Stonington proposal targets dirt bikes, ATVs

Stonington - A town meeting will be held Tuesday night so residents can vote on a controversial nuisance ordinance that could dramatically limit the use of dirt bikes, ATVs, go-karts, snowmobiles, motorcycles and other recreational vehicles in many residential areas. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the high school.

Residents will also vote to adopt a peddler ordinance, allow the town sell the old police boat through a competitive bid process, increase the Mystic Harbor Management Plan mooring fees from $10 to $50 and transfer a piece of land at Fellows Street and 45 Sisk Drive to the Stonington Housing Authority.

The proposed nuisance ordinance would require riders to stay at least 300 feet from the property line and at least 500 feet from all off-site residences unless they have permission from adjacent land owners to be closer. In many instances, that could drastically decrease the amount of land available for riding on each lot. The 300-foot setback requirement would make 90,000 square feet or two acres of a lot off limits for riders. Most residential lots in town are smaller than two acres.

In addition, anyone who builds a structure, course or obstacle such as mounds, depressions or berms for riding, would need to obtain a facility or event permit from the town and install sedimentation and erosion control measures. If four riders or more want to ride together, they, too, would need a permit.

The town developed the proposed ordinance in response to complaints from residents of a Mystic neighborhood who said last year they were being disturbed by a teenager who rides his dirt bike for long hours on his grandparents' two-acre Richmond Lane property. They pressed the town to enact regulations to curb the riding, which they charged hurt their quality of life and damaged property values.

Over the past year, town attorney Tom Londregan reviewed ordinances from other towns before crafting the proposed nuisance ordinance.

The proposed ordinance would ban recreational vehicles from using a town or state road to access land to ride on or to cross land without the landowner's written permission. Riders must carry that permission with them. They would not be allowed to operate on town land without town permission.

Riders would not be able to cause dirt, dust or debris to cross onto an adjoining property. Riders would not be able to operate within 50 feet of a stream or waterway, wetland, floodplain or sensitive erosion area.

The ordinance states that certain kinds of activities, "even though lawful, can create a nuisance if not conducted with restraint, common sense and a recognition of the need and desire for quiet enjoyment of property by others."

It adds that certain types of recreational vehicles are likely to adversely affect property values and threaten the health, safety and welfare of people in town. Because of this, the town must require a way "to protect residents from the most egregious nuisance activities while allowing customary residential, commercial, industrial and institutional operations to continue, grow and prosper."

Violators would be issued an infraction with a fine of $75. The town could also periodically adjust the fine.

Since 1997, the town has had a nuisance ordinance in effect that prohibits people from making any unreasonably loud and objectionable noise that can be heard inside a home before 6 a.m. and after 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and before 8 a.m. and after 10 p.m. on Sundays. Violations are punishable by a $100 fine. There are a number of commercial and public safety exemptions to the ordinance.

j.wojtas@theday.com

@joewojtas

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