Brownstown council gives UTV rules first OK

BROWNSTOWN

Residents may soon be able to drive their utility task vehicles on Brownstown streets.

An ordinance establishing traffic regulations for the registration and operation of off-road vehicles on streets and alleys in the county seat recently passed on first reading.

To become official, it will have to pass two more readings. The second one will be during the Feb. 21 meeting at the town hall. If that passes, the final reading will be March 6.

Local UTV enthusiasts had approached Councilman Matt Smith about allowing them to drive their vehicles in town. About a dozen of them attended the recent council meeting.

Smith had town attorney Rodney Farrow draft an ordinance for the council to review and share with the public.

The ordinance would require UTV owners to pay a $25 fee to have a town police officer inspect their vehicle annually by May 1.

The operator, who must be at least 18, must show proof of a motor vehicle driver’s license, vehicle registration and liability insurance. The vehicle must meet the standards of headlights, taillights and brakes; be equipped with a functional rear-view mirror; and have either an orange pennant or flag, a slow-moving vehicle emblem or a turn signal kit.

After an officer verifies the vehicle is insured and equipped as required by the ordinance, the owner would be issued a permit and a numerical tag.

The permit must be in the off-road vehicle or in the possession of the person operating it, while the tag would need to be attached to or displayed on a rear panel of the vehicle.

UTVs would not be allowed on town streets between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The ordinance also lists restricted areas. UTVs cannot be on sidewalks, the walking trail in town, school property, unpaved surfaces of public property or private property without permission of the owner. They also cannot be on Bridge Street, Walnut Street or Base Road when school buses are present.

Also, according to state law, UTVs cannot be driven on federal highways or state roads, which in Brownstown includes U.S. 50 and state roads 135 and 250. They can only cross those roads in a 90-degree path.

Smith said the only issue he sees with that is not being able to gain access to Jay C Food Store because there is not a street with direct access across U.S. 50.

Town officials said it’s possible for town police officers to allow UTV drivers to go from Bloomington Road to Jay C, but if a state trooper is in the area and sees the violation, he or she could cite the driver.

A couple of residents at the meeting said Salem has a UTV ordinance that allows them to ride on streets and highways in that Washington County city. They also had received permission from North Vernon officials to drive on their roads for a benefit ride.

Sometimes, they are riding for leisure and visit local restaurants, stores and gas stations. Sometimes, they are conducting a benefit ride. Either way, it benefits the local businesses.

Councilman Gregg Goshorn said if it could bring visitors to town and revenue to local businesses, he would be in support of the ordinance.

In drafting the ordinance, Farrow said he implemented aspects of Salem and Crothersville’s ordinances along with state law.

Councilwoman Bethany Brewster said she has no problems with allowing UTVs on town streets as long as it’s safe.

According to the ordinance, the UTV cannot be occupied by more people than for which it’s designed, and each occupant must have and use a separate seat and wear a seat belt.

“I just want to make sure safety regulations are followed and that the kids are kept safe on these,” Brewster said. “That’s the only thing that I’m really concerned about is that they are properly buckled in. Everything else sounds fine to me.”

Anyone violating the ordinance will be fined $50 for the first offense in a one-year period and $100 for the second offense. That money would go into the town’s general fund and be made available for appropriation to the police department’s operating budget. A second violation within a year also would result in the operator’s permit being revoked.

If a UTV driver operates unlicensed or without required equipment, the vehicle would be impounded until v by the owner and a properly licensed operator. The vehicle would not be released until it’s properly registered and all towing and storage fees are paid.

UTVs not reclaimed within 30 days would be deemed abandoned and sold as surplus property.

If you go

What: Brownstown Town Council considering the second reading of a proposed UTV ordinance

When: 5:30 p.m. Feb. 21

Where: Brownstown Town Hall, 200 W. Walnut St., Brownstown

Who: Open to the public

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.