Ketchikan’s City Council will consider restricting four-wheelers on roads within city limits on Thursday. A stronger ban on camping in some city-owned parking lots is also up for debate.
Four-wheelers and other so-called “all-purpose vehicles” became legal to drive on many state roads on Jan. 1 following a push from Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The vehicles must meet a series of requirements — they need to be registered with a license plate and have working lights, brakes and mufflers. Drivers have to be licensed and carry insurance. And they’re only allowed on roads with speed limits of 45 miles per hour or less.
But the new regulation allows local governments to opt out.
Ketchikan’s City Council first considered restricting the use of snowmachines and four-wheelers on roads within city limits in December. (Snowmachines are still restricted on state roads even after the regulation change.)
Ketchikan’s acting city manager, Lacey Simpson, favored opting out. In a memo, she outlined safety concerns for drivers and pedestrians.
Deputy Police Chief Eric Mattson told the council that in his experience with a Montana police department, people on agile four-wheelers were often able to evade police.
“During my tenure in Great Falls with the police department there, they were legal on streets. Enforcement is difficult. As you can imagine, when you have a low profile four-wheel vehicle that is meant to go over all terrain, when you’re trying to follow that vehicle in a smaller vehicle like a Chevy Impala, for instance, it’s difficult to get them to stop when they don’t want to,” Mattson said.
City Council Member Riley Gass spoke up in favor of allowing four-wheelers on roads within the city. He said he drives a street-legal dirtbike and didn’t see a reason that four-wheelers should be barred.
“I think it’d be kind of cool,” Gass said. “And I understand the concerns, but let’s keep in mind that if people are going to be riding four wheelers on the road, they’ve got to obey all the same laws, they’ve got to go the same speed. It’s not Whipple Creek. If you’re doing jumps through the Discovery Center parking lot, you could be subject to a ticket, so I’d like to follow what the state has done.”
But City Council Member Lallette Kistler said she was worried that Ketchikan’s many small, dark streets would make four-wheelers dangerous.
“As a motorcycle enthusiast, I think it’s awesome. As a responsible member of the community, I think we’re asking for trouble,” Kistler said.
At that December meeting, the council postponed the issue “indefinitely,” essentially kiboshing the APV ban. Council Members Janalee Gage, Mark Flora and Judy Zenge voted for the ban, citing safety concerns.
Now Kistler is asking the City Council to consider the ban again on Thursday.
In other business, the council will consider strengthening the city’s ban on camping in city-owned parking lots. That’s after complaints from some residents about people living in a parking lot on Edmonds Street.
The ordinance would allow the manager to post “no camping” signs and outlaw tents, stoves and other camping equipment in city-designated lots. It would also ban cooking in those lots and allow city employees to clear encampments with 72 hours’ notice. The ordinance does not say whether sleeping within a vehicle qualifies as “camping.”
Each day of illegal camping would incur a $300 fine, up from $100 under current code.
Ketchikan’s City Council meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in its City Hall chambers. The meeting is broadcast on local cable channels and live-streamed at the city’s website. Members of the public have a chance to weigh in at the beginning of the meeting.