WILLIAMSTOWN — The recently reformed committee that has been tasked with evaluating a proposal to permit all-terrain vehicles to legally use some local roads is enjoying a brief break.
The committee, which has met once since the Select Board accepted resident Rama Schneider’s offer to serve as its chairman last month, is in the midst of taking two weeks off before settling into the every other Tuesday meeting schedule it agreed to on Aug. 20.
Unless it wraps up work on the controversial subject sooner, the committee has agreed to meet twice a month through November before assessing where it is at.
In the interest of predictability and transparency those meetings will all be held at the same time — 6:30 p.m. — and in the same place, the public safety building.
The committee plans to pick up where it left off when it meets next Tuesday and will meet again on Sept. 24. The alternating Tuesday schedule will include meetings set for Oct. 10, Oct. 24, Nov. 5 and Nov. 19.
Schneider said the committee hasn’t planned beyond that, but members will consider a motion when it meets next Tuesday that would create a self-imposed deadline. If approved the proposed motion would require the committee to prepare for a public presentation no later than Jan. 7, 2020.
According to the wording of the proposed motion the: “… presentation may or may not contain a proposal for an ordinance, policy, or other official town directive regarding the use by ATVs of town roads.”
Schneider said the committee — a mix of ATV enthusiasts and residents who aren’t so sure it’s a good idea to allow town roads to be used by those recreational vehicles – had a productive first meeting.
“I can’t predict the outcome, but I feel very confident in the committee’s ability to work together,” he said.
Schneider claimed no credit for getting the committee back on track after an earlier version that included many of the same members encountered problems that required Select Board intervention and direction.
Among other things the board agreed to rescind the appointment of its two representatives to the earlier committee, while asking Schneider to facilitate its work.
So far so good, according to Schneider, who said committee members are taking their assignment seriously.
“This is an important issue to a lot of people and I think everyone gets that,” he said.
Schneider said committee members feel strongly about the need to update, and in some cases inform, all town residents about a still-evolving proposal and he planned to ask the Select Board on Monday to authorize a town-wide mailing the committee will discuss in more detail the following night.
After consulting with Town Manager Jackie Higgins, Schneider estimated the cost of the mailing at approximately $650. From the committee’s perspective, he said, it would be money well-spent.
“It’s an important way to reach out to the entire community,” he said of the proposed mailing.
Beth Allen was asked to produce a draft of the contents of the proposed mailing for consideration by other members of the committee at Tuesday’s meeting. Two other committee members – Shaun Boyce and Travis Pierce – have been asked to prepare a Google map of the roads that are currently being requested for inclusion in the proposed trail network.
A visual of the proposed trail system has been lacking from the start and some of the 20 roads that were part of an initial proposal have been dropped, creating further confusion and more than a few calls for clarity.
Though nearly 20 town roads were initially identified, it was never clear whether all, or just parts, of them were part of the proposal floated by the fledgling ATV club the Billtown Wheelers earlier this year.
The club views an ordinance that would allow ATVs to legally use some roads as a means of accessing off-road trails in Williamstown and neighboring communities, as well as a way to regulate their use in town.
However, many town residents are wary the ordinance could invite problems that don’t currently exist, while generating noise and other nuisances associated with ATVs.
The committee has agreed to make an unbiased determination of whether or not any proposed ordinance is in the best interest of the town and if so, where ATV use should be allowed and how it should be regulated.