ATV ordinance will go to March vote

LYNDEBOROUGH – The Planning Board has approved final wording for a new off-highway recreational vehicle facilities ordinance that provides some controls over parking and picnic areas, noise, number of vehicles at one time, and traffic.

The proposal will be on the ballot for the March elections. Zoning changes are by official ballot and are not debated at Town Meeting.

The ordinance is in response to a superior court ruling that state-sanctioned trails on private property are not subject to the Planning Board’s site-plan review, but that the town can control ancillary uses.

Reaction to a final hearing Thursday was mixed. About 25 people attended the half-hour session, held during the regular meeting of the Planning Board.

One out-of-town landowner applauded the board for “being proactive. Other towns have had problems,” he said, and offered several suggestions for parking, hours of operation and picnic areas.

A member of the New Hampshire ATV Club, however, said Lyndeborough “is the only town that seems to have a problem,” and asked, “Why are you putting this in place when there are no trails in town?” He called some of the provisions “ridiculous, even funny.”

Board Chairman Tracey Turner answered, “We are anticipating some (trails) and we want to be prepared.”

Selectman Dwight Sowerby began the meeting by stating, “The intent (of this ordinance) is to regulate those uses not pre-empted by the state. A commercial enterprise would not be sanctioned and would come under our site-plan review. It also does not apply to people riding in their back yards or on a trail over the mountain.”

He noted that the proposal is a land-use regulation, and applies to “all state-sanctioned large-scale, non-commercial OHRV facilities in any region or district in town.”

The stated purposes of the ordinances include ensuring that land-use regulations result in development that continue the town’s rural character; protecting the health, safety and property of residents; ensuring that such OHRV developments do not place an unreasonable burden on town services; consideration of road capabilities to accommodate the uses; protecting water and air quality including noise pollution and welfare of wildlife; and guarding against adverse impact on neighboring properties.

The ordinance covers such areas as sanitary facilities, hours of operation, adequate parking, picnic facilities and access:

– A facility would be limited to 75 vehicles at any one time and could operate from 9 a.m. to one hour before sunset, during all 12 months of the year, including during partial or complete snow cover.

– Speeds would be limited to 10 mph near houses, property borders, roads and highways, on town roads and bridges, at trail junctions and in parking areas. In other places, 25 mph would be allowed.

– Picnic areas must have two means of access and be accessible to emergency vehicles.

– Sanitation facilities must be available at all picnic areas and sited so as not to interfere with views, ridgelines and vantage points and would have to be at least 1,000 feet from abutting property lines.

– Landscaping must be in keeping with natural vegetation and sanitation facilities must be completely screened, whether the structures are portable or permanent.

– All roads to the facility must be adequate to handle the increased traffic. Costs for road improvement would be borne by the developer.

– Noise beyond property lines is limited to “that normally associated with residential uses allowed in the district.”

It was noted by those present that mufflers are available that “allow you to approach wildlife.”

Laurent Boisvert, whose ongoing dispute with the town over his proposed ATV park is currently before the state Supreme Court, was present, but made no comments and asked only about assessing penalties and why sanitary facilities needed to be totally screened.

Sowerby said penalties would be the same as those in other ordinances. He also said zoning violations are civil matters handled by the selectmen and the police are not involved.

“Court orders can be obtained,” he said. As to screening facilities, “the guidelines are general.”

Jessie Salisbury can be reached at 654-9704 or jessies@tellink.net.