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Council approves first reading of measure to prohibit off-highway vehicles

December 16, 2009

Council approves first reading of measure to prohibit off-highway vehicles

LAKEPORT – Before a full council chamber, the Lakeport City Council voted Tuesday night to give its approval to the first reading of an ordinance that would prohibit off-road vehicle riding within the city limits.

In a 3-2 vote – with newly appointed Mayor Jim Irwin and Council member Suzanne Lyons voting in the minority because they wanted to give community members a chance to come up with some different options – the council approved the measure.

During the meeting it was noted that the ordinance was largely in response to one person’s behavior.

Responding to ongoing community complaints in areas of the city, Kevin Burke, the city’s police chief and interim city manager, drafted the two page ordinance, which states, in part: “It is unlawful for any person to operate any motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or similar off highway vehicle on any real property in the City limits of Lakeport, public or private, other than public roads or property otherwise approved for recreational use of this type by ordinance, or by exemption by this code.”

Exception is only made when owners, tenants, those they invite and other lawful occupants use such vehicles in the course of a “lawful operation for profit or gain, or other similar non-recreational purpose” or in a city-sanctioned event.

Several community members spoke in favor of the rules, which they said were necessary because of the impact on their quality of life.

“This is neighborhoods, blocks and blocks of people that are upset about this,” said Gary Smades.

Ron Rose, who owns property on S. Main Street that eventually is expected to be annexed, was concerned that the ordinance would impact his use of all-terrain vehicles at his go-kart track. Councilman Roy Parmentier suggested the use would be grandfathered when Rose’s property is annexed.

Casey Dye, who owns six acres on Todd Road, asked where it would stop after all-terrain vehicles were banned. Would it then go to chainsaws and lawn mowers?

Saying he understood people are upset, Dye suggested, “As a community we need to come together and come up with a plan that’s going to work for everybody.”

Dave Meek Jr., who lives on High Street, called the ordinance an “outright ban” on off-highway vehicles. “Let’s call it what it is,” said Meek, who stated the measure was discriminatory and unfair.

Meek suggested the city follow a similar complaint procedure to that used by the county in dealing with barking dogs.

He said his young daughters have learned to ride their small motorbikes in his driveway. Meek said he didn’t think taking his children to Cow Mountain would be safe, and the Oasis track is competitive.

Meek also faulted the ordinance for vagueness regarding the definition of use and said the fines – including $500 for a second offense – are excessive.

Fourteenth Street resident Martin Scheel said the ordinance’s causes for concern – noise, dust, erosion, sedimentation and water quality – also could result from riding lawn mowers and leaf blowers.

He suggested the city was moving toward infringing on peoples’ constitutional property rights and added that he would love to sit on a committee to work out a solution.

Pete MacRae, who has pushed for the ordinance through his connections on the council, said he’s appreciative of people’s rights, but that a person’s rights end when they infringe on another’s.

MacRae said chainsaws, leaf blowers and lawn mowers are “kind of necessary uses,” while off-highway vehicles aren’t.

Tom Kalk said the issue has been doing on for years, and that it’s inappropriate to use off-highway vehicles near a person’s home.

Richard Thornton, who opposed the ordinance, asked why the city isn’t approaching the problem through its noise ordinance.

Councilman Ron Bertsch said it was primarily a matter of impeding peoples’ enjoyment of their property. He said some local residents have been unable to sit out on their patios and enjoy the sunset because of the off-highway vehicle use.

When Thornton asked again why they didn’t use the noise ordinance, Bertsch said they would then have to deal with the race track. Thornton replied that they just want to hassle the off-highway vehicle riders and nobody else.

Burke said his officers have measured the noise. But the primary concern is enjoyment of property. “That’s really what the issue is about.”

Thornton replied, “It doesn’t cross any thresholds, it doesn’t exceed any limits, but we’re going to ban it, just because we don’t like it.”

Parmentier asked Burke how long the problem has taken place. Burke said it’s been ongoing.

The person in question – not named at the meeting or in the accompanying documents – is well aware that the activity disturbs the neighbors, said Burke, but the activity continues, despite the fact that Burke has tried to have a dialog with the man.

Lyons asked if mediation has been attempted. Burke said the individual isn’t amenable, and that he sees it as his right.

Councilman Bob Rumfelt said he perceived the issue as being a symptom of the city’s growing pains. He recalled the council having a similar discussion before banning leaf burning ban several yeas ago.

Lyons asked if writing a law specifically in regard to one person is bill of attainder, which the US Constitution prohibits. City Attorney Steve Brookes said he didn’t believe it was bill of attainder, as it’s meant to apply to everyone.

Irwin said he supported waiting until the first week in January to give the two sides an opportunity to sit down and come up with alternative guidelines. “I’d be willing to wait a couple of weeks, but something more needs to be done than what we have now.”

Rumfelt said, in regard to Meek’s concerns, that if his children riding their motorbikes don’t elicit complaints he shouldn’t have a problem. Dye called out from the audience, “So it’s OK to break the laws, then?”

Parmentier moved to accept the ordinance, and Rumfelt seconded.

Lyons joined Irwin in wanting to give additional time to work something out. “I am just concerned that is seems to be about one person,” she said, and good citizens won’t be able to ride their motorbikes on their property.

The council then voted 3-2.

The ordinance will come back to the council next month for final approval.

New leadership chosen; Irwin elected mayor

At the beginning of the meeting, the council selected the new mayor and mayor pro tem for the year and approved committee assignments.

Bertsch, the mayor this past year, nominated Irwin, while Rumfelt nominated Parmentier. Irwin won the mayorship in a 3-2 vote.

Parmentier then nominated Rumfelt for mayor pro tem. No other nominations were offered and Rumfelt was chosen.

Bertsch and Irwin then switched seats. “It’s been a pleasure,” Bertsch said, stepping away from his chair, noting his new seat was closer to the door.

Irwin’s first official duty was to make the committee appointments.

Irwin, who has been an alternate on the Area Planning Council, said he wanted to be a full member. He added himself, left Bertsch – who also was a regular member – and made Parmentier, who has been the group’s chair for six and a half years, the alternate.

“I guess he knows what he wants to do,” said Parmentier.

Irwin also wanted to replace Lyons on the Local Agency Formation Commission.

Lyons and Bertsch will remain on the Parks and Recreation Commission, while Parmentier will continue on the Lakeport Fire Protection District Board, the Indian gaming committee and land use commission. Irwin and Rumfelt will represent the council with the Lake County Chamber, and Bertsch will continue as the city representative to the Lakeport Main Street Association.

Burke will continue to accompany Irwin to the solid waste task force, Rumfelt and Lyons will serve on the Lake County Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Authority, Rumfelt will remain on the animal control committee and be the liaison with the SPCA, city staffer Dan Buffalo will be on the total maximum daily load committee, and Lyons will be the Clear Lake Advisory Subcommittee, invasive species council and stormwater committee.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at // <![CDATA[
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