By Cole Parkinson
With the farming season in full force, the Municipal District of Taber has brought back discussions on if they would want to enforce an off-highway vehicle bylaw moving forward.
The talks first started at a prior policy meeting where council advised administration to work on a bylaw regarding off-highway vehicles which has since been completed.
Council was brought a few different bylaws that had been passed by other municipalities as a reference guide and the parts they liked were passed onto their own draft of the bylaw.
“When we brought this forward the first time, council indicated the Crowsnest bylaw was one you deemed to be (the most desired). We took that and added a few other items. Basically what it does is, all off-highway vehicles are defined as four-wheel drive vehicles, low-pressure tire vehicles, motorcycles and related two-wheel vehicles, amphibious machines, all-terrain vehicles, snow vehicles and any other means of transportation that is propelled by any power other than muscular power or wind,” said CAO Derrick Krizsan at the June policy meeting.
One thing highlighted in the draft was an “off-highway vehicle exclusion zone” which would include the hamlet of Grassy Lake, hamlet of Hays, hamlet of Enchant, Johnson’s Addition and any lands designated as grouped country residential.
In not allowing any ATVs in the hamlets, M.D. staff agreed that would be the best way to proceed.
“In talking with staff, we don’t think ATV’s in hamlets would be a good thing,” stated Krizsan.
Council were worried about an increase in traffic on rural roads if they didn’t allow them in the hamlets. With an added traffic count, it would also affect the roads more which would mean they would require more maintenance.
“I’m not sure about restricting them from hamlets because those who own them in hamlets, will go out to the countryside,” said Coun. Murray Reynolds.
Other things of note in the bylaw revolve around operating off-highway vehicles and operational restrictions. The bylaw states “a person may only operate an off-highway vehicle in the municipality: on the extreme right side of the roadway in the parking lane or where the roadway does not include a parking lane or where the parking lane is obstructed in the rightmost lane of the roadway.
In order for the vehicle to be eligible, the bylaw states the vehicle must be “registered, insured, display a valid license plate and be equipped with headlamps, tail lamps, an exhaust muffler and other equipment as required by the Off-Highway Vehicle Regulation.”
The driver would also require a valid driver’s licence.
One concern brought forward was regarding the bylaw stating the maximum speed would be 20 kilometres an hour.
“Twenty kilometres would be a menace on the side of the road when a tractor is going to go faster than a quad. Forty or 60 I could see,” said Reeve Brian Brewin.
Others on council though felt the speed should remain low.
“I’m reluctant to put much speed on it because the fastest guys on my road are going on dirt bikes and quads,” said Coun. Tamara Miyanaga.
Brewin though pointed out that speeding would qualify under a separate enforcement.
“If they are racing, it’s speeding and that’s entirely different. Restricting it to 20, 40 or 60 is still awful slow,” he said. “I can tell you a good deal of what I do is done on a quad going back and forth. A lot of times that is the means of transportation between fields and irrigating.”
While ATVs are quite common in the area especially within the agriculture industry, a bylaw had never been discussed prior.
“I don’t think it has ever been brought up, honestly. It was always under the RCMP and I’m not sure it was ever challenged,” added Brewin.
Another issue Brewin had with the bylaw was in regard to operating hours.
The bylaw currently states “no person shall operate an off-highway vehicle on a highway after dusk or before dawn” which may present challenges to farmers who are active well before dawn and after dusk.
“I think most quads have decent lights on them, I’m not sure on that one,” stated Brewin. “A lot of times, it’s after dark if you are doing eight-hour sets. It’s after dark when you are coming home. It’s before dark when you set out sometimes too.”
Other councillors agreed with Brewin’s assessment.
“I think if you are checking cows, you are checking when you need to,” said Coun. Jen Crowson.
Coun. Miyanaga was in favour of keeping the dusk to dawn regulation as she was worried about the potential of drinking and driving aspect of it.
She was also worried about the M.D.’s liability in the case of crashes involving off-highway vehicles.
“That’s covered under different legislation if they are drinking and driving. We can’t penalize people who are checking cows at midnight,” said Brewin.
No bylaw is required to be passed but if council elected to pass it, there would be repercussions both negatively an positively.
One possibility they would have to prepare for is the increased traffic on the road.
“You’re authorizing something that is already occurring but with it being authorized, there will be an increased number of ATVs that will be utilizing the road allowances. When you increase the number of ATVs, you are going to potentially increase the number of incidences,” said Krizsan.
Council reaction was mixed whether or not they wanted to pursue the bylaw further.
“We’ve made it to 2018 without the bylaw, is it a necessity in 2018?” asked Deputy Reeve Merrill Harris.
A suggestion put forward revolved around having wording in the bylaw restricting ATV use to business only.
“I would be in favour of a bylaw. I just don’t know if we need something in there for work-related,” said Coun. John Turcato.
Council decided to table the matter until a further meeting where administration can make some changes to bylaw including wording around operation under legitimate business.