Town of Warwick adopts ATV rules

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:15

    By Linda Smith Hancharick Warwick - ATV riders in the Town of Warwick now face more restrictions, limiting where the vehicles are ridden, and stiffer fines if they are caught. All terrain vehicles are not allowed within 500 feet of anyone else's property. Previously the regulation only noted "adjoining" property. This protects neighbors within 500 feet. The fine for a first-time offender increased to $500, up from $250. The second offense will cost $1,000. From January 1 to mid-July, Police Chief Thomas McGovern said there have been 145 complaints regarding ATVs in town. They include noise, trespassing, speeding, and riding on the road. Several residents let the Town Board know exactly where they stood on this increasingly popular issue. Some felt that ATVs should be banned in all residential areas; others felt the changes proposed were enough to control the noise and damage caused by the vehicles and their riders. "There are large parcels in my area," said one woman. "Sound travels. Three acres, 10 acres, it doesn't matter." She went on to complain that she called police four times with complaints about ATVs near her house and nothing was done. And the offenders were not kids. They were family men in their 30s who were "behaving like juvenile hooligans," she added. She suggested even more severe fines be handed out, with the money going into a fund to help property owners whose land is damaged by the vehicles. Resident John Starks said he doesn't like the idea of calling the police on a neighbor. "You don't want to pit neighbor against neighbor," he said. "Isn't it better to just ban ATVs in residential areas?" Sweeton disagreed. "That would be drastic," Sweeton said. "We are trying to get people to be considerate of their neighbors." Sweeton used as an example someone with 20 acres. If they go a side of their property that is not near neighbors, there is no reason why they shouldn't be able to ride an ATV. Another resident from Bellvale Lakes Road agreed with Sweeton. He owns ATVs and rides them with his kids on his eight-acre property. He said some kids get high performance pipes installed that are very loud. "They're ridiculous," he said. But his vehicles make less noise, he contends, than his neighbor's lawn tractor. The police department should use the noise level as criteria for fining riders, he said. "If a parent gets dragged into court enough times, they're going to tell them to get it (pipe) off!" he said. Other residents said they were just tired of the damage ATV riders have done to parks and private property. One resident near Cascade Park said kids smash mailboxes and throw beer cans on the street and nothing is being done. Residents of Glenmere Homesites said enforcement is spotty. Sweeton said it is difficult for the police to enforce the law because the rider is usually long gone when the police arrive. "We're working on that," he said. McGovern told The Warwick Advertiser that his department is requesting an on-off road motorcycle in this year's budget for that purpose. To get into the areas where kids are riding illegally, police need an ATV. Since ATVs are not allowed on the roadways, it takes time to transport the ATV to the area and then find the offenders. Still, at least one man wanted the board to ban the vehicles altogether. "I think what most people are saying is that this area is not appropriate for ATVs," he said. "We don't expect enforcement to do any good. The law says ‘reasonable person.'" What constitutes reasonable use or reasonable people? They don't belong in residential areas. I'll bet if you had a referendum in this town (to ban ATVs) it would pass overwhelmingly." That was not considered. Councilman Leonard DeBuck said people should practice community policing, as recommended by the citizens police academy he recently attended. "Talk to your neighbor first," DeBuck said. "I'd like to endorse that. Chances are he will stop the offending behavior if you talk to him about it." "We wanted to protect people who have the property and who are reasonable," said Supervisor Michael Sweeton. "We are trying to attack the noise issue and have people act responsibly. This puts some teeth in the ordinance."