UNION GROVE — Road traffic in Union Grove could look very different if voters in the April 5 election signal a willingness to share the road with ATVs and golf carts.
The village is holding an advisory referendum on whether the residents of Union Grove want to allow drivers of all-terrain vehicles or golf carts to ride on public roads alongside cars and trucks.
An advisory referendum, as opposed to a binding referendum, means that village officials are not bound to follow the wishes of the majority of voters.
The seven-member village council can decide the issue after seeing the results of the referendum.
ATV owners and other proponents of the proposal say owners of alternative vehicles should have the same right to use public roads as other vehicle drivers.
Opponents argue that ATVs, golf carts or other non-traditional vehicles would make road traffic more congested and create new safety hazards on the roads.
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Although there have been no signs of organized campaigning on the referendum on either side, supporters and opponents have been outspoken about the issue on social media.
Supporter Cody McDonald posted in a Facebook discussion that Union Grove residents should keep “open minds” about ATVs in traffic. “Just because you don’t see a benefit,” McDonald said, “doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t benefit from using alternative transportation.”
Opponent David Kovach argued that allowing ATVs or golf carts in road traffic could have deadly consequences.
“Anything hit by a car that weighs much less than the car is going to lose, badly,” Kovach said. “Cars are built to protect their occupants at high speeds. ATVs have no protection at any speed.
The April 5 referendum will allow voters in Union Grove to tick “yes” or “no” out of three questions about the modification of the highway code to allow off-road vehicles, utility off-road vehicles or golf carts to enter and travel on public roads. These alternate modes of transportation are currently prohibited on public roads and are generally restricted to off-road trails or private property, or golf courses in the case of golf carts.
The problem developed last summer when a discussion on Facebook turned into an effort to lobby ATV and golf cart owners for “road riding,” as some ATV operators call it. .
If the Village Council approves, alternative vehicles will be allowed to operate on streets except for Highway 11 and Highway 45, where such devices are prohibited by state law.
An early proponent of the issue, Sandy Born, has since become a candidate for the village council in the April 5 election. With no opponent on the ballot, Born is virtually guaranteed to succeed Trustee Gordon Svendsen, who is stepping down after nine terms. Born could not be reached for comment.
Svendsen has publicly opposed allowing ATVs or golf carts to be driven on public roads. “I think there are huge security issues,” he said.
At least one other village board member also opposed the idea.
Administrator Janice Winget said she doesn’t know how other council members will vote, but she remains concerned that ATVs and golf carts are creating safety hazards on the streets.
“That’s my feeling,” she said, “and I guess that’s what I’ll keep.”
Village chairman Steve Wicklund said he was awaiting the outcome of the referendum before choosing one side over the other. Wicklund said he felt the community was divided on the issue.
“I’m really curious how this is going to fall out,” he said. “Whatever direction the community wants to go in, I’m probably going to continue with that.”
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