Changes to new regulations for dirt bike, ATV and snowmobile owners in Stow were approved, on first reading, by Stow City Council Thursday night.
Council members approved the amendments to an ordinance, which were adjusted to allow for some exceptions to the law and to change the penalties from what was first proposed during council's roads and safety committee meeting Monday.
The amended regulations will come back to council for two more votes in the next two months before the ordinance can become law.
"I proposed several amendments based on feedback that was really good from the people in attendance Monday," Councilman Mike Rasor said.
Click here to read the original recommendations discussed Monday. The amendments as approved on first reading Thursday are attached to this story as a .pdf file.
The first big change Rasor proposed was to make the regulations enforceable by police only if a violation of the law is based on a complaint that originates with a contiguous property owner.
"My big concern was, basically, personal private property rights," Rasor said. "We don’t want somebody driving a dirt bike as a cause for a police officer to walk into your backyard."
The key elements of the new regulations — prohibiting the use of ATVs, dirt bikes, snowmobiles and other similar recreational vehicles on private property — as amended on first reading Thursday, are:
- Vehicles cannot be ridden on property less than 4 acres in size;
- Without written permission of the property owner;
- Within 100 feet of any building, street or highway or boundary line of an adjoining or abutting property;
- On any property located in a Residential or Residential-Business zoned district.
The amendments included exemptions when an ATV or other similar vehicle is being used for property maintenance, construction or snow removal.
The penalty of the regulations also was changed so, on first violation, an offender would be issued a written warning. The maximum possible fine for violating the law is $150 — down from an originally proposed $250 max — upon further violations.
Progress Park Drive resident Joe Shinsky told council members that the law is a necessity in his neighborhood, where some property owners create problems with dust and ride recklessly.
"I want reasonable legislation that not only protects our rights to enjoy our property … and addresses the noted nuisance on Progress Park Drive while allowing ATV owners who use common sense to enjoy their ATVs," Shinsky said. "I don't want a law that is 'us versus them.'"
Nine more people spoke to council, almost all of whom said they owned or ride ATVs and understand Shinsky's concerns. But many also said they feared the legislation would address his problem while overly restricting responsible off-road enthusiasts.
Graham Road resident Dan Leipold said he has more than 4 acres but his lot is not wide enough to allow him to ride his ATV for recreation.
"We need to stop legislating things and talk to our neighbors and be civil adults," Leipold said. "I don’t understand why people can’t talk anymore."
Members of the public will have the opportunity to speak about the issue again when it comes back to council for the final two votes.