Windham hears concerns on illegal vehicles

Dec. 9—WINDHAM — Several residents expressed concerns during a public hearing about a proposed ordinance designed to curb various illegal vehicles in town.

The proposal would include all- terrain vehicles, certain motorcycles, dirt bikes, mopeds and motorized golf carts.

On Tuesday, the Windham Town Council hosted a virtual public hearing on the matter.

Council members will review feedback from the public hearing and, possibly, modify language in the proposed ordinance at a future meeting.

Windham Town Council President Dawn Niles said she took excerpts from ordinances in New Britain, Danbury and Newtown, as well as research from the state Office of Legislative Research.

She said she used those when putting together the proposed ordinance.

Responding to some feedback from the audience, she said the ordinance would not prohibit the vehicles from being used to mow lawns or plow.

Rather, it was considered to curb unsafe activity by vehicle riders.

“This was set-up for dirt bikes and ATVs racing up the street,” Niles said.

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Windham council hears concerns on illegal vehicles

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The ordinance is designed to address illegal activity, which has been an issue for years and has led to several accidents.

According to the plan, it will be the responsibility of Willimantic police to enforce activity in Willimantic and state police to address activity in the Windham villages, Windham resident Curtis Ehler said there is precedent in other towns to ” legally compensate” the state police for enforcing town ordinances.

He emphasized the importance of enforcing the ordinance in the villages, not just in Willimantic. ” I don’t want to see this being another ordinance that only gets selectively enforced in Willimantic and gets pushed into the Windhams,” Ehler said.

Willimantic Police Chief Paul Hussey and Windham Town Attorney Rich Cody provided input as the ordinance was being put together.

While the illegal activity is already being addressed, the fines under the ordinance are significantly higher than the fines from the state.

Under state law, fines for illegal use of ATVs and snowmobiles go up to $250 for each offense. Under the proposed ordinance, fines would vary from $1,000 for the first offense to $ 2,000 for the third and subsequent offenses for the vehicle operators.

The following provisions have also been proposed:

—$ 100 fines would be issued for the first and subsequent offenses to gasoline and motor vehicle service station owners and operators who sell fuel to ATV and dirtbike operators.

” That, to me, is a little outrageous,” resident Lawrence Kellogg said.

—All- terrain vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds and motorized golf carts shall not be driven on sidewalks or pedestrian walkways, except to cross carefully and perpendicularly.

—ATVs, motorcycles, mopeds and motorized golf carts shall not be parked or stored on a sidewalk or pedestrian walkway except where it will not interfere with pedestrian traffic.

—ATVs, dirtbikes and motorized golf carts shall not be driven on town-owned land or public streets, except in the event of an emergency.

—Motorcycles and mopeds shall not be driven on townowned land, other than public streets, thoroughfares and parking areas, except in an emergency.

—ATVs, motorcycles, mopeds and motorized golf carts shall not be driven while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

—ATVs, motorcycles, mopeds and motorized golf carts shall not be driven on private property without the property owner’s permission.

The ordinance only applies to registered motorcycles when they are being used off- road for recreational purposes.

It does not apply to ATVs, motorcycles, mopeds or motorized golf carts in an organized contest, so long as the vehicle has valid registration in Connecticut or another state in the country.

Resident Doug Lary said he was concerned about the vehicles not stopping at stop signs, which he has observed in the Hill section of Willimantic.

He said the vehicles and cars are ” playing Russian Roulette” as they avoid hitting each other. ” It’s frustrating that the police don’t seem to think they can touch this stuff,” Lary said.

Town officials have said there is a state law prohibiting police from chasing after people engaged in this type of illegal activity due to public safety concerns.

Resident Richard La Palme said, a couple years ago, there was an incident involving someone on one of the vehicles behind him beeping the horn.

He said he was on the sidewalk at the post office when that happened and the person ” ducked out” and went west on Main Street.

“How much of this do we have to put up with?” La Palme said. ” They are a hazard to everybody else.”

Follow Michelle Warren on [email protected] mwarrentc.