Sitka assembly votes to opt-out of state law allowing ATVs to be street legal

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - With a new state regulation allowing residents to drive All Terrian Vehicles on roads with speed limits of 45 mph or less taking effect January 1st, the Sitka assembly in a 4-2 vote Tuesday approved an ordinance prohibiting the use of ATVs on roads in the borough.

    Both Sitka Police Chief Robert Baty and Fire Department Chief Craig Warren wrote a memo to the body opposing the regulation, writing "We feel that this is a public safety concern versus convenience of use." They outlined several concerns.

    Those who publicly testified were opposed to the ordinance, saying that while they understand the safety concerns, they or their family are experienced driving ATVs. The point was made by testifiers that their efforts in plowing driveways and sidewalks across town would be made possible if ATVs were allowed on municipal roads.

    During the discussion, Assemblymember Kevin Mosher said it would send a very strong message if they ignore the advice of the police and fire departments.

    "It would send a very bad message to override their recommendation," he said. "If we were to not take heed their advice and people got hurt that it would be on us. It's very important that we listen to their advice."

    Assembly Member Kevin Knox spoke in support of keeping the rules as they currently are.

    "I really do feel like there are there's a solution here that we should be able to come up with. I don't like trying to put the genie back in the bottle, I would rather for us to opt out for right now, stay with the status quo and find that solution. I don't want to take a long time with that either though."

    Mayor Steven Eisenbeisz addressed the public at the end of the discussion.

    "Not a single Assembly Member sat in front of you tonight and said that there's not a path forward for this. Every single assembly member said, with some common sense rules and regulations, we can figure this out. So don't be discouraged tonight, for a vote that doesn't appear like it's going to go in favor of ATVs on the streets, but be encouraged that a few members will be working towards some goals along with some community input to find some common-sense regulations that we can all agree with," he said.

    The body had voted 4-2 in approving the ordinance, with Mayor Eisenbeisz and Assemblymember David Miller being the two no votes.

    Afterward, on Wednesday, CBS announced that an informal meeting will be held on Thursday, January 6th at 6:00 p.m. They are inviting citizens to meet with Assembly Members Thor Christianson and Miller in an informal setting to discuss potential code changes related to ATVs on public roadways in Sitka. The meeting will be held in Room 1 of Harrigan Centennial Hall. Those unable to attend may submit written comments to no later than noon January 6th.

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