Minto council to consider bylaw regulating off road vehicles

MINTO – Council here is preparing to consider allowing the use of off road vehicles (ORV) on town-owned roads.

Local ORV enthusiast Ron Faulkner headed a delegation during the Nov. 4 meeting encouraging council to enact a bylaw to regulate the use of such vehicles on municipal roads

Faulkner explained that as of July 1, 2020, ORVs are permitted on all roads under Ontario Regulation 8/03.

As of Jan. 1, 2021, all municipalities listed in Ontario Regulations 8/03 must pass a bylaw in order to prohibit or restrict their use. Faulkner pointed out the Town of Minto is not listed in Ontario Regulation 8/03, and so the town would need to pass a by-law in order to both allow ORVS and regulate their use.

“The difference is the Town of Minto, because of something that’s happened in the past, I’m assuming its over amalgamation, is not part of Regulation 8/03. So in actual fact they (ORVs) are not permitted at present time on any road in the Town of Minto. So unless we pass a bylaw restricting their use it’s going to be a dogs’ breakfast because every municipality surrounding us …. all are on that list,” said Faulkner.

Mayor George Bridge clarified that Minto’s status as a town, rather than a township, is the reason it is not included under the provincial regulation.

“We have a bit of a problem here because we’re a town, not a township. If we were just a township, we’d be automatically into the system,” Bridge explained.

A written presentation from Faulkner and local residents Norm Fisk and Pete Scheeringa, notes a bylaw would “eliminate guessing, interpretation and subjective enforcement.”

“It would ensure the following of all provincial laws governing a motorized vehicle … which includes, speed, alcohol, safety equipment (seat belts and helmets.), licensing and proper insurance and, lastly, trespassing. We want to see the town be leaders and in control of our OVRs,” the document states.

The group suggests a bylaw could prohibit ORV operation in certain areas, such as urban main streets, in cemeteries and near funeral homes, senior homes, post offices, libraries, schools and “churches on Sundays.”

“Many of you have friends in northern Ontario and probably get their slant on bylaws and the use of ORVs up north,” said Faulkner.  “I’d ask you if you could blank that out of your mind because it’s a whole different world up there. They allow ORVs in the city, anywhere on the street, because it’s part of their way of life up there.”

In southern Ontario, Faulkner noted, “It’s a higher population and we’re dealing with smaller land areas. Also their trails are built to come right into … the municipalities and ours are not.”

Councillor Jean Anderson asked if Faulkner could clarify the regulations regarding use of ORVs on highways and county roads and “would the common citizen be aware of the laws as they exist currently?”

Faulkner replied that many citizens are confused about the regulations.

He said that “all the roads that belong to the Town of Minto” would be covered under the bylaw being proposed.

“All roads that belong to the county are covered under whatever regulations the county decides,” Faulkner said, adding he assumes the county would fall under Ontario Regulation 8/03 “which means, outside of designated highways, off road vehicles are allowed.”

Bridge suggested CAO Derrick Thomson would take the information provided by the group and come back to council with a staff report for discussion.

Anderson asked about the current status of ORVs on local roads.

“So everybody who’s riding those up the roads, that’s illegal?” she asked.

“That’s correct,” said Faulkner.

“So when I’m watching a neighbour  riding up the road on an ATV with his child unsecured on the front of the bike and not a helmet in site, who would I talk to about that?” asked Anderson.

“That would be the Ontario Provincial Police that you would call,” Faulkner responded.

“We still need a staff report and if we decide to have a bylaw we need to draft a bylaw,” said Bridge.

“The purpose of the delegation today is to get information from the public. We’ll take the information and will craft a staff report … and then we can debate a staff report at council,” explained Thomson.

Anderson asked why the town should pursue allowing ORVs on local roads.

“What is the purpose? Why do they need to be on the road?” she asked.

“There’s about four different reasons,” replied Faulkner. “One is strict recreation. Number two is a mode of transportation from Point A to Point B. Three is part of employment. I’m thinking farmers now have land all over the show and oftentimes need these vehicles to run a part out to a combine. And the fourth reason that I’m thinking of is recreation – hunting and fishing,” he added.

“I can see an ATV up north where it’s just trails, but when we have highways and every farmer in the world has a truck at least, if not a car, and they’ve been using their trucks to take their parts to their vehicles that are stranded in the field, I fail to see the advantage of this,” said Anderson

“And I’ve seen horrendous accidents on these vehicles, just horrendous,” she added.

“I’m not here to argue,” said Faulkner.

Bridge noted the staff report would cover potential uses of the ORVS.

“They are there now and I’ve been waiting for a while for the province to finally come up with some kind of guidelines because it was very patchwork otherwise. The province has put up the guidelines so technically you could run one down the highway and possibly the county road, but maybe not our road,” said Bridge.

“There’s a lot of people that use these units and it’s changed over the last few years and I think finally we got some direction from the province as to what rules they’re going to put in, so I’m kind of happy with that,” he added.

Councillor Judy Dirsksen told council the topic of ORVs comes up frequently among members of the Wellington Farm and Home Safety Association.

“Our understanding is that there are no roads in Wellington County that currently allow ORVs except Highway 89 north … because it borders on West Grey,” said Dirksen, who suggested approaching the association for input.

“I’d like to have the full discussion in the first week of December, when we have all the facts,” said Bridge, who indicated he would like to see a bylaw in place by the end of the year.

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