Stow -- The city's laws governing the use of snowmobiles, off-highway motorcycles and other all-purpose vehicles may be stricter in a few weeks.
An ordinance currently before City Council would amend laws on the permitted use of such vehicles to, as Police Chief Louis Dirker described it, give the law some "teeth" and make it more enforceable.
City Council President Jim Costello said the changes to Chapter 375, which were originally introduced by At-Large Councilman Mike Rasor, chairman of Council's Roads and Safety Committee, are the result of "numerous" complaints from residents in varying areas of the city.
After input from citizens at Council meetings last week, the proposed amendments were tweaked to reflect the concerns of some citizens who voiced opposition to the stricter rules.
The amendments currently in front of Council would add specific requirements for areas the vehicles would be permitted in and clarify what permitted uses would be.
Despite being introduced last week, the corresponding ordinance is already in its third form and received its first reading Feb. 14. Ward 3 Councilman Brian Lowdermilk suggested having a public hearing for the changes, but Costello said the following readings would give citizens a chance to share their thoughts.
City Council meets again Feb. 28, where the ordinance is slated for its second reading. New ordinances typically take three readings before they're approved.
Proposed changes include restricting such vehicles from being used for recreational purposes on properties in residential or residential-business zoned districts fewer than 4 acres in area. Adding a buffer of 100 feet from any building, street or boundary line is also proposed.
The amendments emphasize that any citations would be complaint driven, and those complaints would have to come from an abutting neighbor.
A subsection would clarify that any all-purpose vehicle being used for property maintenance like snow removal or construction would be OK, however, which is something a few residents expressed concerns with last week. Moving firewood or garbage, for example, would be permitted uses.
Coinciding with the stricter guidelines are penalties that were never specified before. A first offense would simply result in a written warning, according to the proposed amendments, while subsequent violations would result in minor misdemeanor citations and a possible $150 fine.
Progress Park Drive resident Joseph Shinsky spoke in favor of the ordinance. He said he has ATVs of his own that are driven in a "respectful manner," but said he is concerned for the safety of others when such vehicles are driven by neighbors "recklessly."
He said the activity can be dangerous for his kids, and dust from driving in the summer can dirty patio furniture.
"It appears that in this day and age we have to legislate common sense," he said.
Several more residents, however, expressed concerns with how the laws might affect their personal property rights.
Graham Road resident Daniel Leipold said he has 4.5 acres of land, but the buffer requirement would preclude the use of all-purpose vehicles on his property.
He said he doesn't understand why neighbors can't resolve such issues with the vehicles amongst themselves.
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