St. Clair council ponders ATV use on municipal roads


Alex Kurial/Local Journalism Initiative

Off road vehicles are on the discussion table across Lambton County as changes to the Highway Traffic Act loom.
When the calendar flips to 2021 off road vehicles are set to become legal on all municipal roads in Ontario – provided a municipality doesn’t already have a bylaw preventing this. The impending change has brought the issue up for debate in several Lambton municipalities, including St. Clair Township.
St. Clair currently has no bylaw regarding off road vehicles, which effectively means they’re prohibited. This has not prevented people from using them on roads around the township. The local ATV association was set to talk about the idea of on-road use, but then the pandemic hit.
Council planned to wait until the public could gather again to address the issue, but with the impending rule change they’re forced to make a decision.
Staff didn’t want wide open use of the vehicles. “There would be nothing preventing a licensed operator to ride a permitted ORV to the grocery stores in downtown Corunna, or any other use an operator deems desirable,” read the report from Clerk Jeff Baranek.
Mayor Steve Arnold says it would be nice to have a uniform rule across the county. Deputy Mayor Steve Miller agreed, suggesting waiting to see what other municipalities do.
Baranek says two clerks he’s spoken to in other municipalities told him they’d be recommending a prohibition on off road vehicles when they present their reports.
The OPP has also expressed their preference for an off road vehicle ban on municipal roads.
Council decided to have Baranek gather more information on what other Lambton municipalities are going to do. CAO John Rodey cautioned against letting the decision sit too long though. “If we don’t pass any bylaw, they’re [ORV] permitted, and they’re permitted on every road. So if you take no action, that’s what will essentially happen on Jan. 1,” says Rodey.
Miller didn’t seem concerned. “That would give us an opportunity to find out how bad it’s going to be if we don’t have a bylaw in place,” he says.
Council will revisit the issue during their final meeting of the year on Dec. 21.
Baranek made clear no decision is set in stone, and that the off road hobby group will have their chance to make their case to council no matter what action is taken.
“Regardless of what council decides, we have promised that will still be heard once we do allow the public back in the building,” Baranek says of the delayed deputation. “Whatever council decides will be revisited, and you will have the chance to amend your own bylaw at that time.”

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