Stow residents who want to ride dirt bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles and other similar recreational off-road vehicles on private property may soon have some new, more strict rules to follow.
Stow City Council voted in committee Monday to put amendments to an existing law governing use of off-road vehicles on an upcoming regular council meeting agenda.
The amendments prohibit riders from using their ATV, dirt bike or snowmobile on private property under the following conditions:
- On property less than 4 acres in size
- Without written permission of the property owner
- Within 150 feet of any building, street or highway or boundary line of an adjoining or abutting property
Stow Councilman James Costello, who sponsored the new legislation, said its intent is to give police a law "with teeth" to enforce when complaints about riding come in to the police department.
"It is, I hate to say it, a piece of legislation where we’re trying to legislate common sense," Costello said.
Also added to the books under the proposed changes would be definitions for breaking the law.
On first offense a violator would be charged with a minor misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $150. On multiple offenses, a violator would be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a $250 fine and as much as 30 days in jail.
Amber Zibritosky, Stow's deputy law director, said the addition of the 150-foot buffer is meant to increase safety to prevent someone from being hit by an ATV rider.
"We basically added a property size requirement and a boundary or buffer line so that you’re not having people coming close to other people’s property," she said.
This is not the first time council has considered the issue.
In 2006 and 2007 council talked about the idea of further regulation of such off-road vehicles due to complaints of noise. Council did not take any legislative action then after hearing from police officials that it would be difficult to enforce a noise-based ordinance pertaining to off-road vehicles.
Councilman Brian D’Antonio expressed concerns with this latest draft legislation for being overly strict.
The obvious concern being for ATV owners with utility models who use the machines to plow their driveways, D'Antonio said.
"There’s nothing in there regarding if you have permission from your neighbor," he said. "I understand the reason for the legislation. Unfortunately a couple bad apples ruin it for everybody else.
"I understand we don’t want a dirt bike track in everybody’s backyard," D'Antonio said.
Councilwoman Mary Bednar aired similar concerns and pointed to elderly residents and others who may use their machines for hauling garbage cans to the road or for landscaping and other property maintenance work.
Kent Road resident Christina Gary, who said she and her husband use their ATVs for property maintenance, pointed to the 150-foot buffer as being inappropriate.
Gary said she owns more than 5 acres but her lot, which abuts the Kent State Airport, is less than 150 feet wide.
"If you’re going to impose this, my review of the map in Stow shows that only a few parcels would actually be able to comply with the way it’s written now" requiring more than four acres, Gary said.
Call Road resident Baron Gifford said his children and his neighbors' children have ridden mini bikes on his lot, which is less than 1 acre, for years without complaints.
"There's not a noise issue," Gifford said. "I wouldn’t want to listen to a competition race bike in my back yard. But most vehicles are quiet."
Costello responded to say noise is not the reason for the review.
"I would say reckless operation is the main issue and inconsideration for adjoining people’s property," he said.
After further talks, Councilman Mike Rasor said the legislation will be redrafted before a final vote.
"I think we need maybe some tuning in this," Councilman John Pribonic said.