Proposed UTV ordinance tabled again by City Council

Monday, February 12, 2024
On a snowy afternoon recently three DePauw University UTVs were spotted outside Music on the Square on the east side of the courthouse square in Greencastle. A proposed ordinance to allow UTVs to travel on the streets of Greencastle was again tabled on Thursday evening.
Banner Graphic/ERIC BERNSEE

It wasn’t exactly deja vu all over again but pretty close to it as the Greencastle City Council again tabled adoption of a proposed UTV (Utility Task Vehicle) ordinance.

In tabling Ordinance 2023-7 for the third time since December, there were at least a couple of new developments Thursday night.

First, there was actually a motion to approve the measure on second and final reading, with Fourth Ward Councilman Vince Aguirre trying to move it forward. However, that motion died for lack of a second.

And while the ordinance was ultimately tabled on a 5-1 vote (with Aguirre opposed), at the end of the discussion Mayor Lynda Dunbar offered her support for passing the measure.

“I’ve been to places where you see them (UTVs) all lined up outside while they’re inside eating,” she said, indicating passage could be a boost to local restaurants and businesses. “You can tell I’m for them.”

The mayor suggested that if UTV riders aren’t allowed to travel Greencastle streets, they will likely take their business elsewhere.

“If they can’t come to Greencastle for First Friday, they could find another First Friday and go there,” she added.

Meanwhile some revisions were made to the ordinance before its latest consideration. The notable changes include:

-- Revising the speed at which the vehicles must travel as 25 mph rather than the posted speed limit because Kubota UTVs are apparently limited to 25 mph.

-- Requiring all passengers younger than 18 to wear a helmet.

-- Altering the hours during which UTVs are not allowed on city streets as between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

-- Making the city registration sticker visible to the public by being placed on the back of the UTV.

Also, the first real public comment by someone opposed to creation of a city UTV ordinance came via a letter from Greencastle School Board member and former Democrat mayoral candidate Brian Cox, whose submission was read to the Council by its president, Stacie Langdon.

“While UTVs can be useful vehicles on farms and in rural areas,” Cox began, “their integration into city environments presents challenges.

“Economically, it’s essential to evaluate whether there is a tangible benefit to the community,” he added. “In the absence of extensive off-road trails or a strong recreational UTV culture within city limits, the economic impact would be minimal. Unlike areas where UTVs are integral to local commerce and tourism, it’s unlikely that most UTV owners in Greencastle or Putnam County base their shopping or dining decisions on the ability to drive their UTVs into or around town. Therefore, the economic rationale for passing such an ordinance seems lacking.”

Cox said safety is another critical factor.

“While many UTV owners are responsible drivers, the unfamiliarity of other road users with UTV behavior could lead to accidents or misunderstandings,” he said. “Unlike standard automobiles, UTVs have different handling characteristics and may provoke uncertainty among less-experienced drivers.”

Enforcement of the ordinance is another issue, Cox noted.

“While our Greencastle Police Department is capable of enforcing the new regulations, it adds another layer of responsibility to their workload. Allocating resources to manage UTV-related issues may detract from other law enforcement priorities, potentially stretching resources thin.

“Ultimately,” he continued, “the decision should prioritize the overall well-being of the community. If the economic benefits are minimal, safety concerns are significant and the consensus among residents is cautious, it may not be in the best interest of our community to pass this ordinance.

“In my opinion,” Cox concluded, “there are not enough community benefits to allowing UTVs on the streets of Greencastle.”

The Council, meanwhile, remained caught up in the signage issue. State statute indicates that streets upon which UTVs are allowed need to have signage to that effect posted. Several councilors have seen that as being costly and creating clutter.

However, nearby communities such as Brazil, Crawfordsville and Rockville have reportedly ignored that regulation or have posted signage only at the entrances to their towns.

That is not how the state statute is written, City Attorney Laurie Hardwick stressed, noting that if someone is involved in an accident and inaccurate signage is discovered, it won’t be the state that is sued, it will be the city.

“Signage is the big issue for me,” Councilman David Masten said. “It’s pretty clear we’re going to have signs everywhere.”

He suggested getting clarification from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office on the matter before there is a final vote. Hardwick agreed to ask for that opinion on signage requirements.

“I don’t see that it’s imperative to do something now,” Masten continued. “The city has been here 203 years without this ordinance. Getting with the state people would make me a lot more comfortable.”

“We want to make it work,” Councilor Katherine Asbell interjected in addressing the pro-UTV crowd assembled, “we’re just stuck on signage.”

Masten said he has reached out to State Rep. Beau Baird (R-Greencastle), who said he would be happy to help the city after the current short session of the legislature is over. Masten added that he wants to wait because if the city is going to do it, he wants “to do it right.”

Meanwhile, Councilor Langdon suggested, “If we pass this, I don’t think we can walk it back. It’ll be the way it is in Greencastle.”

