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Berkeley Co. moves ahead on ATV law

April 09, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The Berkeley County Commission voted Thursday to move forward with a local ordinance that would ban all-terrain vehicles on all public roads and possibly on roads within subdivisions as well.

County attorney Norwood Bentley said he will prepare the ordinance in time for the commission's next meeting in two weeks. Copies will be available for the public on May 17. A public hearing has been scheduled for June 3.

The ordinance - based on a recently-passed state ATV bill that gives counties additional leeway - will make it a misdemeanor to ride an ATV on a public road, Bentley said.

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Although he said the penalty would be a $100 fine, the commissioners asked whether more fines or penalties could be added.

Anything within reason is possible, Bentley said.

County Commission President Steve Teufel said he would like offenders to perform community service, while Commissioner Howard Strauss said repeat offenders should have to pay higher fines.

Bentley said he will incorporate the changes into his next draft.

Those who need to ride an ATV along a road for a commercial purpose, such as a farmer or utility company worker, will still be allowed to do so, Bentley said.

Strauss predicted that many violators will be children, and asked what would happen.

Bentley said the ordinance indicates that if the owner of the ATV knew a child or someone else would be riding it along a public road, he or she would be held responsible.

West Virginia State Police Sgt. C.C. Morton agreed that many offenders likely will be unsupervised children who are not properly trained on how to ride an ATV.

"The main problem is not responsible adults who use ATVs for a legitimate purpose," he said when reached after the meeting.

Morton said the ordinance is a good idea.

"I personally don't feel the ATVs are designed for road travel. Basically, they cause a hazard," Morton said.

Although calls for ATV-related problems were once more common, they started to dwindle after people realized there was little police could do because of loopholes in the law, Morton said.

Morton said the county ordinance will help with regulation and also should appease ATV riders, because it does not attempt to regulate ATVs that are ridden on private land.

As for private roads within a subdivision, Bentley said members of a homeowners association can petition to have ATVs prohibited there.

With an "avalanche" of such petitions likely, Strauss asked whether the reverse could be possible - whether ATVs could automatically be prohibited on roads within a subdivision unless residents there petitioned to allow them.

Such a provision would be illegal under state code, Bentley said.

Although a public hearing on the ordinance is not required, both commissioners said they want to hold one. Commissioner John Wright did not attend the meeting.

Because a large crowd is possible, the hearing likely will be held in the Circuit Court room in the main courthouse rather than in the commission's smaller meeting room, the commissioners said.

If the commissioners approve of the ordinance after the public hearing, it would take effect July 1.

In Jefferson County, the county commissioners have asked Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober to create a draft version of an ATV ordinance.

Boober has said the state's ATV law is "absolutely useless."

The state law allows ATVs on the shoulder of roads with center lines or more than two lanes at speeds of 25 mph for up to 10 miles. They also can be driven on unlined roads.

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