6/29/2019 7:30:00 AM City offers guidance to ATV/UTV operators looking to explore Rhinelander
Heather Schaefer and Jamie Taylort Of the River News
In the wake of the Rhinelander common council's 6-2 vote Monday evening opening city streets to ATV and UTV traffic, city officials are offering operators some advice as they hit the road.
First, operators need to be aware the new ordinance allowing ATVs and UTVs operators to use city streets will not be in effect until a few final steps are completed.
"According to state law, a city ordinance takes effect upon signature of the Mayor, and publication of the ordinance by the city Clerk," city administrator Daniel Guild wrote in a press release issued June 25. "State law also requires that the entrances to the city be appropriately signed according to rules prescribed by the Wisconsin DNR. City officials hope to have these tasks accomplished by early next week, in time for the Independence Day (July 4) holiday. Until then, ATVs and UTVs operation is not allowed."
Operators can verify that the city is open to ATVs and UTVs by contacting the Rhinelander Police Department at 715-365-5300.
"Rhinelander is believed to be the largest, incorporated city in Wisconsin which has opened the vast majority of its streets to ATV and UTV use," the release notes. "The Ordinance prohibits operation on, and/or crossing Lincoln Street, and North Stevens Street (north of Dwight Street). This ordinance does not apply to county or state highways in the city of Rhinelander."
The release also includes a checklist for owners/operators looking to take advantage of the opportunity to use their vehicles in Rhinelander
Read the city ordinance. (It is available on the city website: http://www.rhinelandercityhall.org/index.php?page=Main and is set to be published in the legals section of the Tuesday, July 2 River News). Familiarize yourself with the unique rules and restrictions imposed by the city of Rhinelander.
Make sure you have a valid driver's license and proof of vehicle insurance when you are operating your vehicle within the city.
Make sure your vehicle has not been altered or modified in any way as to make it ineligible for operation on city streets.
"The Common Council and the community will be watching and judging this experiment in legislation," the release states. "Be respectful of businesses, residences, and neighborhoods. Practice defensive driving techniques and be respectful of other motorized vehicles using city streets. The Rhinelander Police Department will be aggressively patrolling for operator violations during the inauguration of this law. This ordinance is a privilege, not a right. The ordinance can be modified or rescinded by the Common Council at any time."
The city began discussing a possible ATV/UTV ordinance in late November 2018 when the public safety committee held a listening session on the topic. In early April 2019, a draft ordinance was introduced. Two weeks later the council received a report from Guild summarizing community feedback on the draft. In May, the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors sent a letter to the city announcing its support of the ordinance. On Monday, the council held a public hearing where five people spoke on the subject. Four were strongly in favor while one person had strong reservations. When the discussion turned to the alderpersons, it was noted that overall community feedback on the topic was "split". Alderman Ryan Rossing, who said his constituents oppose the ordinance, floated the idea of holding a referendum but no motion to that effect was ever offered.
The council ultimately voted 6-2 to approve the ordinance, with at least two alderpersons advocating for the new rules to be put in place ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.
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