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County: ATV rules need better explaining, enforcement

By Steve Huffman
news@salisburypost.com
Members of the Rowan County Planning Department agreed Monday that a new ordinance regulating all-terrain vehicles isn’t necessary.
But board members also agreed at their monthly meeting that law-enforcement officers and ATV owners need to be made better aware of existing ordinances regarding their uses.
“Deputies are going to have to have this information in hand,” said Mac Butner, the board’s vice chairman. He suggested that word about existing ordinances be conveyed in part through newspaper articles and radio spots.
The issue was brought before the Planning Board after a committee met earlier this month to discuss policy regulating ATVs. Board members were told that citizens have in the past often complained about ATV riders trespassing on their properties.
They said that when those landowners don’t get the response from law enforcement they feel they deserve, they’ve gone as far as to complain to Carl Ford, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners (who was in attendance at Monday’s Planning Board meeting).
Terry Hill, Planning Board chairman, said he’s had ATV riders trespass on his property. He said he doesn’t mind them riding on his land as much as he worries about the possible consequences should they hit a tree and be injured. Hill noted that individuals in such instances often sue the property owners, regardless of the fact they were trespassing.
Hill said that when law-enforcement officers are summoned and speak to the trespassers, their tones typically change.
“When an officer does come and talk to them, it seems to wake them up a little,” Hill said. “The laws are in effect.”
Enforcing them is the key, Hill and other board members agreed.
Ed Muire, the county’s planning director, said it’s not unusual for ATV riders to ride on gas and power lines. “People are trespassing,” he said.
That’s often the case, Muire said, when they go so far as to complain to Ford.
Muire was a member of the committee that met earlier this month to discuss new regulations pertaining to ATVs.
“We had a good discussion,” Muire said. “Lots of good questions were asked.”
He was the one who suggested that officers with the sheriff’s department be made more aware of existing laws pertaining to ATVs and see that they’re more rigidly enforced.
Butner, the board vice chairman, said it’s important that parents also be made aware of the laws since they’re the ones who usually own the ATVs that their children are riding. Butner said that Kevin Auten, chief deputy with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, has promised to work with his officers to make them better aware of laws pertaining to ATVs.
“It needs to be continually monitored,” Butner said of enforcement.
Board members adopted a report regarding the matter, but agreed that no further action was needed unless the problem escalates.
In other matters handled at Monday’s meeting, board members:
– Approved the rezoning of a 2.8-acre tract at 655 Mainsail Drive off Long Ferry Road near High Rock Lake from Rural Agricultural to Residential Suburban. The rezoning brings the tract into compliance with surrounding properties.
– Gave Senior Planner Shane Stewart the OK to review High Rock Lake Area zoning where small tracts are not in compliance with that of surrounding properties.

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