Council considers benefits, drawbacks of allowing ORV use in the city

SWARTZ CREEK — The Swartz Creek City Council is considering an ordinance that would allow and regulate the use of off-road vehicles on some city streets.

The Genesee County Board of Commissioners in February approved a county ordinance allowing ORV use primarily on unimproved roadways or improved roads with shoulders.

“Streets with high traffic counts generally are excluded,” said City Manager Adam Zettel. “Our neighborhood streets are really not built for that purpose, as well, which limits our ability to participate unless we opt to co-locate those on neighborhood streets.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Dennis Pinkston said ORV use already is prevalent in parts of Winchester Woods, where some streets, such as Chesterfield, Cardigan and Young, are unpaved.

“People from Oakwood Village (in Gaines Township) come riding through on the trails through the woods,” Pinkston said. “A lot of them are kids, but there are some adults, too. They come in and go back in a hurry, a lot of times. But there is a lot of area for travel.”

Councilwoman Rae Lynn Hicks said she has seen ORVs in open areas near the high school.

“They have people back in their fields ripping and snorting and tearing things up, too,” Hicks said. “They like those open fields back there.”

Pinkston recommended designating areas of the city where ORVs can be used and establishing regulations regarding licensure and the types of vehicles allowed.

The county ordinance requires drivers to be at least 18 years old or have a driver’s license. Drivers who are 12 years old and older are allowed on roadways if they have safety certificates and adult supervision.

Council members raised a couple of concerns, particularly regarding enforcement, noise, hours of operation and protecting park property.

Mayor David Krueger commented that, should the council adopt an ordinance, the regulations prohibit certain vehicles, such as snowmobiles.

Councilman Jentery Farmer said he favors an ordinance that would allow enclosed, side-by-sides and golf carts on streets with 25 mph speed limits.

“I think it would give people the opportunity to putt around their neighborhood, go to the garage sales, visit neighbors,” he said, adding that it’s not much different than motorcycles, “and we have plenty of those go through, much louder and more obnoxiously.”