Minto working on bylaw to allow off-road vehicles on local roads

MINTO – Town council has directed staff to prepare a draft bylaw to regulate the use of off-road vehicles (ORV) on municipal roads in consultation with the Ontario Provincial Police.

During the Dec. 1 meeting, bylaw enforcement officer Cam Forbes presented a report on potential use of off-road vehicles on Minto roads.

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

A petition containing about 130 signatures asking council to allow “ATVs/side-by-sides to travel on Minto streets, rural roads,” was included in correspondence at the meeting.

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 Regulation 8/03 must pass a bylaw in order to prohibit or restrict their use. Because the Town of Minto is not listed in Ontario Regulation 8/03 the town would need to pass a by-law in order to both allow ORVs and regulate their use.

The Town of Minto and the Town of Erin are the only two municipalities within Wellington County that are not listed in the new regulation.

“That all comes back to the fact we’re a town not a township. They think we’re one big city,” said Forbes.

Currently off-road vehicles are not permitted on any municipal roads in Minto unless driven by a farmer for agricultural purposes with a slow-moving vehicle sign attached, Forbes’ report explained.

Although there are trails for off-road vehicles near Minto, local residents must trailer the vehicle to the trail or risk being pulled over and possibly charged by the OPP in order to access them, the report continues.

Forbes told council he was advised by Wellington County officials the county does not allow ORVs on any Wellington County roads and no changes are currently under consideration.

“There’s been no thought put into allowing it because this is all fairly new,” said Forbes.

Forbes noted a Minto bylaw, if approved, could:

-prohibit the use of a road or part of a road;

– prohibit the use in certain areas (parks, cemeteries, walking trails);

– set the hours that an off-road vehicle can operate;

– restrict use during certain times of year;

– allow or prohibit extreme terrain vehicles (those with six or more wheels) and/or off-road motorcycles; and

– lower the speed limits for off-road vehicles.

Forbes pointed out two new ORV classes, extreme terrain vehicles and off-road motorcycles, are now allowed under the Off-road Vehicle Act, subject to municipal approval, as of July 1.

Under the Highway Traffic Act off-road vehicles may not exceed 20km/h on roads with a speed limit up to 50, or 50km/h if the speed limit is greater than 50.

To be used on a road, off-road vehicles must be plated, insured, and must meet provincial safety standards.

In addition, drivers of off-road vehicles must hold a valid G2 or M2 or higher license and wear a helmet. Seatbelts must be worn in vehicles equipped with them.

“It seems to me this is becoming a real popular spot,” observed deputy mayor Dave Turton.

“I’m just concerned about, and I understand we have petitions and quite a number of people have signed their name … I’m concerned about patrolling it. On the other hand, they’re on the roads now,” continued Turton, who asked Forbes if he had received any input from local police.

Forbes said he had reached out, but had not yet heard back from the Wellington OPP.

“I think the reason that we’re seeing more and more of them is that we don’t get the snow we used to. So with the snowmobiles, you can’t use them as much, whereas ATVs you get more use out of,” Forbes suggested.

Councillor Mark MacKenzie said he is concerned local roads aren’t conducive to safe operation of off-road vehicles, “because we have no shoulders in case someone has to get over.”

Forbes explained ORVs must drive on the shoulder in same direction as other traffic. However, where there are no shoulders, the vehicles must keep as close to the right edge of the roadway “as safe to do so.

“Think of it similar to a bicycle,” said Forbes. “You’ve got all kinds of bicycles out there these days as well, and they’re supposed to keep as close to the right side as possible.”

Councillor Jean Anderson said it would be difficult to control the use of ORVs once allowed.

“If we approve the use of these … and it’s simply to access the trails, well that might be our intent, but that doesn’t mean that’s how it will be used,” she stated.

“If we pass a bylaw that says they can use our roads they can use our roads for whatever they like. You can’t limit them to accessing the trails.”

Anderson also suggested allowing ORVs would open local roads up to use of the vehicles by non-residents.

“Half of those petitioners don’t even live in Minto. So I don’t see how using ATVs on Minto roads are any concern of theirs, or to their benefit, unless we’re then going to have an influx because this gives them a contact to the trails that they don’t otherwise have,” she pointed out.

Forbes said, “People are trailering their vehicles and they are parking on the side of roads, jamming up parking lots and creating unsafe areas.”

Councillor Ron Elliott said if a bylaw is passed, he would prefer Minto not allow use of off-road motorcycles.

“I’ve seen those operate and usually those are the 16-year-olds or the 25-year-olds that still want to rip and roar and probably won’t want to stay within 50 kilometres (per hour),” said Elliott.

He also pointed out even if a bylaw is passed, Palmerston residents would be unable to access Minto roads without trailering their vehicles because the only routes out of town are via provincial highways or Wellington County roads.

“Just remember it’s not just people in three urban centres that have ATVs that wish to access the trails, its people out in the country as well,” replied Forbes.

“Unfortunately, right now, Clifford is the only one that can access the trails without using county roads.”

Forbes suggested it might be possible to approach Wellington County about using a portion of White’s Road to get outside of Palmerston until reaching Minto-owned backroads.

“I think the county is going to eventually have to come up with something because this is not going away,” said Mayor George Bridge.

Anderson suggested council should request a delegation from the OPP on the topic before finalizing a bylaw.

A motion to receive the report, direct staff to prepare a bylaw and consult the OPP was approved unopposed.

North Wellington Community News