Commissioners at the regular Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting voted 4-1 to approve a new Ordinance (2023-05) prohibiting all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to operate on any public county roadway, paved or unpaved. Commissioner Steve Champion was the dissenting voice.
The Ordinance repeals Ordinance 2017-33 Section 3, which is an amendment to Hernando County Code Section 20-2, which made it legal to operate ATVs “on public unpaved roadways with speed limits under 35 MPH.” It was an “opt-out” of a Florida Statute which prohibited the practice at the state level, however, gave counties the right to allow it.
The new law does not apply to private property.
The Ordinance came as a result of a request by Chairman John Allocco during the February 28th meeting, when he reported that he was receiving numerous complaints from constituents about disruptive ATV riders.
Allocco said that the 2017 ordinance has “taken the teeth away” from the state statute by allowing ATV ridership on unpaved roads. “So what happens? They drive on the paved roads too because they’re right next to the unpaved roads.”
He went on to say that unpaved roads and some Drainage Retention Areas (DRAs) have visible damage from ATV use. The repairs have been presenting unnecessary costs to the county, and enforcement has no power to stop the activity. “We’re not going to be paving any roads anytime soon … but we do have to maintain them, and they’re getting torn up.”
Golf carts are not affected by the new ordinance, as they have a separate legal designation.
Champion voted against approving the ordinance, as it suppresses the rights of riders obeying the law. “It’s not a conservative thing to do, to restrict law-abiding citizens from abiding by the law. Instead, we should punish the people that are breaking the law.”
Matt Lillibridge, Community Policing Sergeant for the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), said that when the ordinance was passed approximately 23 years ago, Hernando was the among the first to opt out. He praises the new ordinance and its intent to prevent further damage to roadways. “It is absolutely destroying our county roads … A third of the dirt roads in the Ridge Manor Estates are in deplorable condition.”
Lillibridge reported that the number of ATV complaints received by HCSO is second only to speeding. The new ordinance gives law enforcement “another tool in the toolbox” to be able to address ATV infractions.