Following more than three hours of debate, Dubuque County supervisors Aug. 12 finalized the wording of a proposed ordinance that would allow ATVs and UTVs on county roadways.
The supervisors also set a public hearing on the measure for Aug. 26. The three-person panel then could vote on the matter, even potentially deciding to give it final approval if they decide to forego additional readings.
Previously, Supervisors Dave Baker and Jay Wickham have supported allowing all-terrain and utility vehicle access to certain county roadways, while Supervisor Ann McDonough opposed the move.
If approved, it is unclear when the ordinance would take effect, in part because new signage would need to be posted. The proposed ordinance includes a sunset date of June 30, 2022, meaning the increased ATV and UTV access wouldn’t necessarily be a permanent change even if it is approved.
For supporters of increased ATV access, the supervisors’ actions Aug. 12 were interpreted as a victory.
Michelle Switzer, of Dubuque, remained at the Dubuque County Courthouse throughout the marathon proceedings.
“They went through it with a fine-toothed comb, but that is what needed to happen,” she said.
Switzer is in support of greater ATV and UTV access to county roads. Currently, such vehicles are allowed only for agricultural uses.
She believes expanded ATV access will be a shot in the arm for rural restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores.
“It’s going to create revenue for businesses,” she said. “It means money coming in.”
Monday’s meeting was the supervisors’ first since a county committee passed on a draft ordinance it had crafted during a series of public meetings in recent months.
McDonough on Aug. 12 frequently opposed the actions of her two counterparts.
She questioned them about eliminating requirements that ATVs and UTVs have turn signals and horns. Similarly, Baker and Wickham reduced the number of mirrors required on such vehicles.
Wickham and Baker suggested that such alterations were logical, given the preference of ATV and UTV users and the availability of such features on those vehicles.
McDonough, however, wondered aloud which priorities were guiding the board.
“I don’t know if we are talking about (prioritizing) convenience or safety,” she said.
Also eliminated was the requirement that riders have a county permit and a related $25 fee.
The supervisors clashed when it came to a list of roadways on which ATV or UTVs would not be permitted.
The list of 20 suggested by a citizen committee was pared down to 15, much to the chagrin of McDonough.
Despite frequent disagreements, the Aug. 12 meeting yielded increased clarity when it comes to growing ATV and UTV access.
If approved, the ordinance would allow anyone 18 years or older to operate an ATV or UTV on permitted county roads, provided he or she has a valid driver’s license and provides proof of liability insurance.
Such vehicles could be driven on county roadways from 5 a.m. to sunset.
The supervisors initially discussed a sunrise-to-sunset riding period. However, Baker pushed for the altered start time in hopes that hunters could utilize the roads earlier in the morning.
“Hunting is an important part of the culture in our rural community,” he said.
Ordinance violations shall constitute a simple misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $65 to $625 and up to 30 days in jail.
Offenses such as operating under the influence or speeding would fall under pre-established state penalties pertaining to all motor vehicles. ATV and UTV riders must abide by a speed limit of 35 miles per hour.
Noting the sunset clause in 2022, Wickham emphasized that county leaders will continue to examine the ordinance.
“I think (the sunset clause) signals our intent that we want to review it,” he said.