Aguirre, whose motion earlier died for lack of a second, said he had “not heard any reason not to vote or any reason not to pass it” that night.

“I agree it’s cumbersome,” he said, “but at minimum we throw it to a committee and clean it up together.”

Mark Hammer, the longest-serving councilman in recent Greencastle history, said he has “way too many questions” to move forward with it right now.

Hammer called it “an administrative nightmare” creating extra demands upon the city clerk’s office and City Police to enforce the elements of the ordinance.

“This whole thing all came to a head because of DePauw’s use ... or misuse ... of them,” Hammer added. “There really weren’t other UTVs around. Now we have people who have them or want them.”

Hardwick agreed, noting that City Hall has received “many, many complaints over the years of ‘Why can’t I ride mine if DePauw uses theirs?’”

Mayor Dunbar said she has talked with DePauw officials about the matter previously. The university reportedly has 26 UTVs in use.

“I had discussions with them a couple weeks ago,” the mayor said, “and they’re still out there running around on them. As far as enforcement goes, it’s a problem either way.

“I don’t think they’re going to be dangerous. Your bike you’re riding home tonight is more dangerous, a car could hit you,” she told Aguirre, who rides his bike around town and to Council meetings.

The rules need to be the same for everybody, a spokesman for the UTV users in the audience noted.

Aguirre asked that if the Council didn’t pass the ordinance (which it later tabled) Thursday night, “Are we going to equally enforce it?”

City department uses are fine, Masten assured, because the state statute allows municipalities to use UTVs for work reasons. DePauw would be another story.

Hammer made the motion to table the ordinance for a third time with Masten, Asbell, Langdon and Tina Nicholson adding affirmative votes and Aguirre voting against the motion to table. Councilman Darrel Thomas was absent.

After the vote, Mayor Dunbar instructed Police Chief Chris Jones that if his officers see DePauw vehicles out, “no warnings or anything, just write them a ticket.”

The City Council will next meet in regular session at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 14 at City Hall.

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  • *

    It's time to make a decision. We're paid to make hard decisions.

    -- Posted by Vincent Aguirre on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 10:10 AM
  • Sounds like it should be a no vote and move on.

    -- Posted by beg on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 12:33 PM
  • Must be taking lessons from another governing body!

    -- Posted by Simplelife on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 2:39 PM
  • Sounds like the only person interesting passing the UTV ordinance is the lone democrat. Those things have no business on city streets and county roads. Just an accident waiting to happen. Vote no, tell Depauw to keep their UTV's off the street and move on!!

    -- Posted by Homegrown765 on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 3:31 PM
  • Maybe our President could ask Mitterand his perspective.

    -- Posted by beg on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 4:21 PM
  • *

    Homegrown765, you just have missed the part where Mayor Dunbar is frustrated this hasn't been voted on and also supports this passing. I'll gladly connect you with my many constituents, who are unaffiliated with DePauw or in some cases don't like DePauw, who want this to pass.

    You're welcome to join a council meeting to stay informed or read the recap I posted on Facebook, there's also a full audio recording.

    -- Posted by Vincent Aguirre on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 4:36 PM
  • -- Posted by Vincent Aguirre on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 4:39 PM
  • sounds like a ballot item!!!!

    some are for, some are against. who should get their way?

    -- Posted by beg on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 4:43 PM
  • *

    It's the job of the council to make and amend city code. We were already elected to do this. We just have to actually vote.

    -- Posted by Vincent Aguirre on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 4:49 PM
  • I can see alot more vehicle accident with these things on the streets.

    -- Posted by Leonard47 on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 6:38 PM
  • So, is a no vote acceptable?

    -- Posted by beg on Sat, Feb 10, 2024, at 12:21 AM
  • Vincent, keep up the good work and don't get thrown off by these comments.

    -- Posted by smartmom on Sat, Feb 10, 2024, at 9:19 AM
  • *

    Thanks, smartmom. I love the perspectives I receive from the comment section and will continue to welcome them! I also encourage people to reach out to me directly for a larger impact.

    -- Posted by Vincent Aguirre on Sat, Feb 10, 2024, at 3:08 PM
  • I just saw depauw driving their UTV just Last week on Washington st.

    -- Posted by Keepyaguessin on Mon, Feb 12, 2024, at 8:36 AM
  • These are driven all over the county and other towns in the county with no more accidents than normal, so that argument doesn't fly really. DePauw generally does what it wants to at any rate, so this is really concerning the rest of the city. Why don't you just put it on the ballot like "beg" suggested so the citizens can make their voices known by vote? Looks like the only way a vote will be happening....

    -- Posted by infiremanemt on Mon, Feb 12, 2024, at 1:56 PM
  • Vote NO!! It's a hazard, doesn't look good for the city and just another thing to police. Probably half won't even be insured. I am sure DePauw owns plenty of other vehicles available for town use.

