ATV fans dominate anti-noise workshop

Carroll meetings focus on proposal for new law controlling vehicle use

October 20, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

All-terrain vehicle enthusiasts dominated the latest workshop on Carroll County's plan to devise an ATV anti-noise ordinance that officials want to address complaints about noise, dust and other concerns.

About 80 people attended the two-hour workshop Monday night at Mount Airy Senior Center, where the tone was mellow compared with the first two workshops, county officials said.

The workshops are information meetings with county staff members to explain the implications for zoning, noise and enforcement in what is called a draft of the ordinance.

The preliminary proposal, subject of five workshops throughout the area, is generating comment on both sides of the issue, officials said. About 350 people attended the first two sessions, in Westminster and Hampstead.

"Our particular issue with this is, the way the ordinance is now, it would effectively outlaw ATV use in Carroll County," David P. Resch of Westminster said Monday night. That's because of the distances set from neighboring property lines in the county proposal, he said.

"It really is a property-rights issue. ... People have a right to enjoyment of their property on both sides," said Resch, secretary of District 7 of the American Motorcyclists Association, which includes Maryland and Delaware.

Resch had made a sign and placed it at the entrance to the center: "Disrespectful comments do not help our position. Let the commissioners know how you feel, but be respectful."

James E. Slater, the county planning department's deputy director of environment and resource protection, said people who support restrictions on ATV use are reluctant to speak out because of fear of retaliation. He said there was a confrontation between two people at the last meeting.

"One thing we can encourage is for everyone to state their opinion," said Slater, who planned to follow up on a suggestion to allow public comments on the county Web site.

"Regulations are not written for people who do things right," he told a small group at a work station on noise. Slater said that since 1991, he has had a "fairly steady" stream of complaints about the use of ATVs.

Slater stressed that there would be changes in the draft before an ordinance is proposed, and a public hearing will be held before the county commissioners vote on it.

Capt. Vincent Maas of the county Sheriff's Office, who was manning the station on enforcement, also told a group around him, "This is not written in stone."

But Resch hopes that the commissioners are listening because "they really are kicking a hornet's nest."

"Everybody I know has a recreational vehicle of some sort and don't want to lose their right to ride," said Tim Schmelyun of Westminster. A large number of people with recreational vehicles, including motorcycles, four-wheelers and snowmobiles, would be affected, he said, including members of the motorcycle association's District 6 in Pennsylvania that has 2,700 members.

The commissioners met last week with Resch, who said they seem to be willing to listen to the ATV riders.

The state has a noise ordinance, but Resch said it is not as restrictive as the Carroll draft. Existing laws cover trespassers and off-road vehicles on the roadways and public lands.

"The state has a law that already addresses this," said Michael Freeman of Woodbine. "This ordinance wants to make it stricter," he said, even though the sheriff and state police cannot enforce existing laws.

His wife, Stacie Freeman, said they can see both sides of the issue, as they have horses but also use an ATV to haul hay. Their 10-year-old son, James, rides the ATV to check fences.

Jim Sweet of Mount Airy called the county draft excessive and overreaching.

"I don't ride very often on my own farm, but it's just the notion that I can't" that he objects to, Sweet said.

Workshops also have been scheduled for 7 p.m. today at Oklahoma Middle School and at 7 p.m. Oct 27 at Runnymede Elementary School. A session at the county office building in Westminster Sept. 29 drew about 250 people - mostly opponents of the proposed restrictions - and about 100 people came Oct. 4 to a more evenly divided meeting in Hampstead.

Written comments from earlier meetings ranged from complaints by homeowners about dust and noise that had driven them inside their homes, to the vulgar and the defiant - some complete with drawings.

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