DENNIS TOWNSHIP — Committee members approved an ordinance Tuesday night strengthening restrictions on all-terrain vehicles in an effort to stop riding that locals say disturbs their quality of life and destroys their property.
Residents have complained and argued about ATVs and dirt bike riding in Dennis Township for years, an issue that wooded communities throughout the region and state have experienced. Many other municipalities also have local ordinances regulating ATV and dirt bike riding, but Dennis Township officials largely avoided taking action on the issue until Tuesday night.
After the meeting, people on both sides of the issue said they have problems with the regulations.
“It’s a neighborly issue. It shouldn’t be a law,” said Chris Castor, a resident and dirt bike rider. “There’s something to be said for communication. You should be looking over your fence and talking to your neighbors, not looking down your nose at them.”
Residents Gary Gibson and Walter Noll, the two men have mainly pushed for the township to approve an ordinance, said their efforts were not finished yet.
“Our issues with noise, pollution and property destruction are essentially not addressed,” said Gibson, who said his neighbors have ignored his concerns with their all-terrain vehicle riding.
Gibson and Noll also said their properties have been vandalized many times by ATV and dirt bike riders as recently as Tuesday afternoon when they said someone rode onto Noll’s property and ripped up his driveway.
The two men were part of an informal committee the township created in 2010 that included committeemen and residents whose children ride all-terrain vehicles.
Tuesday’s ordinance, which took effect immediately, was the first action taken as a result of those committee meetings over the past two years.
It defines all-terrain vehicles as a motor vehicle designed to travel over any terrain with between three and six rubber tires and powered by a motor not exceeding 700 cubic centimeters. It explicitly excludes golf carts and implicitly excludes two-wheeled dirt bikes.
The new ordinance makes it illegal to operate ATVs on any public lands, on private property without consent of the owner and anywhere in a careless, reckless or negligent manner.
The only time an ATV would be permitted to cross or travel next to a public roadway would be to get directly from where it is unloaded to where it is going to legally operate.
Fines are the discretion of the court, but cannot exceed $1,000 for the first offense or $2,000 for any subsequent offense.
Dennis Township is patrolled by State Police and so are the surrounding rural towns, such as Maurice River Township, Upper Township and Woodbine. The nearest barracks is in Woodbine.
State Police have told residents in the past that without a specific law in Dennis Township they could not fully curtail riding that residents have said infringes on their right to live peacefully.
The state purchased a 63-acre former motocross track in Woodbine last year but it has taken months for the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a proposal that would lay out how the potential private operator would lease and operate a park there.
The goal for that park is partially to provide a legal public place to ride to cut down on illegal riding. However, Gibson has said before that he doubts how much the park will help his situation.
Castor also said he doubted Dennis Township’s new law would do anything for the issue either.
“The people riding up the street with no helmet are not going to listen to a law in the newspaper,” he said.
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