Year in Review: ATV controversy eclipsed pandemic, for a while
As the paralyzing shock of the pandemic was starting to subside, Clearview Township residents were sideswiped by a polarizing controversy that revved people up on both sides of the issue and escalated beyond anyone’s expectations.
No one would argue that COVID-19 is the biggest news story of the year, decade and arguably the century. Since March, there has rarely been an edition of The Echo without mention of it – and some weeks we really tried to find news that was not related to COVID-19. But if we set that aside, the decision of whether or not to allow ATVs greater access to township roads was the story that wouldn’t pale in comparison to the pandemic.
The story begins on July 13, when Stayner councillor John Broderick provided notice of motion that at the following meeting he would be asking council to pass a motion allowing off-road vehicles on all township roads, as opposed to the two routes through Glen Huron and New Lowell approved a couple years earlier.
On the July 27 agenda, the night the item was to be discussed, there were 50 communications from the public, with most being against the proposal.
The fact that Broderick owns a business which sells off-road vehicles only fanned the flames and sparked an attack ad campaign and a lawsuit claiming Broderick had a conflict of interest.
The integrity commissioner came out in defence of Broderick. Janice Atwood-Petkovski and Jeffrey Abrams of Principles Integrity stated in a 12-page report dated Sept. 1, “We find that there was no conflict of interest for the councillor under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA) nor any apparent conflict of interest under the Code of Conduct. In conclusion, we find that the councillor has not violated any of the provisions of the Code of Conduct, nor of the MCIA,” states the report.
We’re sure there were many people who took a neutral view of the issue but the strong views on each side made it feel like ATVs were all anyone was talking about. There was a strong dissenting voice from the Creemore area, while 1,250 have signed a petition in support of ATVs having access to all roads.
There was a proposal by Creemore councillor Thom Paterson and Creemore and Area Residents Association, among others, to take a ward-by-ward approach, essentially banning them in Creemore but allowing them elsewhere.
Tensions ran high and tempers flared.
On Oct. 31, a bylaw was passed allowing ATVs quite a bit more access to township roads, but not all. County roads and provincial highways were never up for discussion, thereby leaving out a number of possible routes. ATVs are still banned in Creemore and an area south, but most of the other settlement areas are accessible.
Practically overnight, the tension eased and for the most part, it appears a compromise has been reached.