SHELDON — On Town Meeting Day, Sheldon residents voted to pass an article on opening town highways to ATV use, at 123 for and 78 against. Based on this vote, the Sheldon Selectboard has decided to pursue an ATV ordinance.
What does this mean?
The ordinance is currently being formulated by the selectboard based on advice from town lawyers as well as ordinances of nearby towns. The March 22 selectboard meeting saw discussion of the regulations that still need to be defined.
“We want an ordinance, but we wanna do it once and do it right,” said Selectboard Chair Stephen Dodd during the meeting.
After the ordinance is written and signed by the selectboard members, it can be adopted. Following the adoption, there will be 60 days until it goes into effect wherein there is a window for the possibility of a citizen petition. Once in effect, ATVs may be driven on designated Sheldon roads following the outlined rules.
Based on this timeline, if the ordinance was finalized and signed by selectboard members at the next meeting, the earliest residents can expect it to be in effect would be late May or early June.
Also mentioned during the selectboard meeting was the decision to have the ordinance not voted on each Town Meeting Day, but rather have the option for termination at the discretion of the selectboard. Joseph Dunlavey, selectboard secretary, cited efficiency in cost and effort.
“If there’s a problem people will come in,” said Dodd.
What is being considered?
The ordinance may not be in effect all year. For example, Bakersfield has an ATV ordinance that is in effect from April 1 to Dec 1. During the meeting, Dunlavey suggested Sheldon matches this time frame in order to simplify the enforcement by local police.
“I think it’s fairly important to put a date in there even if we run with [Bakersfield’s] dates or not,” said Dunlavey.
Other effect dates for neighboring towns (should they exist) may be considered for similar reasons.
It is possible that not all roads will be open to ATV traffic under this ordinance. Law enforcement recommended Sheldon either open all roads or no roads, according to Dunlavey. Restricting certain roads has the potential to cause confusion and make the ordinance difficult to follow for those not knowledgeable in the area.
“We’re trying to make this user-friendly,” said Dunlavey.
Nearby town ordinances have maximum ATV speed limits of 20 mph (Montgomery) to 35 mph (Enosburgh). Dunlavey proposed setting the speed limit in Sheldon to 25 mph.
Also mentioned was basing the speed limit on recommendations by the state. Reasons cited for this would be Vermont Fish & Wildlife and state police having an easier time patrolling.
Fees for violating offenses of this ordinance act as potential revenue for the town.
“If people are violating the ordinance, they pay the fees,” said Dunlavey.
He recommended mirroring Bakersfield’s penalties, as they have higher fees in comparison to other nearby towns.
Selectboard members did not respond to requests for comment in calls outside of the meeing.
Editor’s note: This article is by Cailin Gramling, a reporter with the Community News Service, a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.