Coventry To Vote Aug. 11 On ATV Ordinance

ATV riders gather after riding on area trails. (File Photo)

COVENTRY - Voters will have a say on Aug. 11, which is primary day, on whether the town should rescind an ordinance allowing all-terrain vehicles on all town roads.

If the ordinance is rescinded, ATVs would be allowed on only a handful of roads as in the past.

Voters in May used a petition to force the select board to call a special vote on the opening of all town roads to ATVs this summer.

That’s what happened in January in Newport City. And then Newport voted not to rescind the ordinance and now ATVs are allowed downtown.

Each voter can decide whether to do a mail-in ballot or vote in person by Australian ballot at the town community center, as allowed under the pandemic. In normal times, Coventry selectmen would have called a special floor meeting to discuss and then vote on the issue.

The board is required to call two remote public information meetings by Zoom to allow residents to discuss the issue.

Town administrator Amanda Carlson recommended Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 5 p.m. and Monday, Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. for the informational meetings. They must be held within 10 days of the voting day.

The select board has to warn the meeting and set the information dates soon, she said.

Selectmen voted in April to open all roads to ATVs, following the decision of other municipalities in increasing access to the popular off-road vehicles. The town previously had allowed ATVs on only certain roads.

Selectmen had said that it wasn’t fair that only some residents could use roads to access trails or go to other towns where ATVs are allowed on roads.

But not all residents supported the idea.

A petition to rescind the ordinance opening all roads was presented to the board on June 2, forcing the board to call a special vote.

The board delayed the decision to find out how a vote could be held during a pandemic under Vermont Gov. Phil Scott’s emergency orders protecting public safety and limiting large gatherings.

At the board’s special meeting Monday, Carlson explained that this will be a straight yes-or-no question based on the petition. The select board cannot reword it.

A yes vote would rescind the ordinance and therefore ATVs would not be allowed on all town roads but only those allowed in the past.

A no vote would mean that the ordinance is not rescinded and would stay in place, allowing ATVs on all town roads.

If the ordinance is not rescinded, then the select board can make changes to the ordinance through a memorandum of understanding this summer, to set speed limits and address other concerns raised by some residents, Carlson said.

If the amendment is rescinded, then opening roads can be discussed again at town meeting, if the board wants, she said.

Selectmen and residents said they thought that voting to rescind an ordinance is confusing. They intend to put out information to voters explaining what a yes vote and a no vote would mean.

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