Brady Archibald, of Newton, steps out of his UTV. The city council will be reviewing the third reading of a proposed ordinance allowing limited use of properly equipped ATVs and UTVs on city streets at the Nov. 7 council meeting. (Christopher Braunschweig)
With a majority of city council members on board with the proposed ATV/UTV ordinance, there’s a high likelihood it will pass at its next reading on Nov. 7, but even if it does residents will not be able to drive them for long distances along state highways like First Avenue, which runs through the length Newton. Kids Quad Bike
However, officials acknowledged there may be instances where residents would need to access First Avenue. Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess said at a city council meeting on Oct. 24 that if someone wanted to shop at Farver True Value they would inevitably have to cross First Avenue at some point.
“I couldn’t drive from First Avenue on Highway 14 all the way to First Avenue/East 31st Street without having a destination in mind and stopping along the way,” Burdess said, noting ATV and UTV drivers would still have to take the most direct route from a point of an approved road. “It’s not for joyriding along First Avenue.”
Newton City Council voted 5-1 to approve the second reading of the proposed ATV/UTV ordinance, which is in response to House File 2130 signed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in the 2022 legislative session. The law allows for expanded operation of ATVs and UTVs on Iowa roadways.
The law also allows cities to regulate the operation of registered ATVs and UTVs. Local municipalities may also designate streets under the jurisdiction of the city within its corporate limits, and two-lane primary and secondary road extensions in the city, which may be used for operation of such vehicles, city documents say.
If the third reading is approved and the ordinance is adopted, then council has agreed to review it again in one year. The mayor praised his council for doing this, knowing there is some hesitation. Burdess anticipates there will be better clarification in the future, particularly after a few court challenges.
“The city attorney and our team discussed this one in-depth because it is unique,” Burdess said. “I think in the grand scheme of things it’s better to be safe to start with. Because we do have the opportunity to change it down the road. So it’s not like this is necessarily set in stone and we can’t go back and re-look at this.”
HOW DID COUNCIL GET TO THIS POINT?
In mid-August, the city council held a discussion relating to ATVs and UTVs. Burdess spoke on behalf of traffic safety committee and voiced safety concerns about the operation of ATVs and UTVs on city streets; even manufacturers of these vehicles, he said, expressly say they are not to be operated on streets.
Specifically, concrete or asphalt roads. The police chief also argued that neither the Iowa Department of Transportation nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates or recognizes ATVs or UTVs as motor vehicles since they are not equipped with the same safety features of vehicles on public roads.
With the exception of agricultural machinery, all other vehicles operated on public roadways are required to meet minimum safety standards of DOT and NHTSA.
However, Burdess also told council members during that past discussion that the current Iowa law allows ATV and UTV drivers to drive from their homes directly to a secondary road in the county. Council members asked about restrictions and enforcement issues, and then they asked Burdess to draft an ordinance.
Burdess collaborated with city attorney Matt Brick to create the ordinance, which was based on ordinances adopted by other cities. Before council considered it for approval, it was brought before the traffic safety committee on Aug. 25. The group has considered requests for an ATV/UTV two times over past few years.
In both instances the traffic safety committee was opposed to an ATV/UTV ordinance — a stance that extends to this current proposal — and the use of these vehicles on public roadways. Whether the ordinance passes, Burdess said it will not be given an inordinate amount of resources.
“We’re going to get some initial calls of, ‘Why is a four-wheeler driving down my road?’ … Just the communication of these being legal and the noise portion is going to be one where we’re probably going to get more calls than anything else. Beyond that, we can’t predict on the safety side what’s going to happen,” he said.
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR ATVS & UTVS?
Regardless of the traffic safety committee’s concerns, the proposed ordinance is in compliance with Iowa Code. Additional provisions make Newton’s ordinance more restrictive than the state code. City documents included in the council agenda packet highlighted some of those details.
For instance, all ATVs and UTVs are allowed on city streets with the exception of portions of Highway 14 — the 100 to 2300 blocks of Highway 14 South and the 100 to 300 blocks of Highway 14 North — and limited use on First Avenue, or U.S Route 6. No ATVs or UTVs are allowed on city trails, sidewalks or parks.
Golf carts and snowmobiles are still prohibited on city streets, except if set forth elsewhere in the ordinance or by authorization of the police chief.
Safety equipment requirements and rules of operation were included in the ordinance, along with some restrictions on noise. Operation of ATVs and UTVs are limited to between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Law enforcement officials are authorized to verify registration and insurance on UTVs and ATVs.
Exceptions were put in place to use for the purpose of law enforcement, public safety, construction, maintenance and other city proposes.
ATVs and UTVs can only drive a maximum of 35 mph. Police may also suspend privileges to operate UTVs on city limits after two or more violations in a 12-month period. Penalties for violating the ordinance are $50 for first offense, $250 for second offense and $500 for third and subsequent offenses
Similarly to the motorists driving on public streets, ATVs and UTVs must adhere to all the same traffic and parking laws, codes, rules and regulations unless directed otherwise by the ordinance. They must also be equipped with a safety belt or safety harness, a horn, headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps, etc.
Visit www.newtongov.org to find more information about the ordinance.
WHAT DO CITIZENS THINK OF THE ORDINANCE?
Brady Archibald, of Newton, is in favor of the ordinance. As an owner of a UTV equipped with all of the necessary accessories to make it compatible with road vehicles, he mainly uses his vehicle for recreational purposes outside of Jasper County. But he would also use the vehicle to make trips to businesses in town.
With each reading passing in a 5-1 vote, it is highly likely the ordinance will pass. Council member Evelyn George has submitted a “no” vote for the past two readings. She says residents have told her they are not in favor of having ATVs and UTVs on city streets. She also worried about the small town perceptions.
Even with only one council member against the proposed ordinance, Archibald is almost sure it will pass. But what he is concerned about is residents not knowing that city council is considering this ordinance. Unless folks are paying attention to the agenda postings, the minutes or the live streams, they won’t know.
“It’s state law but this is bringing Newton a little more in line with what is legal statewide,” Archibald said. “It’s not a huge community in Iowa so there’s not a lot of people probably paying attention to it … I am slightly concerned about people that haven’t bothered to read the bill or understand what it’s all about.”
To Archibald the ordinance is reasonable and the limitations on state highways probably will not affect him much so long as he can still access the businesses and convenience stores he frequents. With council revisiting the ordinance in a year, he hopes ATV/UTV motorists are responsible and don’t abuse it.
Council member Vicki Wade said there is a cost barrier to owning an ATV/UTV. Many are priced between $2,300 to $30,000, according to SuperATV and U.S. News & World Report. Archibald does not foresee many huge issues to occur, but he acknowledged there could be a few isolated incidents.
And it’s not like Newton will be inundated with ATVs or UTVs, he added.
“I’m not under the impression that everyone is an angel and that they’re always going to do the right thing every single time. I cover thousands of miles of gravel roads on my motorcycle in any given year. I can probably count on two hands how many UTVs I’ve seen out in the country.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 560 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.
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