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Wasilla council delays decision on ATV ban

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The Wasilla City Council this week postponed a decision on a contentious proposed ban on off-road vehicles.

The council tabled an anticipated decision in a unanimous vote Monday night, despite two hours of public testimony largely opposed to evicting off-roaders from the city. Council members say they’ve also been hearing from scores of residents begging for an end to all-terrain vehicles and snowmachines in the city.

The council will discuss the city's existing regulations governing off-road vehicles at a meeting Sept. 8 as members decide how to handle the issue. 

Wasilla already has a more than 15-year-old ATV law on the books that, among other things, requires helmets, institutes a 10 mph speed limit and places restrictions on riders under 16.

A separate city master plan sets out three paved corridors for all-terrain vehicles and snowmachines inside city limits: Knik-Goose Bay Road, Lucille Street but not all the way into the downtown core, and Seward-Meridian Parkway to the Parks Highway.

Numerous ban opponents as well as some council members say the city isn’t enforcing the laws that are on the books now and wondered how it would help to add more restrictions.

Ban critics urged the city to better educate ATV riders, post more signs making laws clear, and possibly adopt a registration program or permit system so the public and police can track offenders more easily.

Several ATV retailers or tour company operators offered to volunteer their time to help the city deal with problem riders who speed through town or damage property.

The city planning commission earlier this summer recommended the council approve a ban.

Commission member Jessica Dean on Monday warned that big road projects coming to the city mean “there’s going to be less and less dirt for those ATVs to be on” and recommended harsh penalties if the ban isn’t approved such as confiscation on the second offense.

A downtown resident, Allison Sacco, noted that she’d rather the police spend time on the crime she sees from her house such as drug dealing and prostitution.

The council in a separate, 5-1 vote, approved the addition of a new police officer position for $118,230 to address what Wasilla Police Chief Gene Belden described as a shortage, given the city’s rise in crime.