Lively council meeting expected on ORV issue

By Kirk Winter

The committee of the whole meeting on May 4 promises to be contentious as Kawartha Lakes City Council hears more about the divisive off-road vehicle bylaw review.

Council will be discussing how many kilometres of local roadways will be opened up for recreational ORV usage, a possibility that has angered many in the walking, hiking and bicycling community.

Director of Public Works Bryan Robinson will be front and centre reporting to council on what paths forward the city has regarding changing its current bylaws regarding ORVs on municipal roads.

The current bylaw limits ORVs to municipal roads north of the Glenarm Road. The ORV community wants access to roads in the south of the city, and a designated pathway through Bobcaygeon and Lindsay that are currently choke points for ORV users.

Opponents of ORV usage in the south of the city will be using Tuesday’s meeting to present their views one more time before council makes a final decision. Jamie Morris and Peter Petrosoniak will be presenting a petition to council opposing ORV usage. A number of letters, including an in-depth critique of the entire ORV Task Force process written by retired school superintendant, Bruce Barrett, will be entered into the record. Deputations will be made by George Pineau and Jamie Morris calling for the city to reject any changes to the ORV by-laws.

In his report to council, available on the city website, Robinson reports that a city-appointed task force on the issue held several public meetings and working group sessions to explore the use of roads by ORVs. Public task force meetings were held Feb. 5, 19, as well as March 4, and April 19. There was also an open invitation public meeting where the task force heard 24 deputations from interested parties.

Robinson adds in his report that 2,072 surveys were completed on the city’s Jump In web page with residents sharing opinions about ORV access in the south of the city.

“The report shows a very clear separation,” Robinson writes, “in that owners of ORVs are generally in favour of (changes to the bylaw) and those who don’t own ORVS are generally not in favour.”

Robinson continues, “The main themes (presented) in support of (changes to the bylaw) included an expansion of tourism and local economic impacts. It was also noted the current ongoing pandemic is driving growth in the use of recreational vehicles. Themes coming from those not in support include concerns regarding public safety, nuisance from noise and exhaust, concerns over capability and responsibility of enforcement, damage to property and environmental impact considerations.”

Robinson’s report will offer council five alternatives regarding ORV access to municipal roads and they are:

Alternative 1: Council could opt to adopt the Task Force recommendations as proposed. This would open the majority of roads to ATV and side-by-side use. Staff would be tasked with determining which roads pose a safety concern where such use should not be permitted and assessing fiscal impacts of increased maintenance / repair costs (if any). In communication with the Director of Engineering and Corporate Assets, staff are not aware of established criteria for evaluating safety of ORV use of roads and associated interaction with traditional traffic at this time.

Alternative 2: Council could opt to defer the review of the use of ORV and ATV vehicles to the Trails Master Plan and the Transportation Master Plan as originally recommended by Staff.

Alternative 3: Council could opt to refer the recommendations back to the Task Force for additional review and considerations.

Alternative 4: Phase in some or all for the recommendations from the Task Force.  This could involve piloting rural road use only or authorizing the connection within Lindsay only.

Alternative 5: Council could opt to restrict ORV use on arterial and collector roads and/or all roads with hard surface (with the exception of designated routes) to align with manufacturer recommendation on vehicle use.

If this report follows the traditional structure used by the city over the last decade, it is expected that the options provided are enumerated in the order of staff preference – potentially opening up a majority of the roads to more ATV use.

To hear opposing points of view on this issue, check out the most recent episode of the Advocate Podcast: Stories from Kawartha Lakes. 

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