San Bernardino County officials keep law restricting off-roading

San Bernardino County officials keep law restricting off-roading

By DUANE W. GANG – 8/22/07
The Press-Enterprise


The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to keep a year-old law restricting the use of motorcycles and other off-road vehicles intact.

The supervisors will reconsider a provision requiring a $155 permit for 10 or more people to gather and operate off-highway vehicles.

No date has been set to take up the law again.

Off-highway vehicle use is popular in San Bernardino County, especially with the vast stretches of open space available in the largest county in the lower 48 states.

Off-road-vehicle use has often drawn complaints from residents about noise, dust and trespassing. Supervisors last year approved the law and agreed to reconsider the issue in a year.

“This issue is really resolved best by good manners, good manners on both sides,” Supervisor Dennis Hansberger said.

The rules, approved in April 2006, require riders on private property to have written permission from the owners, to apply for a temporary-event permit when 10 or more riders gather, and to use vehicles that meet state noise standards.

Riders also are subject to laws that make it illegal to disturb the peace and quiet of a residential area.

Off-highway-vehicle enthusiasts said the law should be repealed or revised. They argued that only a small number of riders are problems, while the law infringes on a person’s private-property rights by requiring the permit for 10 or more riders. The permit was their biggest concern.

Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who, along with Hansberger, represents most of the areas popular with off-road vehicles, said the permit process must be streamlined. But he said he was unwilling to alter the law immediately.

“I think three weeks to get a permit for staging for OHV activity is too long,” he said. “For all the good the ordinance has done, that may be beyond what the board’s intent was.”

With more than 100 people voicing their views to supervisors, the hearing lasted all afternoon. The board began taking public comment at about 1:30 p.m. and didn’t wrap up until 5:40 p.m.

Jenny Doling, a Yucca Valley lawyer and off-highway-vehicle rider, said special permits are typically for large events such as concerts, not riding motorcycles.

“This is why we are here today, to correct a wrong,” Doling said.

Supporters of the law, carrying signs reading “Stop ORV Outlaws,” “Dust Noise Trespass Harassment,” and “No Trespassing on My Land,” gathered in front of the County Government Center in San Bernardino before the start of Tuesday’s meeting to urge supervisors not to tinker with the restrictions.

“It is already a fair and effective document and should be upheld and renewed,” said Chris Carraher, a Wonder Valley resident and founding member of the group OHV Watch.

County code enforcement officials said the law is proving effective. It provides specific measures that can be used for enforcement, said Randy Rogers, head of county code enforcement.

Rogers said any time a local government attempts to regulate a person’s leisure activities, the move will prove controversial. But this law was not developed in a vacuum, he said. Both sides were present during the debate and had input, Rogers said.

Sheriff Gary Penrod said deputies needed the law to deal with riders on private property.

“We need to have some kind of enforcement tool,” he said.