Linn County Supervisors delay vote on ATV ordinance to address concerns raised by residents

“ATVing on Blackcomb Mountain” by Traveloscopy via Flickr

Linn County residents hoping to ride their all-terrain or off-road vehicles on secondary roads will have to wait. The county’s Board of Supervisors decided to delay a vote on the proposed ordinance to address concerns raised during the two public hearings.

Almost half of Iowa’s counties have passed an ATV ordinance. The vehicles are currently not allowed on Linn County roads, but there are eight parks around the state where riders can go, including Lakeview OHV park in Johnson County.

The ordinance would allow all-terrain vehicles or off-road utility vehicles to be driven on secondary roads, which are typically gravel or asphalt. There would be 28 restricted roadways.

Among the rules that riders would need to follow are having a valid driver’s license and proper equipment, and not going over the speed limit of 35 miles per hour. Violating rules outlined in the ordinance would result in a misdemeanor fine of $65 to $625 and/or up to 30 days in jail.

Around 15 people spoke during the public hearing Wednesday morning, with about 10 people speaking in favor and the rest in opposition. An additional 100 people were at Tuesday’s public hearing, the Gazette reported.

Those who spoke in favor of the ordinance on Wednesday cited the economic benefits the ordinance would bring to the area since riders would no longer have to go to surrounding states, like Wisconsin, to ride the vehicles.

“This would help out a lot of the small ma and pa shops, bars or restaurants along the way,” Marion resident Rick Ness said. “[It would] help out small towns around Linn County.”

Those who spoke against the ordinance brought up safety concerns and how these vehicles were not made to be on roads.

“I’m surprised counties pass this legislation when manufacturers are saying they’re not designed for public roads, not safe on these roadways and there’s an increased liability,” said Charles Jennissen, a clinical professor in the University of Iowa’s Department of Emergency Medicine.

Jennissen, who has published research on ATV safety and public health concerns, estimated there are typically seven to 12 ATV-related deaths per year in Iowa. A majority of the deaths are due to head trauma, he said.

Once the public hearing was closed, Supervisor Stacey Walker expressed his appreciation for those who came out to share their concerns or support.

“There have been a number of issues that this county board has had to decide upon over the years since I’ve been here — very few issues draw this much public attention,” Walker said.

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“I have a whole page of questions … but I’d appreciate it if we could somehow find a way to give us maybe even just a few weeks to get some of these questions answered and have some follow up. … I don’t want to delay this indefinitely, but I just don’t want to move too quickly.”

Supervisor Brent Oleson, who has worked on this ordinance on and off for about a year, supported Walker’s call for a delay “because we want to get it right.”

“I want to amend this in a few ways to make it as palatable to both my colleagues, to the public and to address the concerns that some people have. It needs a little bit of work, but I think it could get passed if we can do that,” Oleson said.

Supervisor Ben Rogers, who was participating in the meeting via phone call, expressed his own concerns about the safety of the vehicles. He stated that he is against the ordinance.

“There’s a real safety component here that’s just not worth the injuries or risk of death,” Rogers said. “It would take a lot to convince me that somehow this would make our roads safer or as safe.”

It’s expected the ordinance’s first consideration will be rescheduled. Olsen said the board will publicize when that will be, as well as future public hearings on ATV use.