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Traffic Committee proposes OHRV ordinance changes

April 19, 2017
BERLIN A review by the Traffic Safety Committee last September prompted proposed changes to the OHRV ordinance to make it stricter for the 2017 season. Lawmakers discussed altering and adding stricter rules including age requirements for operation, upgraded equipment requirements, noise control and protecting properties. Berlin police Chief Peter Morency indicated that street access to OHRV's led to a spring of noise complaints and accidents. One of the biggest complaints that the department receives concerns young drivers. The committee reviewed some of the proposed changes last Monday, April 10.

Morency's intent is to have clearer language and to simply the ordinance to eliminate any "grey areas."

At the April 10 meeting, Chair Michael Rozek said that the focus is to make changes concerning unlicensed riders, to allow riders to access trails to go to work, changes to the ATV connector trail and to change to closing time for trails to 9:30 p.m. due to noise complaints. The current rule is that the trails close at 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. The trails are currently closed during mud season and will open in late May.

Councilor Lucie Remillard expressed that she feels 9:30 a.m. is "too early for closure."

The discussion shifted to the concerns over young riders and raising the age limit to ride on city streets.

Remillard suggested that "minors should not be allowed to drive off trail" and "should be restricted to the connector trail."

Assistant Police Chief Daniel Buteau and Councilor Roland Theberge noted that age requirement for dirt trails is 18.

The OHRV ordinance stated "Underage state certified OHRV operators may ride the trail on city streets accompanied by a 'properly motor vehicle licensed adult.'" Chief Morency had previously noted that the intention was to allow underage riders to ride with their families but that the ordinance gives teens the legal right to ride with individuals who are over 18 and this encourages a number of young riders. He said a lot of the complaints are of late night riders pulling wheelies and riding throughout the streets.

One of the proposed changes is to require an unlicensed operator to be accompanied by an adult who is 25 years or older.

Remillard suggested trying out the new rules this season to see if it curbs the problems.

She asked if the City should collaborate with Gorham. Rozek mentioned that a goal is to get other communities in line with the same rules. Theberge said that Gorham follows state rules restricting the age limit to trail riders to 18. The trails in Gorham close a half hour before sunset. Buteau said he would share the information with the Gorham police.

City Manager James Wheeler noted that having two different age limits, 18 for the trail connector and 25 on the streets, "will be confusing."

Rozek stated that licensed drivers can use ATV's to go to work.

A motion carried to have a final review hearing at an April 24 traffic safety meeting.

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