A Princeton man is promising to make the town’s controversial off-road vehicle bylaw a national issue if council doesn’t bury its plans to ban ATVs within the Town of Princeton.
Ed Vermette spearheaded a campaign against the bylaw last week by circulating petitions at businesses and high traffic areas, while promoting the cause on social media.
“I want the bylaw scrapped completely,” said Vermette, a long time resident and former newspaper publisher. “I want to start from scratch. It infuriates me that somebody is going to tell me what I can and cannot do on my own property. I will present this petition to the MLA and explain our situation. I will also contact national media and put this right across the country.”
Last Monday night council gave three readings to the bylaw, which forbids all off road vehicle use within town limits, including the Trans Canada Trail and on private property, except for special events that would be allowed through a permit process.
Fines under the bylaw range from $250 to $500. The bylaw restricts the use of quads, quad bikes, three wheelers, four wheelers, dirt bikes, dual sport motorcycles and snowmobiles.
The bylaw – which an ATVBC representative called one of the most far reaching she’s ever seen ¬ has yet to be given final adoption.
Vermette said response to his campaign so far has been “overwhelming…I’m amazed at the reaction and the comments and the hugs and the handshaking.” While collecting signatures in front of the Bridge Street post office Friday morning “at times we had the road blocked with the amount of people who were there.”
There are two petitions being circulated, one for Princeton residents and another for people living out of town. “I’m getting calls from all around BC on this.”
Princeton Mayor Frank Armitage said he was surprised by the public opposition to the bylaw, given that the issue was studied for over a year by an ad hoc committee chaired by councillor Doug Pateman, and the town has always be open about its intent to make the KVR trail non-motorized.
“We’ve extended the invitation to meet with and try to resolve differences or find a solution acceptable to all parties,” said Armitage. “It does bother me that people will not take advantage of sitting down to discuss and explore potential solutions.”
When asked if the town will consider delaying adoption of the bylaw Armitage said “we haven’t discussed that yet but I will be discussing that with council.”
An ATV ban on the trail has the support of the provincial government, said Armitage.
“As recently as late last year we received a letter from Minister Thompson (Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations) stating that the trail was to be non-motorized…it was a clarification to all communities.”
Further defending the bylaw, Armitage referenced a 2013 survey that indicated support for banning motorized vehicles on the trail was three-to-one. He added that more than $200,000 in provincial funding for trail upgrades has been received by the municipality on the understanding the trail would be non-motorized.
Armitage said the bylaw reflects “the number of complaints we have received from citizens walking and the trail and being threatened by motorized vehicles. This has been ongoing and raises the issue of personal safety for citizens.”
He said the town is also concerned about liability if motorized vehicles are on the trail.
Vermette said he challenges several of the town’s assertions, including its right to ban anyone from trail use, and the idea the town might be liable in case of a mishap.
He said one of his biggest concerns is that the ATV might cost Princeton economically. “The biggest thing is the tourism dollars that we are losing. Princeton is suffering as it is and it’s time to take a look at that.”
Princeton CAO Rick Zerr said the inclusion of private property in the bylaw comploiments the trail restrictions. “If people are operating on their private properties they are probably going to be out on the roads doing other things…the intent of the bylaw is so that neighbors and others are not disrupted by these things.”
Also last Monday night the town gave three readings to a new noise bylaw, which works in concert with the ATV ban, said Zerr.