Montgomery Center, 5-19-2015 (copy)

Route 118 heads southeast through Montgomery Center. Petitioners are seeking to open town roads to ATV use.

MONTGOMERY — A petition formulated in Montgomery aims to bring the issue of ATV use on town roads before the town’s selectboard.

The petition, brought by resident Brad Alexander, contains the same language as Article 9 on the 2021 Town Meeting ballot. It states: ”Shall the voters direct the selectboard to amend the Town of Montgomery’s all terrain vehicle ordinance dated August 18, 2003 to add Section IV #1 as follows: ‘The use of ATVs is authorized on all town roads located in the town of Montgomery, including Hazen’s Notch Road, Fuller Bridge Road, and, to the extent permitted by the State, along Vermont State Routes #118 and #242.’”

That warrant article failed on Town Meeting Day, 175-196.

Alexander says that ATVs will allow business in Montgomery to thrive.

“I think one of the big pieces here is that the ATVs traveling on the roads and being able to get to the major places; getting to our restaurants, getting to the hotels for people that could be potentially coming from out of state. Those access areas are off limits at this point,” he told the Messenger.

The request seeks to open up Montgomery’s roads legally to the other end of Highway 58, bridging the gap between the town of Westfield and Richford, which have both already opened their roads, as well as opening Highways 118 and 242.

However, for permission the town would have to make a request with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT), which would work closely with the Vermont ATV Sportsman Association (VASA) in deciding if a connection is both safe and necessary.

“They don’t need to prove that there are other connections but we are looking for a logical reason for a connection and assurance that the municipality supports ATV use and any connections,” says Robert White, project delivery bureau director with AOT. “All requests are reviewed from a safety aspect and consider the posted speed of the highway, sight distance, as well as other factors.”

He says that permission is only granted if the connection can reasonably accommodate ATVs safely and there are no other reasonable alternatives for a connection.

For their part, VASA Executive Director Danny Hale says that his agency would support whatever the town wants.

“If they want to shut down the 58, we would support that. If they want to open it, we would support that,” he said.

Residents like Peter Empson, who lives on the 242, say that speeds are too high and accidents are frequent.

“I live on a blind corner where we regularly see accidents and I have a hard time understanding the motivation behind this request. I’d like to understand what is the data that the proponents of this have with respect to safety?” said Empson.

White says he’s not aware of any specific studies on roads in Montgomery. However, according to Citydata.com there were 11 fatal accidents in the town between 1975 and 2019. Five of those accidents were on the 118.

Even though the article doesn’t deal with enforcement, the issue of policing in the area is a big one. According to Hale, VASA works with two agencies to police the area.

“We have a contract with the local sheriff but they don’t have a directed patrol, we tell them what we want. Also Fish and Wildlife deals with issues as they arise but there is no directed patrol there as well,” he said.

To pass, the petition would need 50 signatures. Alexander says that he currently has 60 and will be collecting the forms this week.

“We’d probably hold the vote sometime in May (within 60 days of certifying the petition),” says Selectboard Chair Charlie Hancock.

Alexander says that as of Friday he has 60 signatures and that getting past the stigma associated with side-by-sides is a big factor in opening the roads.

“You’re always going to have a couple of bad apples that are going to try and spoil the bushel. But there are a lot of very conscious operators out there, they’re very experienced operators,” he said.

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