Off-road bylaw needs more input

Lacombe County’s effort to come up with an off-highway vehicle bylaw is taking another detour.

Lacombe County’s effort to come up with an off-highway vehicle bylaw is taking another detour.

Council voted unanimously on Thursday to take the issue back to another public open house after concerns were raised that a proposed bylaw would not be fair to all.

For almost a year, the municipality has been trying to craft a bylaw to make it legal to use off-highway vehicles, such as quads, on county roads under certain circumstances.

While all-terrain vehicles are a familiar sight on gravel roads, under Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act that practice is illegal. However, municipalities have been given the leeway to set their own rules on roads under their control.

In introducing a proposed bylaw on Thursday, county manager of environmental and protective services Keith Boras reminded council the point of the legislation was to make it lawful for people to use their ATVs in certain situations.

But that’s where it gets complicated.

Councillors feared that a provision that off-highway vehicles could only be used for business or agricultural purposes risked setting off one group of ratepayers against another. They envisioned scenarios where a farmer could ride his ATV on a county road, but a neighbouring acreage owner could not.

The bylaw also includes a permit process for those who want to ride them on designated trails, such as are in place in some lakeside communities.

Coun. Cliff Soper said he liked the “enabling” parts of the bylaw, which allowed the use of off-highway vehicles for business and agricultural use, but was concerned proposed regulations favoured some residents.

Several councillors suggested the bylaw allow recreational use.

That has been a contentious issue among ratepayers because many rural residents are frustrated with the trespassing and damage caused by irresponsible riders.

Councillor Rod McDermand, who participated in the meeting through teleconferencing, said the bylaw could prove “very divisive in communities.”

McDermand said council should mull the issue over further before making a decision on a new bylaw.

“I think this is going to create a lot of heat from our ratepayers and I don’t think we need to do that.”

Coun. Paula Law said under the proposed bylaw, responsible recreational riders would not be allowed to use county roads. “If they are doing everything right, why are we penalizing them?”

Council agreed to go back to the public for more feedback before deciding on a final version of the bylaw. The meeting has been set for June 6 with a time and location to be announced later.

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