    -- Posted by lstevens on Mon, Feb 12, 2024, at 1:56 PM
  • It's ok to say NO!!

    -- Posted by Falcon9 on Mon, Feb 12, 2024, at 5:36 PM
  • *

    Couldn’t get a second on his motion, so he came here to call out his fellow city councilors. I’m sure they are going to be thrilled to work with Vince for the next 4 years.

    -- Posted by The Crusty Curmudgeon on Wed, Feb 14, 2024, at 1:37 PM
  • *

    I'm sorry you feel that way, Crusty.

    -- Posted by Vincent Aguirre on Wed, Feb 14, 2024, at 5:51 PM
  • *

    Personally, I don't like 'em. Nope. Don't want 'em on the city streets.

    They are bad enough out on the county roads. Shouldn't be allowed on the road at all if they can't do the posted speed limit and don't have proper lights... and no, your SMV triangle ain't cuttin' it. Go to Van Bibber with your UTV.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Wed, Feb 14, 2024, at 7:45 PM
  • Well said, DPR!

    -- Posted by Prince of Stardust Hills on Wed, Feb 14, 2024, at 9:51 PM
  • Totally agree with DPR!

    -- Posted by Homegrown765 on Thu, Feb 15, 2024, at 1:40 AM
  • The new mayor and council members need to figure out that they were elected to represent the people of Greencastle. They are to find ways to make Greencastle a great place to live and as they come up with new ordinances they need to add value to the overall quality of life to all the residents of the city. I understand they have 12-15 people petitioning this, and according to what I read there may be another 150 people with UTVs. This is less than 2% of the citizens. I agree with DPR, I have seen these type vehicles on county roads and while I agree there are some that are safe and follow the laws, there are many that cut donuts, race, wheel stand, and such. I honestly cannot see when allowing UTVs will add any value to the residents , Vote NO.

    -- Posted by Cloversoup on Thu, Feb 15, 2024, at 8:49 AM
  • *

    trying to survive, I definitely see your perspective and while we might not agree on how to handle the UTV ordinance I am definitely ready to move on and work towards improving Greencastle.

    I can't speak for my colleagues but I have heard from countless people in support of the ordinance, many of whom live in my ward. I've heard from three opposed and one lives in my ward.

    I know crusty took my remarks as bashing my colleagues and I'm sorry if it came across that way.

    I'm simply ready to make a decision on UTVs to focus on more pressing issues.

    One specific issue brought to my attention in my ward, and I'm told is an issue in the entire city, is our city code and enforcement regarding animals. Specifically, I've encountered many people who feel they are not supported by the city when encountering dangerous dogs. One specific person I speak too often has had their home damaged by a neighboring dog and has had their children chased by the same animal.

    We're spending a lot of energy dwelling on UTVs when we could be focusing on other issues.

    Like I said before, I'm always open to hearing both sides of any issue by anyone who wants to reach out to me. Until a decision is made on your UTVs I'm willing to keep an open mind. However, I'm also ready for us to make a decision and move on.

    As always, please feel free to reach out directly. Personally, I'm going to give more weight to an argument made by a real person and not just a screen name on the comment section.

    I keep all conversations confidential with constituents unless you request that I share it publicly or at the meeting.

    -- Posted by Vincent Aguirre on Thu, Feb 15, 2024, at 10:31 AM
  • Hey Vincent! I just want you know how much I appreciate your open table of conversation! I'm not bashing the others, but I sure do appreciate that you are the ONLY council person's name that I even know, because you are out here talking, informing, and listening to the residents of GC with what is going on or in some cases what is not going on! The more we know, the better our town will be! Thank you for being so accessible to hear everyone out! Keep up the good work!! Side note: all you nah sayers were no where to be found, complaining about UTV's until it was brought up for an ordinance. They have been driving in town for years with very little disturbance if any? I'd be interested in hearing from the Police department on the amount of incidents there have been involving a UTV in the last 10 years.

    -- Posted by djc2020 on Thu, Feb 15, 2024, at 2:26 PM
  • Jeez, I hate when I agree with DPR.

    -- Posted by unbiased on Thu, Feb 15, 2024, at 8:38 PM
  • Also want to jump in here and say that while I don’t support this bill, the transparency and dialogue from councilman Aguirre is refreshing. All elected officials should heed that example.

    -- Posted by techphcy on Sat, Feb 17, 2024, at 6:42 PM
  • *

    Thank you, tech! I'd be happy to hear your opinion if you'd like to reach out. Have a great Sunday!

    -- Posted by Vincent Aguirre on Sun, Feb 18, 2024, at 8:56 AM
  • Not sure if my other comment here was removed because it linked to that “other” Putnam county news site, or because it was critical of DePauw and the local police relationship with DePauw.

    -- Posted by techphcy on Thu, Feb 29, 2024, at 11:47 AM
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