March 24, 2023

Residents, council debate ATV use in town

A group of Creston residents, organized by Carey Lynam, met with Creston City Council for the second time Tuesday in regards to the city’s all-terrain vehicle/utility-terrain vehicle (ATV/UTV) ordinance.

A state law earlier this year allowed the usage of ATVs and UTVs throughout the state within the confines of the law; however, a 15-year-old Creston ordinance states, “No person shall operate an ATV, off-road motorcycle or off-road utility vehicle within the city.”

Lynam began the discussion with the council by reiterating points made at the Sept. 6 meeting. “I was just hoping to go by what the state guidelines say, follow all those rules - no faster than 35. Most of our roads are 25 mph,” she said. “They are just as safe as a car if you’re worried about safety.”

Danny Bird told the council he’d like to be able to hook up a plow to his four wheeler for snow removal. “I hope you guys understand we’re all here for the same thing,” Bird said. “I think the tickets should be the same as anybody else if they’re not obeying the law. You don’t just get a license, you earn a license.”

Council members were given the chance to share their thoughts, and they were divided on their comfortability with the ordinance being repealed.

“My biggest concern is safety to be honest,” Councilman Richard Madison said.

“I think my biggest concern is safety also,” Councilman Matt Levine echoed. “I don’t have as much of an issue with ATVs and UTVs, it seems they’re at least more suited for this. I would be extremely remiss if we include golf carts in this. I’d like to exclude that. I do not want to include those for us.”

Councilwoman Kiki Scarberry questioned the difference in safety between a golf cart and a four wheeler. “They would have to be treated equally,” she said.

Councilwoman Brenda Lyell-Keate concurred with Levine saying she’s on the fence about golf carts. “I don’t think they’re safe enough,” she said. “ATVs and that, fine. Golf carts, I’m on the fence with them.”

Scarberry said she isn’t sure if it’s their job to determine the safety of the vehicles. “As far as safety goes, I think we really have to sit back and ask ourselves what the community wants because that’s our job,” she said. “Our job is not to save them from themselves. I don’t think the numbers justify saying it’s just not safe.”

The council said they would be looking to base the potential new ordinance around the state’s rules since the code is already laid out.

Those who use those vehicles must be at least 18, have a valid driver’s license and show proof of insurance. The vehicle must have a working headlight at all times, tail, brake light, horn and rear view mirror. They can’t been driven faster than 35 mph. They can be driven at anytime. The vehicles may be driven on two-lane state highways. Four-lane highways and interstates are not allowed. The vehicles can be driven across a four-lane highway intersection. They must be driven over the most direct and accessible route to and from an all-terrain park, trail, county road or authorized city street. The vehicles can be prohibited from county roads during special events in municipalities that include a large amount of traffic. All Iowa cities may regulate the operation of the vehicles within their city limits. A city can’t charge a fee for the vehicles to be driven on its streets.

“We’re willing to look at this,” Levine said. “We will talk about it. We’ve heard, we understand your position, we’ve had a few thoughts thrown in there.”

The group spoke during public forum on Sept. 6 and the council held a discussion at this meeting. Going forward, the council would need to come prepared with the ordinance language they want to use before being able to set a public hearing.

Should they have the ordinance prepared, on Oct. 4, they could approve a resolution for a public hearing for their Oct. 18 meeting. The hearing would be held and following would be three policy readings before it could take affect.

The residents expressed discontent with the time frame citing winter upcoming as a reason to rush the issue.

“It’s a long process,” Levine said. “Any time we change an ordinance, it’s a long process.”

Cheyenne Roche


Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.