COLTON Six Colton residents are appealing a recent town board decision to approve a local law granting permission for all-terrain vehicle operation on certain roads in the town of Colton at a hearing scheduled for Nov. 8.
The appeal was filed Monday in state Supreme Court by Mary Jane Watson, Brian Parrotte, Jill Parrotte, James Ferris, Joann Ferris and Mary S. Rutley, all of whom live on either Route 56 and Cold Brook Drive.
The local law was adopted Aug. 14 during the towns monthly board meeting.
The Article 78 appeal alleges the town board failed to satisfy the statutory standards for opening town roads to all-terrain vehicles, which are currently illegal to operate on town highways, it notes.
The appeal also charges the local law is arbitrary and capricious and violates the state constitution and suggests the town violated the states Environmental Quality Review Act when enacting the local law.
Town Supervisor Dennis B. Bulger said he was far from surprised by the filing.
I was not surprised at all. It was fully expected from day one. Even from the public hearings, it was evident that there is a small group that would carry this decision into litigation, Mr. Bulger said.
The law, as it stands, gives ATVs access to parts of Morgan Road, Windmill Road and Cold Brook Drive, equaling 2.95 miles. The route connects two trails that exist for off-road ATV traffic, according to town officials.
At the time of its adoption, town board members said the law would stimulate the local economy and be highly beneficial to the public. They also said it could attract more tourists.
Mr. Bulger said that despite the filing of Article 78 action, he and the board are confident with their defense.
Its a pretty set procedure. Copies are being made at the office as we speak. Copies will be sent to our attorney and to the county. Then we will get prepared to go for a hearing. It is set right now for Nov. 8, thats the preliminary date for now, he said. We think our position is defensible.
ATV traffic has long been a topic of discussion for the Colton town board. According to documentation of the groups appeal, the board passed a local law on Feb. 11, 2004, opening 50 of 55 miles, or 90.9 percent, of town roads to ATV traffic. That law was annulled, however, in the case of Hutchins v. Town of Colton because it was made in violation of lawful procedures, which imposes an obligation upon the municipality.
A presentation, Blazing Trails: New Life Through Community Links, was held in May at Colton-Pierrepont Central School.
There it was announced that the St. Lawrence County Multi-Use Trail System would be opening soon in Colton, Pierrepont, Parishville and Hopkinton and would run throughout the county and the north country.
The local law did come with eight rules, conditions and restrictions attached to it. The criteria ranged from restrictions from using the ATVs between midnight and 6 a.m., to disallowing the operator to exceed 30 miles per hour and the prohibition of riding on the shoulder of the designated roads other than on the travel roadway unless the person is bringing the ATV to a stop or already has stopped.
These modifications were not enough for Ms. Ferris and Ms. Rutley.
I just feel its a real safety hazard. Cold Brook Drive isnt meant for all of this extra traffic, Ms. Ferris said. For me, its a safety concern for now and for the future. ATVs are already on private property. My husband will be 82 in February, and this will be more than an inconvenience for us.
As you read through the violations, (the town board) didnt do their homework. They never did a traffic survey. Its not safe; its just not safe, she said.
We dont have any enforcement as far as ATVs in Colton. Theyre trespassing on other areas, and its been a problem for a long time. My husband is in a wheelchair now, and he would like to have more peace and quiet rather than commotion, Ms. Rutley said. Some of the tie-ups in Lewis County are similar to the ones here going on. As I see it, they have ignored the vehicle and traffic law. They are in violation of the state constitution as well.
Back in August, Mr. Bulger addressed the possibility of an appeal or some other challenge coming the town boards way.
This time, the county is going through this whole process, looking at the environmental impact and all thats required to get everything in position so that once were challenged, this time we should be in a position to defend it, he said.