Only four members of the public showed up at Enterprise City Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 6, for a town hall forum for the city council to take comments from the public on a proposed change to the city ordinance governing the use of all-terrain vehicles within city limits.
“I was hoping we’d have a bigger turnout to get more comments,” Councilman Chris Pritchard said after the meeting.
City Administrator Lacey McQuead emphasized that the town hall was an official meeting, but it was not an official council meeting and no decision on the ordinance was to be expected. It was simply an opportunity for members of the public to speak out on changes to the ordinance.
She said that while the council can be expected to discuss the town hall, it’s unlikely they’ll make a decision at the next meeting Monday, Nov. 18.
“I would like a decision to be made by January,” McQuead said after the meeting.
Of the suggestions made at the meeting, she expects most to be considered for inclusion in the new ordinance.
Mayor Stacey Karvoski read aloud the two letters the city has received on the issue. One of the letters was from a coalition of groups generally opposed to the relaxation of regulations on ATVs and was received three times. McQuead said she knew of only one of the people sending the letter was from Oregon, and that person from Portland. The others listed as backing the letter were from numerous places around the country.
The five-page letter — including the list of those supporting it and a list of sources for its statistics — cited numerous statistics on deaths and injuries involving crashes of ATVs and similar off-road vehicles.
City resident Dennis Burt said the long letter was “obviously written by some corporate lawyer and the logic for that is totally inane. If we’re going to cite deaths for a certain vehicle, then we should ban all vehicles, including bicycles and roller skates.”
He said the city of Sumpter — a small, rural town similar to Enterprise — allows ATVs to be ridden in the city limits. He said he spends time there and is unaware of many incidents of crashes or deaths from ATV use. He noted ATVs are not allowed on state or federal highways.
This brought up the issue of crossing a highway on an ATV, but it was clarified that state law allows a quick, direct crossing if all other legal conditions are met.
“So, it’s no different than somebody riding their lawnmower down the street to go from one yard to the next,” Burt said, or a farmer driving his tractor in town.
The second, brief letter from “RL, Enterprise” said that kids younger than 16 — the legal driving age in Oregon — are “not responsible enough to drive” an ATV and create too much noise when doing so.
“Let them go ride in the woods,” the letter concluded.
One woman, Cathy Sterbentz, came out strongly against any relaxation of rules regulating ATV use in town. Much of her dissent focused on whether such ATV use was “necessary” or would violate existing noise ordinances.
“Whose bright idea was it to make Enterprise an open ATV zone?” Sterbentz asked.
McQuead told her there is a current ATV ordinance that the council is considering amending or changing, but the council wanted to get public input first.
The proposed ordinance was put together by City Attorney Wyatt Baum when he became aware the council wanted to change the current one.
Sterbentz also said the new ordinance should “make it real clear that the only time you can use them is for performing a necessary task versus recreation. There’s nothing in it, as far as I can see, that prohibits recreational use of the ATVs, as far as I can see.”
She said after the meeting that she has neighbors whose children ride around in their yard and create noise she deems a nuisance. She asked if that violates the city’s noise ordinance.
“It’s no different than if I hop on my motorcycle to go from here to the grocery store and it’s above 100 decibels, then I’m not in compliance and I could receive a ticket for it,” Councilman Micah Agnew said.
Sterbentz asked about riding solely on one’s own property.
Enterprise Police Officer George Kohlhepp told her that the law allows a person to do what they want on their own property as long as they stay on their property.
McQuead added that such activity must be in compliance with other ordinances, such as the noise ordinance, which Sterbentz said should be addressed in the new ATV ordinance.
Burt called a perceived noise problem “a red herring” and said “It’s not an overwhelming problem” that the police can’t handle.
But Sterbentz said after the meeting the city police seem unwilling to enforce the noise ordinance, although state troopers are willing.