By Tommy Acosta
Sedna, AZ –Predictably, the Sedona City Council at its September 12 meeting, failed to arrive at any consensus or take action on a possible Off Highway Vehicle Volunteer Agreement or the resurrection of a proposed ordinance regulating such vehicles on city streets.
Obviously, without the threat of perceived “unsafe” OHVs being banned on city streets hanging over their heads, there is no longer impetus for these companies to volunteer to any city-imposed restrictions or requirements.
We should not be surprised that with that cat out of the bag, the volunteer OHV companies will simply now pull out. Why bother if the ordinance is a toothless tiger?
The ordinance is dead. The council has lost its appetite for a three-or-more year legal battle between the city and the OHV business owners, a fight the city would handily lose.
The volunteer effort is kaput. Though interesting and fueled by emotion, it’s all been a waste of time.
One volunteer OHV operator made it clear at the meeting their business has already lost employees afraid they would lose their jobs if a ban went into effect; lost money and time preparing for the volunteer agreement requirements.
With the city vacillating on a date to officially finalize the agreement, the effort to do so has become a dead end for all parties involved.
Perhaps it was a noble effort on the part of the council to protect the safety of the community, considering there were at least four OHV non-fatal accidents over the last three years but with heavyweights like the Goldwater Institute and a Republican dominated state legislator waiting in the wings and spoiling for a legal fight, the council did the right thing by chickening out.
Despite the possibility that the city would lose in a legal battle to the aforementioned heavyweights, Sedona Mayor Scott Jablow still feels the city is doing the right thing and making progress.
“The proposed city ordinance regulating unsafe vehicles, like OHVs, led to many valuable and broader discussions with local OHV rental companies, the US Forest Service, and the Greater Sedona Recreation Collaborative,” the Mayor said in response to this editorial. “I feel very strongly that the City has a right to restrict unsafe vehicles on our city streets, and even ban OHVs from city streets, but through those discussions, I believe our residents are best served by compromising, if possible, with the four OHV rental companies in our city rather than litigating the proposed ordinance.
“While I have issues with the mechanical worthiness of OHVs on public roads, the compromise offered by Outback ATV, Sedona / Red Rock ATV, Safari Jeep Tours and Sedona CanAm reduces those issues and even offered improvements in areas the proposed city ordinance did not regulate like quieter mufflers and support for a US Forest Service permitting system.
“I trust the OHV rental companies will fulfill the terms of their voluntary commitment to the City Council, but should they not implement their promises, the City Council will revisit the proposed ordinance.”
The city attorney obviously put a lot of time and effort into crafting the ordinance to Council specifications. Hours and hours of work had to have been put into it.
The ordinance may have been seen as air-tight to some but the truth is it was a leaking balloon right from Jump Street.
Volunteer groups worked hard to meet the concerns of residents affected by OHVs running through their neighborhoods and the volunteer OHV companies bent over backwards, but still too many loose ends in the agreement could not bring the council to a consensus.
At this point the city needs to forget about the OHV fiasco and concentrate instead on bringing tourism back to Sedona.