Proposal allowing all-purpose vehicles on Unalaska roads stopped in its tracks
A city proposal to allow all-purpose vehicles on Unalaska’s streets failed to move forward Tuesday. The Unalaska City Council voted against allowing the ordinance to proceed to its next meeting.
Unalaska currently prohibits the use of all-purpose vehicles — like four-wheelers and all-terrain vehicles — on city streets. But a state law that went into effect this year opens the door to allow these modes of transport on public roads in places not prohibited by local law or ordinance.
Unalaska’s City Council has been debating for several months whether to allow their use on the island, and members of the community have made public comments both in support and in opposition.
Two community members spoke in support of allowing their use on Tuesday.
Travis Swangel has been riding motorcycles on the island for 25 years. He said by voting “no,” councilors will be robbing Unalaskans from a benefit enjoyed by other communities.
“I think the bulk of the community is responsible enough to enjoy this in a respectful manner,” Swangel said. “People are expected to play by the rules, and I think most people will.”
Denise Rankin, president of Unalaska’s Native village corporation, read a statement from its board and management.
She said the Ounalashka Corp. does not support ATV use on state and city roads because of the possibility of increased damage to the land, injury to other land users and noise pollution.
“Did you know that Unalaska is the envy of other communities whose hills, valleys and mountains are scarred with offroading tracks and hiking trails full of deep ruts?” Rankin said. “Exploring what other Aleutian communities have done to discourage offroading, we have learned that Unalaska is one of the unique communities and embraces a zero-tolerance policy towards offroading. It’s a policy we choose because we respect the land and peoples’ safety.”
A majority vote among the city’s six council members was required to move the ordinance forward. But since two were absent from Tuesday’s meeting, just one “no” vote from the group of four present would stop it in its tracks.
Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson said he was on the council when they passed an ordinance prohibiting the use of offroad vehicles in the late 1980s. He said there’s too much danger.
“I understand that some people are responsible, but we have to make rules and regulations for the people that least have the ability to protect themselves,” he said.
The ordinance ultimately failed to move forward in a 2-2 vote. Robinson and councilor Thom Bell both voted against moving the proposal to a second reading on April 12.