By a 3-1 vote, the Dyersville City Council will be sending a proposal to allow ATV/UTVs access to select routes on city streets to the Public Safety Committee for a more detailed discussion in the coming weeks.
Dyersville Mayor Jim Heavens stated that while he personally still harbors reservations on the matter, he believes that given the support demonstrated by the pro-ATV group the council needs to accommodate the request with some element of speed as warmer weather is around the corner. In addition, he has asked Ashley Wohler, who has represented the pro-ATV group in the past, to help select three or four people to participate in the discussion.
The last time the issue was before the council, ATV advocates brought a petition with over 1,400 signatures, and this time around they presented the council with more letters of support, including eight from Dyersville businesses and one from the Dyersville Economic Development Corp’s Board of Directors, who would like to see an ordinance passed.
At its last meeting, the council held off on making any decision because there was word an anti-ATV petition was being put together, however that has yet to materialize.
But the council packet did include a handful of opposition letters, including one penned by the Rev. Dennis Quint, who stated he was grateful the council was approaching the issue with caution.
“After the death of four young boys south of Epworth in recent years, I cannot believe anyone thinks having these machines on the road is a good idea,” Quint wrote. “Cars have to have antilock brakes and airbags, but these machines are minimally road-safe it seems to me.”
Councilmember Jenny Ostwinkle Silva, who sits on the Public Safety Committee with Councilmember Mike Oberbroeckling, said she is hearing a split of arguments for and against, which mainly center around economic and safety issues.
Before she makes a decision, Ostwinkle Silva said she needs more concrete data and suggested bringing in a consultant.
“I think that would personally help me take in the issue in a more well-rounded way to figure out where we go from here,” she said.
Councilmember Mike English said he is still hearing more negative comments than positive and thinks safety is still most people’s main concern.
Matt Gaul, who was speaking for the pro-ATV group, wanted more specifics on why people were opposed and what exactly they thought were the unsafe aspects of ATV usage as there are inherent dangers with motorcycles, cars, etc.
“If people are saying they’re not safe, why are they not safe?” Gaul asked of English, adding that if the group had specifics, that would help them to educate the public.
Police Chief Brent Schroeder stepped in, stating safety was also the most frequent concern coming across his desk. Schroeder noted that there isn’t a car out there whose manufacturer specifically says not to use it on a roadway.
“Every ATV, that is the number one thing in the owner’s manual, they’re not for highway use,” Schroeder said. “That’s like saying don’t use a boat in water, it can’t be any clearer than that.”
Schroeder said other pressing concerns he’s tabulated include enforcement of the rules, noise, parking congestion, issues with access on Hwy 136, having traffic from Hwy 52 being rerouted through Dyersville and open containers/coolers.
After over an hour of discussion, Heavens suggested the conversation would be more productive in a committee setting with a small number of people from both sides of the aisle. Heavens also asked Wohler and company to come up with a suggested preferred route for travel as well to serve as a boilerplate.
Before the council voted, English said he wanted to revisit the issue this fall to see what impact new large events this summer have on traffic, but the remainder of the council was ready to move forward. Councilmember Jim Gibbs was not present.
English eventually cast the lone nay vote.