- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

GROTON, Vt. (AP) - Groton voters rejected a proposal Tuesday to allow the use of all-terrain vehicles on some town roads in the longest Town Meeting Day debate since the rural community discussed a $1 fee for registering cats in 1999.

After a 30-minute discussion, residents voted 51 to 36 against the proposal. Opponents cited concerns over safety, noise, and damage to roads and other property, as well as enforcement issues. The cat registration fee passed after 45 minutes of debate 16 years ago.

Town Constable Jim Downing, who enjoys riding an ATV with his wife, said he proposed opening up some roads to link up to ATV trails in neighboring communities but he wasn’t certain which roads would ultimately be used to connect to trails. He said if the measure were passed, the speed limit for ATV riders would be 20 mph.

“Right now we’re a roadblock,” he said of neighboring trails that could be linked to Groton.

Katie Hanley, who walks her dogs near one of the roads, said snowmobilers pass through her front yard and don’t obey the speed limit. “So what guarantee can you give me that they’re going to obey the speed limit for the ATVs?” she said.

Downing said he couldn’t provide any guarantees, saying a few “cowboys” might violate the rules. But he said other towns have had few, if any, problems since the roads have been open for a while.

Ellen Cady, who already deals with ATVs on her road, said she finds them intrusive and disruptive to the road conditions. Last year, she and her neighbor spent $1,000 to put down gravel during mud season because so many ATVs had used the road, she 0said.

“For me personally, living out there in the middle of nowhere, I really appreciate my quiet and the noise and also the speed of the ATVs I have concerns about,” she said.

But Julie Oliver said ATV trails would give families and youngsters more to do. If it’s already working in other towns, why not give it a try, she said.

“It might be a really cool opportunity. You see elderly people, you see really young guys,” she said.

Voters in communities across Vermont were deciding issues large and small on Town Meeting Day. Issues included town and school budgets, local construction projects and local political races.

Democrat Miro Weinberger overcame challenges from three opponents to win a second term as Burlington mayor, the Burlington Free Press reported Tuesday night. Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras, facing two opponents, also won re-election, the Rutland Herald reported.

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