Platteville Common Council is considering allowing all-terrain vehicles and
utility terrain vehicles to be driven on more city streets all year.
The proposed ordinance would eliminate the restriction under the ordinance that expired in November to Main Street from the west city limits to Broadway, Third Street between Main Street and Furnace Street, Business 151 from the west city limits to South Water Street, and South Water from Business 151 to Main Street.
Streets on which ATV and UTV use would also be legal include East Business 151 from South Water Street to Valley Road, Valley Road to East Mineral Street, and East Mineral Street west to Broadway. District 1 Ald. Isaac Shanley also proposed adding Wisconsin 81 (Lancaster Street, Adams Street and Chestnut Street) to West Business 151, and North Water Street from East Madison Street to Pitt Street, Sylvia Street and Ridge Avenue to Lancaster Street. ATV and UTV use would also be allowed on Mitchell Hollow Road near Mound View Park.
The proposed ordinance would also eliminate the provision that bans ATV/UTV use during the winter street parking period Nov. 15–April 1. The ordinance would ban driving of ATVs and UTVs on city streets between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and parking of ATVs and UTVs on city streets between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The ordinance will be discussed, but not voted on, at Tuesday’s council meeting because two aldermen will not be at the meeting. The earliest the council could vote on the ordinance is Jan. 14.
Council president Barb Daus said the consensus of the council following a work session was that the previous sunrise-to-sunset rule was “hard to interpret” and that there was “no reason for winter [ban] vs. summer.”
“It gets very cumbersome to say that you can travel on this road and you can’t travel on that road,” said District 2 Ald. Eileen Nickels. “The question is whether or not to allow them in the city. If you allow them in the city, and that is one thing that I’m leaning toward, then I think that to say that we have to sign every road where an ATV [or] UTV can be used … I’m not sure that I see the value of that in the long run. … I think it’s probably worth trying to have the city open to ATVs [and] UTVs where the speed limit is 35 mph or under.”
Nickels said most problems with ATVs and UTVs have been “wherever we said you can’t have ATV or UTV. … We tried it for a year, and we did not have the problems that we thought we would have.”
Shanley said he favors opening all city streets except East Business 151 east of East Side Road and Wisconsin 81 south of Business 151 due to their higher speed limits.
At-large Ald. Barb Stockhausen said she favors opening all city streets to ATVs and UTVs.
District 4 Ald. Ken Kilian said he opposes ATVs and UTVs “on residential streets whatsoever” and near schools — including Broadway past Neal Wilkins Early Learning Center, which was on the original route.
“There has to be some amount of emphasis on autonomy and choice to recreate and enjoy your community as you choose, while we still have to respect one another,” said at-large Ald. Robin Cline. She said she was leaning toward opening up all streets because “it is more a matter of simple neighborhood convenience, not that it’s going to be a great increase of rowdiness and traffic through the neighborhoods.”
Daus said she favored adding streets to the original routes, though not on “very narrow streets that don’t need to be opened.”
“We’re looking at giving extra privilege to a certain vehicle type that is not held to the same standards as other motor vehicles on the road,” said at-large Ald. Jason Artz, who said he had owned motorcycles and “four-wheelers.”
Artz said business owners he had talked to reported “little or no difference in terms of revenue” during the 10 months between September 2018 and mid-November that the ordinance was in existence.
Four speakers were opposed to expanding ATV/UTV routes.
Austin Polebitski said the original ordinance “was well crafted and was very reasonable. Tonight the council seems to … be hurrying an ordinance through to satisfy a select few residents while ignoring the half the city in the survey that opposed these routes at all.”
Polebitski said one of the two reasons for the original ATV/UTV was “explicitly and implicitly implied that ATVs and UTVs would be a boom for local tourism, a panacea that according to our local paper has not occurred in any measurable amount. Now they want all streets open, and they did then, so that a select few could ride from their homes to any destination they choose despite many other voices having concerns over safety, noise, congestion and parking.
“I think staying the course seems like a very sound decision. It meets most people’s needs, and it gets ATV and UTV traffic downtown on one main route that is clearly signed, easily policed, has a lower speed limit, and gets them to most of our businesses. It minimizes the impact on others throughout the city that for whatever their valid reasons are do not want that traffic in their neighborhoods. …
“I have a hard time believing that opening up all city streets will somehow result in an economic boom across the city. In fact, even if it did result in some economic gains … if there’s one incident that resulted in a fatality or a severe injury, I’m not sure how much those gains would be worth. … It’s frankly when, not if, something tragic occurs, I will be the first person to email to remind you of your vote.”
Cline said she felt “defensive on this idea that it’s on our conscience, because that’s living; the people who get on the ATV make their choices. … A kid could get hit by a bike. Are we responsible as a city for the fact that that child got hit by a bike? … If a kid drowned at the swimming pool, should we fill the swimming pool? … It’s not an easy decision.”
Evan Larson noted that there were proponents and opponents of opening all city streets, and “generally I don’t think of our society as an either/or … and I think that as a council you owe it to the city to represent the people who voted for you. … I’m not sure I see or understand the value or efficiency or what exactly we gain by opening it up to the full city.”
Former Ald. Amy Seeboth-Wilson noted an increase statewide in ATV and UTV facilities over the past four years, vs. a drop in automobile fatalities.
“If something’s not broke, why fix it?” she said. “You have a designated route … that allows ATVs to reach the majority of businesses in our community. Keep that. Don’t bring these into our neighborhoods, or we’re just going to make a problem.”
Community Safe Routes Committee chair Kristina Fields noted that it took 11 years for a sidewalk to be built in her neighborhood and five years for a bike lane to be approved.
“Why would ATV/UTV use in a residential neighborhood not be held to this same standard by the council?” she asked. “Please do not allow ATV/UTV use in our neighborhood. I’m actually stunned and surprised to hear that there’s consensus among city staff to do this.”
Fields said she was a civil engineer and told the council, “You've been tasked with a decision that you’re not prepared to make.”
The Safe Routes Committee will hold a meeting on the proposed ordinance today at 5:15 p.m.