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City considers allowing off-road vehicles on some streets

Sudbury, Espanola, Nairn Center, Elliot Lake and Wawa all allow off-road vehicles to use municipal streets to access trails. Should Sault Ste. Marie follow suit?
2016-09-23 ATVs
Cities have legal authority to establish speed, months and hours of operation for ATV and UTVs on municipal roadways.
Next week, Sault Ste. Marie City Council will consider allowing all-terrain vehicles and side-by-side utility vehicles on some city streets.
A resolution on the agenda for Monday's council meeting recommends having the city's legal department draft a bylaw allowing all-terrain vehicles, multi-purpose off-highway utility vehicles and recreational off-highway vehicles on certain rural roadways, for purposes of accessing local trails.
City Solicitor Nuala Kenny advises that the municipality has legal authority to pass such a bylaw, and that Sudbury, Espanola, Nairn Center, Elliot Lake and Wawa have all done so.

The following is the full text of Kenny's report to Mayor Christian Provenzano and city councillors.

Monday's City Council meeting will be livestreamed on SooToday starting ar 4:30 p.m.

TO: Mayor Christian Provenzano and Members of City Council
AUTHOR: Nuala Kenny, City Solicitor
DEPARTMENT: Legal Department
RE: Off-Road Vehicle Use on Municipal Roadways
The purpose of this report is to inform City Council regarding the possibility of implementing an off-road vehicle bylaw that would give all-terrain vehicles, multi-purpose off-highway utility vehicles and recreational off-highway vehicles, commonly known as ATV and UTVs or side-by-sides the right to travel on designated rural roadways to access local trails.
On May 28th of 2012, the following resolution was moved by Councillor Butland and seconded by Councillor Turco:
Whereas the Highway Traffic Act presently prohibits all-terrain vehicles from using rural roadways to access the trails designated for recreational use and specifically prohibits the use of newer model all-terrain vehicles (side by sides); and
Whereas these are the vehicles of choice by the disabled because of their ease of use and additional safety features; and
Whereas the community has the authority to pass a bylaw permitting the use of such vehicles on municipal roadways;
Now therefore be It resolved that legal staff in consultation with appropriate city departments as well as the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee prepare recommendation(s) regarding this issue for the consideration of council.
(the proponent of the above bylaw has undertaken the responsibility of consulting with police services, accessibility committee, and the snowmobile association requesting input into any proposed bylaw).
Section 191.8 of The Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, Chapter H.8, as amended, provides that the council of a municipality may pass a bylaw permitting the operation of certain off-road vehicles on any highway within the municipality
that is under the jurisdiction of the municipality; or on any part or parts of such highway, within the limits provided for in the said act and regulating the months or hours of operation.
Furthermore, pursuant to O. Reg. 316/03, as amended, made under the Highway Traffic Act, a municipality may authorize the operation of all-terrain vehicles, multi-purpose off-highway utility vehicles and recreational off-highway vehicles on municipal highways.
This regulation is inclusive of off-road vehicles known as ATV and UTVs.
In 2015, provincial legislation came into effect and rendered moot the question of whether an ATV and UTV are one in the same.
Although defined separately, a municipality has the authority to regulate the municipal roads that can be used by the above types of off-road vehicles.
Many Northern municipalities, including Sudbury, Espanola, Nairn Center, Elliot Lake and Wawa have passed bylaws allowing ATV and UTVs to use municipal roads.
While these municipalities took different approaches in preparing a final bylaw to regulate ATV and UTVs, a common denominator was that an in-house approach was used, which means city staff proposed a list of allotted roads which formed part of their respective bylaws.
The legal ground work is agreed upon; however, through consultation, it would appear that the challenging aspect of such a bylaw is determining the roads within the municipality deemed acceptable for travel by ATV and UTVs.
With an in-house approach in mind, we can consult our snowmobile bylaw which illustrates from a restrictive perspective streets the city does not allow snowmobiles to access in order to propose roads that would be permissive for ATV and UTV use.
Furthermore, local interest in pertaining to allotted roads may require public consultation.
It should further be noted that such a bylaw can regulate speed, months and hours of operation of ATV and UTVs on municipal roadways.
These factors can serve as an enforcement tool for which City Police have expressed, by means of consultation, an interest in assisting with.
Financial implications
The financial impacts, if an in-house approach is used, are restricted to staff time. In advancing such a bylaw, certain enforcement costs which are undetermined at this time may become a factor.
Strategic plan/policy impact
Not applicable.
It is therefore recommended that council take the following action:
Accept this report as information that it has the authority to pass a bylaw that would allow ATV and UTVs to be operated on municipal roads to access trails;
Authorize legal staff to draft a bylaw using an in-house approach and circulate the same amongst the stakeholders mentioned back in May of 2012, and bring the agreed-upon draft bylaw before City Council for consideration; and
Advise staff if public consultation is required during the drafting period in order to determine the allotted municipal roads for ATV and UTV use, and advise staff of City Council’s position with respect to frequency and procedure pertaining to public consultation, if required.
Respectfully submitted,
Nuala Kenny
City Solicitor
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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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