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Vilas Board must stand up for majority PDF Print E-mail

Letter to the Editor:

Mr. Flaherty of the Landover ATV Club raises some pretty heated rhetoric in his recent letter to the editor claiming that Vilas County is discriminating against ATVs and the people who own them.

I submit that the voters, after carefully considering the impact of ATV use, have made the discriminating (as in reasoned) judgment that ATV impact makes them unsuitable for recreation in Vilas County. Voters concluded that adding ATV use during the peak season of the year is unacceptable based on the risk to public safety, the environmental footprint, and would infringe on the rights of nonusers via noise, pollution and trespass.

The Landover ATV Club has revealed its true intentions: gaining approval for widespread ATV use not just in Lac du Flambeau, but everywhere in the county by whatever means necessary.

The letter also notes: “The vote was 63% against ATVs . . . 1,700 of approximately 8,000 votes were absentee ballots cast mostly by snowbirds.” Are snowbirds’ votes less valid? What about the views of the nonresident owners of the 14,300 seasonal housing units that have no vote at all? Note: there are 9,568 year-round occupied housing units in Vilas County (2012 Census); nonresident owners potentially are as large a constituency as the population of Vilas County if they were allowed a vote.

Nonresident seasonal owners contribute a significant portion of the county’s property tax base and have a large economic impact on nontourism-based local businesses, while consuming few local services. Yet seasonal homeowners have no vote. We can only make our voices heard and hope that our views are considered. Why doesn’t the county board consider a referendum of all the impacted stakeholders?

The point about the ADA is irrelevant. It has to do with trail accessibility, not the use of a power assisted mobility device on a public road, nor of establishing routes for use of such devices if none already existed. The ruling also makes exceptions against the use of such vehicles if it would endanger the public. The implied threat of filing a civil rights action simply underscores the point by whatever means necessary.

The current prohibition of ATVs on public roads is a sensible approach. The duty of government is to protect public health and safety, and the addition of ATVs on county roads during the peak summer traffic season would increase the risk of accident and injury for everyone.

ATVs are not licensed for public roads for good reason. They aren’t designed to be used on pavement. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warns ATV users not to operate them on paved roads for two reasons. First, the obvious concern about traffic, and second, because ATV are designed specifically for off-highway use and contain design features that make turning an ATV on paved surfaces unpredictable and unstable. The ATV Safety Institute, a group of major ATV manufacturers, agrees.

The design features that make an ATV unstable on pavement are what make them so destructive on off-road trails. In a turn, the rear wheels are designed to skid, tearing up the trail surface, contributing to vegetation loss, soil erosion and watershed pollution.

Is Vilas County discriminating against ATVs? The answer is no. The enfranchised voters of Vilas County, through the democratic process, have made a judgment against ATVs based on a weighing of the many cons against very few pros.

Mr. Flaherty is right, it’s time for leadership from the county board. The kind of leadership that is willing to stand up for the majority no matter how much a noisy minority may complain.

Bill Fetter

Nonresident Vilas County  homeowner


Tuesday, May 28, 2013 2:41 PM

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