Tonasket City Council, residents debate ATV ordinance

TONASKET – The potential for an ordinance that would permit all-terrain or off-road vehicles on Tonasket city streets received plenty of attention at the Tuesday, Sept. 11, Tonasket City Council meeting.

Though no specific ordinance has yet been proposed, it has been on the council’s agenda several times in the past couple of months, and a number of residents were present to discuss the issue.

Spencer King, president of the North Central ATV Club, presented a proposal that would be forwarded to Okanogan County to open out routes from Tonasket to Loomis (up North Pine Creek Road through Horse Spring Coulee), and from Tonasket to Beeman Road, through Pine Creek to Fish Lake, providing a corridor all the way from Conconully.

Those routes would only be proposed to the county for ATV use if a city ordinance were passed.

“What your group intends isn’t to take over the city, but to utilize the services here and then go out into the surrounding community,” said Tonasket Mayor Patrick Plumb. “Are you looking at just using certain routes in the city?”

“When we did this in Okanogan, we excluded Highway 215 (the main street through Okanogan),” King said. “But then we were able to include 215 as well, so we had access to the grocery store, the ATV store … I’m sure if you’ve been there, you haven’t seen hordes of ATV users in the streets.

“The though is if people wanted to stay in a hotel, they could that, then family members could leave Okanogan and ride all the way to Loomis if they chose…. As a group it’s nice to be able to ride in the forest, come into town, gas up, eat, then go back out.”

About 15 were in attendance, with a number of both pro and con opinions being expressed.

Those opposed to allowing ATVs in town cited concerns with additional traffic congestion, safety concerns due to a lack of visibility of small vehicles, and noise.

Those in favor of such an ordinance cited the potential economic benefit, the city’s history of individual liberty, and believe that ATVs are no less visible that motorcycles or smart cars, and could enhance visibility through the use of flags while in town.

“What I summarize the concerns are Volume – loud; Volume – more traffic; and Volume – visibility,” Plumb said. “So we can start to formulate with council whether we choose to address this or to leave it alone and to not allow this sort of traffic in town.

“We’ll have (at town hall) meeting (for further discussion and information), and I’ll let you know about when that is.”

The council also heard a request from Forrest Brender, who has been running a food cart twice a week in the Lee Franks parking lot. He asked if he could utilize the lot at Founders Day Park, next to the TVBRC, for increased visibility.

“I like the idea,” said council member Scott Olson, who added he was worried that allowing the use of city property for a business would amount to an endorsement of the business. “I’m concerned that you’d be competing with other food vendors…. (The city) doesn’t want to be competing with private vendors.”

After discussion as to whether or not encouraging business activity in that way amounted to an endorsement of the business, the idea of a one month trial run was proposed.

“I want to encourage your business,” Olson said, “but I don’t want to be giving you and advantage, either. I like the idea, though, of giving you a chance to get started, just not a chance to stay there.”

“My biggest concern is the precedent,” said council member Jean Ramsey, who said the city should not accept any rent money for the use of the lot.

“I agree on that precedent issue,” Olson said. “That’s why I want to call this an ‘incubation period.’ I want businesses to feel free to give it a shot.”

The council approved October as Brender’s “incubation” period for Brender to try to get his business started, using the Founders Day Park parking lot, for no more than two days a week, after which he will have to find another location.

The council also approved Cascade / Columbia River Railroad agreements related to the Bonaparte Creek water and sewer project, which include a $4,000 in one-time fees and a $740 annual fee; authorized the mayor to sign documents for Strider Construction to begin start the Bonaparte Creek / Mill Drive project; and approved the nomination of Claire Jeffko to fill Ed Jeffko’s position on the civil service commission. They also approved the issuance of approved the issuance of $2.35 million in water revenue bonds for the water project through Cashmere Valley Bank, as written by the city’s bond counsel and contingent on review by city attorney Mick Howe.

The Tonasket City Council next meets on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 7:00 p.m.

About Brent Baker

Brent is a reporter for the Gazette-Tribune. Prior to working at the G-T, he was the sports editor for Sunrise Publishing from 2000-2005 in Michigan. He subsequently owned and operated Buckland Media, a high school sports website, in Michigan until 2010. He and his wife Kim, who have an adult son, moved to Tonasket in 2010. Brent started work at the G-T in 2011.

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