NAPPANEE — A new ordinance could soon allow residents to use certain off-road vehicles to traverse the city.
“We are constantly getting inquiries that people do want to buy these, but they have not done so because they wouldn’t be allowed to drive it within city limits, and that hinders them,” Assistant Police Chief Josh Harner said at a council meeting Monday.
The police department also recently acquired an off-road vehicle for use during festivals for security detail.
A previous ordinance had allowed residents to use golf carts when driving on city streets, but other forms of off-road vehicles have not been permitted and, like many Nappanee residents, Lisa Cochrane doesn’t understand why.
“My side-by-side is safer than a golf cart,” she said Tuesday. “It’s a four-seater; we have seat belts and roll bars. And I’ll have brake lights and turn signals. My side-by-side will not move more than 5 mph unless you have seat belts on”
Off-road vehicles are described in the ordinance as “a vehicle manufactured with a standard steering wheel for operation, side-by-side seating arrangement for passengers, seat belts and rollover protection.”
Cochrane received her UTV for her anniversary last year and generally uses it at her second property in Michigan, but she hopes to begin using it to drive her grandchildren around town.
“I thought it would be neat to ride it up to the park, through the subdivision. It’s cheaper on gas and I thought it would be more fun.”
When she went to the license branch, she said, officials were unsure how to make her vehicle street legal. Police didn’t know either, she said, so she’s kept it off city streets in the meantime.
“They’re definitely becoming more popular,” Harner said.
Harner said UTVs are popular on large acreage, such as farmland.
The ordinance was passed on first reading Monday but will continue to be discussed in future meetings, council members said.
If approved by the city council, the ordinance would allow for off-road vehicles to be driven on city streets, provided the driver has insurance for the vehicle.
A $100 fine will be charged for the first violation of the ordinance, but officers claim they will first offer warnings.
“There will be officer discretion on first contact,” Harner said.
Off-road vehicles will still not be permitted on state roads. In Nappanee, those are S.R. 6 and S.R. 19, which pass through the center of the city.