Stonington to vote on dirt-bike law

Stonington - The town will soon ask residents to approve an ordinance that could dramatically limit the use of dirt bikes, Go Karts, ATVs and other recreational vehicles on private property.

Among other provisions, the ordinance would require riders to stay at least 300 feet from the property line and at least 500 feet from all off-site residences. In many instances, that could drastically decrease the amount of land available for riding on each lot.

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 proper sedimentation and erosion control measures. If four riders or more want to ride together, they, too, would need a permit.

The ordinance, which is expected to be voted on at a town meeting this summer, is 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 grandparent's 2-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.

Both Londregan and Selectwoman Glee McAnanly commended Richmond Lane resident Aaron Green at last week's Board of Selectmen's meeting for bringing the issue to the town and working to push it forward. Green has attended numerous meetings over the past 14 months trying to get the town to implement an ordinance.

"It shows what you can do as a citizen if you get involved, stay behind something and keep pushing," McAnanly said. The town's definition of recreational vehicles would also include snowmobiles and motorcycles but would exclude utility vehicles used for yard work, farming, landscaping and snow removal as well as motor homes.

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.

Riders could not 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."

While there had been discussion of fines of $75 or $100 for those cited by police for violating the ordinance, the proposal does not specify a fine so it can be adjusted according to state law for infractions.

The ordinance would also prohibit people from making any other unreasonable 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.

The Board of Selectmen will set the date of the town meeting at one of its upcoming meetings. During the town meeting, residents could make changes to the ordinance before a vote is held.


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