Residents weigh in on proposal allowing UTVs on Lee County roads

DIXON – Lee County residents spoke about the pros and cons of allowing non-highway vehicles on county roads Wednesday.

The Lee County Board recently formed a special committee to fine tune a proposed ordinance for utility terrain vehicles after deciding too many questions were left unanswered to move forward with the measure earlier this month.

Five people present at the committee meeting voiced their support for UTVs Wednesday, and another present was against allowing the UTVs on the roads.

Dixon Police Lt. Clay Whelan, himself a UTV rider, pointed to how the Dixon City Council approved a UTV ordinance for city streets about 5 years ago, and said they’ve had few problems to speak of.

About 5 years ago, the Blackhawk Trail Riders Club had approached the county about approving an ordinance to allow UTVs to ride on county roads, but the vote stalled after concerns were raised about safety, liability and state legislation.

Steve Dilger of the Blackhawk Trail Riders Club said the club raises money for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and food pantry, and 679 UTV permits have been registered in Dixon, bringing in more than $30,000 in revenue.

One concern has been UTVs riding illegally on Lowell Park Road, adding to traffic and safety concerns.

“We’ve done everything we can to stop illegal riding on Lowell Park Road,” Dilger said.

Resident Mark Ceccetti, who lives on Lowell Park Road, has approached the board about the problems on Lowell Park Road and also has worked with the sheriff’s department regarding the safety concerns. He said UTVs don’t belong on roadways.

“These vehicles are not suitable to be on the road,” he said. “They’re designed for off-highway, off-road use.”

Amboy Mayor John Schamberger, also a UTV rider, wrote a statement to the committee saying that Amboy approved a UTV ordinance 5 years ago and that the city has had minimal problems. He said the approved ordinance also was a way to connect communities and support local businesses.

Lee County Sheriff John Simonton said one of the problems they’re struggling with is how to interpret UTV laws with the Illinois Vehicle Code, which states that UTVs can only be on roads with speed limits 35 mph or lower.

In Mercer County, officials changed speed limits from 55 mph to 35 mph to accommodate UTVs, but the officials since have been dealing with angry residents and other problems, he said.

“It needs to be ironed out whether we can do this or not,” Simonton said.

Lee County Board member Jack Skrogstad said the committee members will need to reach out townships and cities about the UTV ordinance as well and how they might be impacted.

Committee members spoke about different topics including who would handle the permits, whether the UTVs should be inspected, whether they should be required to have windshields, and what the minimum age for UTV drivers should be. The committee plans to meet again next week.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.