ATVs on township roads has said that he has heard from people across Clearview who are in favour of ATV road access, but the majority of the opposition is also coming from Creemore. He has come under fire for a perceived conflict of interest. He says he got the all-clear from the integrity commissioner, but either way, the optics are bad.
We regret that the ATV argument is becoming another ‘us’ and ‘them’ issue, in that it pits one community against another and evokes stereotypes. That is why it would be best if there could be a healthy dialogue – if people on both sides could fill a room and take turns at the mic, looking their neighbours in the eye.
It will sound like a cop out to some but this decision should be put on hold. Not only until proper public consultation can take place, but also until after the new legislation comes into law in January.
This issue is coming to the table only four months before a piece of legislation, which has already received royal assent, will do the same thing.
At that time ATVs will be allowed on all municipal roads in the province with a posted speed limit of 80 km/h or higher. So, why not wait and draft a bylaw next year that would specifically exclude certain roads if ATVs prove to be a problem in certain areas? A bylaw at that time could also provide a route into each of the villages and communities to allow access to services. It will be council’s right to do so at that time.
The fighting, the survey expenditure, Broderick’s perceived conflict of interest – none of it matters. The law is already written.
By the time a staff report comes back to council and a bylaw is prepared, high ATV season will have come to an end and the legislation will be imminent.
Although Broderick says people want to use their ATVs to do their grocery shopping, we expect this will be the minority.
Having seen other municipalities open to ATVs, it is doubtful there will be a sudden barrage of off-road vehicles on all township roads. The traffic will most likely be comparable to snowmobiles.
We predict that this issue will come back to the table if we can’t find common ground. Giving ATVs unfettered access to township roads is not the answer, but neither is excluding them. We must compromise.