Board votes to open Town of Port roads to ATVs

Residents pack hall to oppose, support ordinance similar to one passed in neighboring communities

The Port Washington Town Board on Monday voted to allow all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles to be driven on some roads.
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Town of Port Washington will open its roads to all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles, the Town Board agreed Monday night.

The town joins a growing list of communities in Ozaukee County — including the towns of Fredonia and Belgium and Village of Belgium — that allow these vehicles on town roads and county highways with a speed limit of 35 mph or less.

The proposal does not take effect until signs are put up designating the routes, Town Chairman Mike Didier said.

And, officials noted, there are three town roads where these vehicles won’t be allowed — East Sauk and Northwoods  roads, where the town only controls half the road and the neighboring municipality doesn’t allow ATVs and UTVs, and River Road, where one resident vehemently objected to the vehicles.

In addition, the board called for the ordinance to be reviewed in one year to see if problems have occurred with these vehicles.

Didier cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he did not believe two conditions placed on the ordinance — that these vehicles be prohibited on River Road and the annual review — were necessary.

A crowd of about 20 people filled the Town Hall for a public hearing on the matter. Most favored the ordinance allowing these vehicles to traverse town roads, but there were a few people who spoke against it.

Katherine “Kitchie” Allen told the board she spoke to a number of county supervisors and sheriff’s deputies who oppose the measure, and she, too, opposed the measure.

She said she is particularly concerned because these vehicles could travel on town roads from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. in a community where there are no lights along the roads, fog and snow are common and could contribute to accidents.

James Kultgen told the board that years ago he had issues with people riding illegally on and around his land on River Road  and he doesn’t want to invite trouble again.

“For years I had to put up with that BS,” he said. “Who’s going to take responsibility when things start to happen?”

But John Weyker told the board that most ATV and UTV drivers are responsible, noting that these vehicles are costly.

“You’re going to have idiots regardless,” he said.

Brenda Peiffer, a member of the Lakeshore ATV/UTV Club, said, “All we want to do is ride down the road, visit friends, go to the dump. We’re not all hoodlums. Things have changed from 30 years ago when there were reckless three-wheelers.”

Her husband Kevin noted that the drivers of these vehicles must be licensed and aren’t allowed off the roadway.

“For the most part, we regulate our own,” he added. “We try to do the safest thing possible.”

The Village of Belgium hasn’t had any issues with ATVs or UTVs, President Pete Anzia said.

“We have nothing but good to say about it,” he said. “We haven’t had a problem yet.”

Didier said that in addition to those appearing Monday, the town had received two emails supporting the ordinance and two against.

Town Supr. Greg Welton noted that farmers in the community have been allowed to drive ATVs and UTVs on the roads for years without incident.

When Town Supr. Gary Schlenvogt questioned how much it would cost to install the required signs, Didier said it’s estimated at $2,400.

There are clubs that will pay for this cost, one man noted.

Didier said after the meeting that the question of who will pay for them is “still open for discussion,” noting that when the Lakeshore club first asked for the ordinance, club officials said they would pick up that cost.

“I’m of the belief it will be a substantial donation,” he said.

Schlenvogt also asked how fast the vehicles are allowed to travel, and Kevin Peiffer said that they are generally allowed to go as fast as other traffic.

Didier noted that in the town and throughout the county, safety seems to be a major concern when officials consider allowing these vehicles on roadways.

“It sounds dangerous,” he said, but so does allowing youngsters to hunt.

While Sheriff Jim Johnson, a town resident, opposes the measure because he believes these vehicles should travel off the road, Didier said he doesn’t share that concern.

While some people are concerned these vehicles will trespass on their property, perhaps damaging crops, Didier said he doesn’t think it will be an issue.

“I’m sure it happened at one point,” he said. “I think our society is more educated on that issue now.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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