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Kanawha leaders move toward relaxing ATV restrictions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Commission approved a motion Tuesday to develop a plan and schedule meaningful public discussion on proposed changes to the county’s ATV ordinance.

The move comes after the county’s planning office hosted several public hearings earlier this month.

Kent Carper

Commission President Kent Carper said it’s time to draft a plan, hear from the public again and then vote on it.

“I’s a blend. It’s a tough call and there will be some criticism on this,” Carper said Tuesday.

Carper drafted the current ATV ordinance more than a dozen years ago. It’s very restrictive when it comes to where and when the machines can be operated. Carper admitted Tuesday it’s time to change the measure.

“Is it time to modify it? I think it is. I’m not a bit surprised that some people like it the way it is,” Carper said.

Commissioner Ben Salango said the county can forget any hopes of an Upper Kanawha Valley recreation plan if the current ordinance isn’t changed.

“Right now you haul your side-by-side in and then you want to fill it up with gas and you have to haul it to the gas station, then haul it to the trail head. It’s very cumbersome and will prohibit economic development,” Salango said.

There were dozens of ATV deaths a year in the state in the early 2000s but those numbers have drastically decreased in recent years. Salango said that’s due to safety improvements.

Ben Salango

“They truly have (changed),” Salango said. “We went from having three-wheelers to now having side-by-sides that are enclosed. They are much safer now,” he said.

Kanawha County Planner Cassidy Riley, who conducted the public hearings, said they heard from residents on both sides of the issue but most agreed relaxing the current restrictions would help economic development.

“Proponents of keeping the restrictions in place were very agreeable to the idea that we would alter the current ordinance to promote economic development in the Upper Kanawha Valley,” Riley told the commission. “We’re trying to craft this in a way that will make Kanawha County a destination location.”

Carper said the county may take a hybrid approach.

“I do believe we’ll have to target it. Maybe we’ll do a pilot program, mark the highways in a certain area and get the word out,” he said.

Carper said relaxing the ordinance would not excuse drunk driving, reckless driving and noise all hours of the night

The commission said it would consult with the sheriff’s office before coming up with a final plan.

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