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Another Township Opens some roads to ATV traffic
AuSable adopts ORV ordinance
by Karen Rouse
AuSABLE — AuSable Township Board of Trustees reversed itself on Monday evening, voting to adopt the same off-road recreational vehicle (ORV) ordinance that failed two weeks earlier.
Heated debate among residents and board members about the benefits and disadvantages on operating ORVs on the shoulders of specified roads preceded the final vote of 5-2. Trustees Jan Baldwin and Kevin Beliveau voted against the ordinance.
“The ordinance would put an ORV in a predicament where it is not allowed to be right now. That’s the extent of our contribution toward creating an environment of a situation where something could happen,” pointed out Beliveau.
Resident Dan Myles asked how ORVs could create a liability problem given that AuSable allows horses, bike riders, snowmobiles and pedestrians to use the sides of roads.
Beliveau said he fears the township would be liable in the event of litigation, since the ordinance conflicts both with the advice from the township attorney and an analysis by the Michigan attorney general’s staff.
“My concern is how can it be any different for AuSable Township than a good many of the others along the way who have already done this,” asked resident Bob Visser.
Superintendent Sandra Wilson suggested that this is because the others passed the ordinance before the attorney general rendered the information.
Iosco County Road Commission Chairman Calvin McLaren attended Monday’s meeting and said the commission is not against ORV use if it is done in a legal manner prescribed by law.
“The problem that we’re having is that it [state law] calls for connector roads between trails. AuSable has one at Grass Lake Road. There’s no other trail there that would have a connector trail to it,” said McLaren.
“If it comes to a point where somebody gets sued,” he continued, “the people who passed the ordinance are going to get sued.”
Treasurer Judy Reeder made the motion to accept the ordinance, emphasizing that the township’s insurance carrier will provide a letter stating that AuSable is protected from liability. She said she received verbal assurance from the carrier, Lappin Insurance, before the meeting.
The regulation allows ORVs to be operated on the shoulders of Grass Lake Road between River Road and Old US-23, Old US-23 between Grass Lake Road and Mill Street, Mill Street between First Street and US-23, Third Street between Church and Smith Street and Smith Street between South State and US-23.
Beliveau has said that the ordinance will be effective 30 days from Monday’s affirmative vote. The document may be viewed at the township offices or on-line at http://www.ausabletownship.net/