Council shoots down committee’s moratorium request

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — A moratorium request delaying the enforcement of the use of non-traditional vehicles (NTVs) on Sidney public roadways was not granted Monday evening during Sidney City Council’s teleconference meeting.

Non-Traditional Vehicle Use Ad Hoc Committee Chair Randy Rose brought forth the moratorium request after the committee voted at its Monday afternoon meeting to make the request of City Council.

Sidney City Council asked for the Non-Traditional Vehicle Use Ad Hoc Committee — the committee assembled to study whether golf carts and other NTVs should be allowed on city streets — to keep working to provide a recommendation on the issue instead of granting the request.

Rose’s request included a two-month extension delaying the ticketing of these vehicles after legislation on the issue would be adopted. It could take up to two months for owners to get their vehicles upgraded with the to-be determined requirements, such as likely lights or seat belts, etc., he explained.

Currently, Sidney Police is issuing warnings until May 1, after which they will begin giving out citations of NTVs on city streets.

Initially, Council member Darryl Thurber said it “makes a lot of sense” to grant the request so it would give enough time to get the committee’s recommendation, but later reconsidered after learning more about a moratorium from the law director. Mayor Mike Barhorst said he thought council should take the issue — which had been previously tabled — off the table and discuss it after receiving the report from the committee. Council member Jenny VanMatre pointed out police will be still beginning to issue tickets after May 1. Barhorst said he understands, but there are also other residents who do not believe NTVs should be on city roads.

When asked for his opinion about whether a moratorium “is the way to go” to suspend the May 1 date until legislation is adopted, Law Director Jeff Amick explained, unless you make specific recommendations about what can be used on city streets and by who and where, it creates a safety situation for the city.

“A moratorium means it would be equally applied across the city,” Amick said. “You are basically saying, that you can can operate anything — a golf cart that was manufactured in 1970 by a 14-year-old child down Michigan Street on Friday at noon. That, to me, doesn’t make a lot of sense. But can you do it, yes. Would it make a lot of sense, no.”

He further said he hopes the message City Council sends to its constituents is there is a law that currently does not allow NTVs to be on city streets and not to encourage the law to be broken or disregarded.

“That’s what law-abiding citizens do, they abide by the law,” Amick said. “Whether you like it or not, right now the law is you can’t operate these these things on the city street. If you open it up, then anybody can operate anything.”

Council member Steve Wagner said for years everyone turned a blind eye to the use of NTVs, and at one time he probably would have agreed, but once he joined City Council, he took an oath to the state of Ohio and the city of Sidney. He said agreeing to grant the moratorium would be to instruct city police to ignore the law, therefore he said he could not support the request.

Rose countered with, “First of all, how many years have we not had an ordinance on this?” Barhorst responded, “It was passed by the state of Ohio January 2017.” Rose continued, “Yes, Jan.1, 2017, it’s been amended several times, but however, the state law also refers to municipalities, and you have not set the ordinance yet.”

Barhorst replied that no one had asked for it to be addressed. Rose responded that two years ago the police chief had. It was pointed out the topic came before council in 2020.

Police Chief Will Balling informed City Council in a proposed ordinance in 2020 the Ohio General Assembly adopted legislation in 2017 permitting the use of specified NTVs on Ohio city streets provided the local municipality adopts legislation authorizing such use. Without such authorization, he emphasized, the NTVs described in the ordinance are not permitted to be operated on the public streets within Sidney.

“We are just asking on behalf of the cart owners to give us some time,” Rose reiterated numerous times during the meeting. “I think we (the committee) are going to have it settled in the next two meetings.”

Several council members, including VanMatre, Ed Hamaker and Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan, who also all serve on the NTV committee, said they were unaware the moratorium would open the use up to anyone, anywhere and for any vehicle in the city. In light of the new information, they expressed not being comfortable with granting the request.

Rose pushed back several times on giving cart owners time, saying he thinks they “need to use a little common sense.” He said what is being asked is not out of the ordinary after researching over a dozen other cities. He also noted this will impede city owned NTVs to conduct work across town.

Barhorst thanked Rose for the committee’s work and again reminded him other residents feel golf carts should not be on city streets.

“We need to listen to everybody. I would be much more comfortable when you come and give us your presentation and tell us what you think we should be doing, with the law director hopefully having some input into that,” Barhorst said.

After continued push back from Rose for more time, and council members expressing their safety concerns, in the end, the request was not granted.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.