Council considers banning motorized scooters on streets

New Windsor proposal includes modified mowers

November 07, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Responding to complaints about motorized scooters and modified lawn mowers, New Windsor's mayor and Town Council are proposing that they be added to the list of vehicles banned from the municipality's streets.

The town code prohibits off-road vehicles such as snowmobiles, minibikes and trail bikes from the streets, but a proposed ordinance introduced this week would add scooters and modified mowers.

"We've had a lot of complaints from people that they have really been a nuisance," Mayor Sam M. Pierce said before the Town Council meeting Wednesday night.

"It's a safety hazard, and the town code doesn't really address it," he said.

"We have some problem with a bunch of kids -- not really kids -- on modified lawn mowers running all over town. ... You also have these motorized scooters," he said.

"They're unlicensed, and they have just been running the streets, and they don't pay any attention to any of the traffic regulations."

But after the meeting, Rick Carroll of Atlee Ridge said he thought the ordinance unnecessary.

"It's only one or two kids," he said. "They're not hurting anybody."

Town officials said they knew of no accidents involving the vehicles.

The proposal, introduced Wednesday, will be the subject of a public hearing before any vote, and it is likely to be fine-tuned, officials said.

Councilman Kevin Null asked that anyone with comments about it to contact the town or attend the hearing, to be scheduled later.

The ordinance would also increase penalties for violators. The fine would increase from $50 to $150 for an initial violation and from $150 to $500 for a second violation. The ordinance would also prohibit the owner from driving a vehicle away and allow the town to impound it if not removed.

As a result of some of the questions and comments about the machines, town attorney Michelle M. Ostrander said the ordinance might require fine-tuning.

The lawn mowers at issue have had the mower deck removed or reduced to the point that "it's not a lawn mower any more," she explained.

"It was never our intention to get the guy who mows his lawn and moves across the road to mow his mother's lawn in trouble."

Carroll pointed to people who used off-road vehicles in last winter's snow "to get to the store, to transport people. It's really against the law, technically."

Null said state law is clear on that point, adding, "We're trying to address things that fall into a gray area."

Councilman Neal Roop emphasized several times that the ordinance is aimed solely at vehicles intended primarily for recreational use.

"If it's used for mowing, it's not a violation," Roop said.

Carroll County Attorney Kimberly A. Millender said Carroll does not have anything about scooters on the roads on its books, although there had been some calls complaining about scooters in the parks.

Although the state has no specific ban on scooters or modified mowers, vehicles intended for off-road use generally are not licensed for public roads, with exceptions made for farm equipment, according to Motor Vehicle Administration spokesman Buel C. Young.

"If it's not defined in the motor vehicle law, it's not to be operated on the street," Young said. Individual jurisdictions may enact their own specific bans, he said.

In the past several years, according to news accounts, small, motorized scooters have been banished from roads in Baltimore City, and Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.

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