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No UTVs, says council

Revisions to golf cart ordinance tabled
Council member Casey Grover listens to Steve Duncan as the Solon City Council discusses a possible ordinance to allow utility terrain vehicles on city streets during a Nov. 4 meeting. (photo by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– A majority of council members had too many concerns about safety and enforcement regarding a proposed ordinance to allow utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) on Solon city streets.
Councilors Mark Krall, Dale Snipes and Steve Duncan voted against the draft ordinance presented at the Nov. 4 meeting, and the proposed law was defeated by a 2-3 margin.
Council members tabled consideration of revisions to the law that allows golf carts on city streets, which was also on the agenda for possible action.
The two ordinances– one proposed and one revised– had been sent to the council’s streets committee for retooling back in May after the UTV ordinance lost traction with council members.
Krall, Snipes and Duncan had all been uncomfortable with the idea of utility vehicles on the streets back in May, and the committee’s work to transform the two ordinances to mirror each other didn’t end up convincing them.
The ordinances had been on the back burner for a while, explained City Administrator Cami Rasmussen. Rasmussen and Public Works Director Scott Kleppe met with committee members Casey Grover and Mark Prentice to review the drafts.
Grover said during the meeting the group had worked diligently to make the UTV ordinance as easy as possible for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office to enforce.
Both the city and the school use UTVs on a regular basis, Grover noted, so most people are familiar with seeing them around town. Grover had introduced the idea to the council in spring after being approached by advocating constituents.
“I’m in favor of adding them,” said Prentice. “I think it’s a nice addition for people who want to use the ability of a utility vehicle.”
Prentice said he didn’t think there would be too many applications, and those people he had talked to about the issue were responsible people with reasonable uses for the carts.
The Solon UTV proposal originally came before the council in April, presented as a draft based on a similar law in the town of Knoxville.
The committee revamped the draft, cutting it from 10 pages to three, using the same format as Solon’s golf cart ordinance.
The golf cart law, passed in 2011, allows properly-permitted golf carts to be driven by operators age 18 and over on most city streets from sunrise to sunset between April 1 and Oct. 31.
The revised UTV and golf cart ordinances presented last week would have allowed year-round operation of both types of vehicles, weather permitting, on clear, dry pavement.
Both ordinances required that operators be at least 18 years of age in possession of a valid driver’s license, as well as proof of liability insurance. Both set the maximum speed at 25 miles per hour, and prohibited travel on Highway 1. City permits would also be required, with additional county registration for the UTVs.
But the three members who weren’t in favor in May were not in favor in November.
Duncan cited mainly safety concerns, but also expressed continued reservations about the ability to enforce the golf cart ordinance, much less the addition of UTVs.
“I can’t cross that line,” Duncan said. “Safety issues are just too much for me.”
Referencing research materials provided by Rasmussen, he said studies indicated the likelihood of an eventual accident.
“It’s going to happen, there’s going to be an accident somewhere along the way,” he said. The community is growing, the majority of traffic is from outside the community, and the downtown area is busier than ever before, he said.
Snipes said it was a tough call.
“We are kind of rural, but we’re kind of getting pushed in by urban,” he said.
By definition in the ordinance, the UTVs must have non-highway tires, he pointed out. “They’re not made to be on hard pavement, they’re made to be out in the field, working in the yard,” he said. Snipes said he’d asked some communities in Iowa and Missouri that allowed UTVs whether they would have done so without a municipal police department to enforce it.
“They all said to me no,” he said.
If Solon had its own department, or even a single officer, Snipes said, he might be more open to the idea of UTVs.
Snipes said mothers in his neighborhood were concerned about the speed limit being observed by UTV operators (the ordinance required engine displacement of less than 1500cc and a dry weight of no more than 2,000 pounds).
“These things do go faster than the golf carts do,” Snipes said, noting the speed of traffic on Highway 1 and the tendency of people to driver faster than the posted limit.
“Behavior is behavior,” he concluded.
Krall’s main issue was with the identification of Highway 1 as the only prohibited street. He wanted to add Highway 382 and 5th Street.
Krall agreed with Duncan’s comments about increased traffic in town and expressed a little uneasiness with how out-of-towners would respond.
While people could use the UTVs to take yard waste to the city compost pile, he said, the units are pricey and not too many people would make the investment.
“You can probably purchase an old pickup truck a lot more inexpensively,” he said.
At the conclusion of the remarks, Prentice finally brought a motion to approve the first reading of the UTV ordinance to the floor, seconded by Grover, which resulted in the 2-3 decision against.
When it came time to review the changes for the golf cart ordinance, discussion stalled when the $25 permit fee was suggested as insufficient (the UTV ordinance called for a $50 permit).
Like the UTV draft that mirrored it, the revised golf cart ordinance would lift the winter restrictions on operation.
Other changes included the relocation of the annual sticker.
As with the UTV ordinance, Krall suggested the golf carts should be prohibited from Highway 382 and 5th Street, as well as Highway 1.
Snipes also felt traffic would increase on 5th Street with the completion of the new middle school.
It was determined to review pricing on the renewal stickers and perhaps the possibility of license plates, with a reasonably justified recommendation for the annual fee before placing the golf cart revisions on the agenda again.