A 2-hour Mound city council discussion ended with the decision to keep the status quo on ATVs and UTVs. The prevailing message? Keep driving your rec vehicless—even on city streets, if you absolutely must—just don’t be a clown about it.
The city had in May looked at clarifying language in its code to specifically prohibit the use of ATVs and UTVs on city streets, a suggestion tahat at the time casued an outpouring of opposition at City Hall. It emerged publicly at the recent meeting Sept. 14 that an ongoing issue involving just one resident had been the basis for revisiting the city’s ATV and UTV policy and that the city did not have a widespread problem with their use on city streets, despite such use being tacitly illegal.
The approximately two dozen people who came out to City Hall Sept. 14 all spoke in favor either of formally legalizing ATV and UTV use or of leaving the code as is, so long as users behaved and police continue to look the other way. No one spoke out against their use.
Use of ATVs and UTVs on city streets is technically prohibited by Minnesota statute unless a city specifically permits them in its code. But as a show of hands, given at council member Paula Larson’s prompting, attested last Tuesday, local police have not been out ticketing people for that violation: no one present had ever received one, though many had driven their special rec vehicle on city streets.
Larson said it would be “unfair” to require residents to pay a permit fee and go through extra paperwork when there hasn’t been a widespread problem. Enforcement of ordinance regulations around ATV and UTV use would also be a burden, she said.
“I think our police officers have their hands full and looking for stickers and making sure it’s sunrise or sunset or if they’re on the easement or not on the easement and all that—I think we’re wasting our police resources—and no one’s gotten a ticket.”
But council member Jason Holt, who voted against the motion to keep things as is, said he favored a course of action that would go beyond just the status quo and instead specifically allow, whether through a code amendment or some other means, the use of these vehicles.
“We have basically a law that says you’re really not supposed to do it. Even though we’ve all been doing it for how long, it technically says [in the code] you’re not supposed to be doing it here. Let’s fix it and say, ‘yep, you can do it,’” said Holt. “I think it’s a mistake to say we’re just going to look the other way and then we’re just going to have a problem down the road.”
Holt found some allies among the residents who came out Tuesday. Though some told council they were okay with leaving the code unchanged, others said they wanted more assurance that they could use their rec vehicles on the street without the worry of being stopped.
“Don’t tell me I can do something when I can’t do something,” said one resident.
“Without some definitions, it does leave it always open and subjective and could cause more confusion,” agreed council member Sherrie Pugh. Pugh abstained from council’s final vote.
Mayor Ray Salazar and council member Phil Velsor joined Larson in voting to leave the code as is.
“I don’t want to take away anybody’s fun,” said Salazar, who added that in 30 years of living in Mound he had seen just two infractions that he could recall, neither of which had endangered anyone. “We don’t have a problem except for one isolated case.”
Velsor, who admitted to taking on a certain amount of risk in using his own recreational vehicle to get to the lake, said that if he were forced to choose between specifically outlawing them and specifically permitting them, that he “would be voting to ban them” but that he didn’t want to do that.
“My vote would be that we do nothing with the city code language as it pertains to these types of vehicles since there is not a problem right now,” he said. “However, I don’t want to see Mound become this free for all, where everywhere you look it’s off-road vehicles.”
But council’s decision to abide by the status quo isn’t a blank check for ATV and UTV users to do as they please, given the recourse law enforcement and the city have in Minnesota statute.
“The state statute becomes the backstop that allows ticket writing if people are clowns,” said Mound city manager Eric Hoversten. “But if you’re not a clown, you’re probably not going to draw anybody’s attention—enjoy your day at the lake, don’t be a clown.”