ATVs on ATD roads being reconsidered

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When the Intergovernmental committee met last Monday, August 1st, the first item on their agenda was the request for approval of ATVs on River Road within the Adventure Tourism District.

Ben Garrett was once again on hand to speak for the Adventure Tourism (AT) committee. He provided a map of the Adventure Tourism District, as well as a complete road list, to each commissioner. This led to much discussion among commissioners, with an audience of supporters watching and listening.

Commissioner Robin Newman stated that she had talked with Sheriff Ronnie Phillips and he was confident that his department could enforce all applicable laws. Commissioner Shelia Buttram said that she was meeting with the City Manager of Rocky Top on Wednesday to discuss their issuance of permits.

Garrett pointed out that Rocky Top was different from Scott Counties Adventure Tourism District, so comparison is not really possible. Beaty pointed out that Rocky Top was also a municipal government with an enforcement capability.

Garrett once again pointed out that the AT committee's main concern was addressing River Road before the September events take place.

The discussion then went back to whether or not they should approve just River Road, or all the roads within the Adventure Tourism District as presented. Commissioner Rick Russ pointed out that if they approve just River Road, what happens when someone unfamiliar with the area turns on Winona Road.

Commissioner Trent Cross told commissioners of his discussion with Sheriff Phillips. Cross said that he was told that no officers can take off during the period of the events, nor use comp time. He believes that commissioners need to really consider the effect approval would have on overtime and comp time within the Sheriff's Department. Cross asked that commissioners consider putting some verbiage in any resolution to address development of a permit to help offset costs with sells filtering through the County Clerk's office.

Newman suggested approval of the roads and then working on a permit. There was then a motion made by Commissioner Blue Day and seconded by Commissioner Patti Brown to approve all the roads within the AT District. Additional discussion then ensued with Russ stating that approval might lead to increased safety for riders, since they will have to meet all the state requirements to ride on the road within the AT District.

Beaty recommended that the committee stick with what the AT committee was asking at that time and Garrett reiterated that the ATC main concern was River Road. This is because River Road is central for these events.

Beaty also made a point of telling commissioners that no information has yet been received from the state indicating that the county has any authority to access a fee on ATVs and that permitting should be put on hold until the state makes a valid determination. The whole Adventure Tourism District issue is a new and unfamiliar animal for state departments that they are still trying to get a handle on.

In the end, the committee approved all roads within the AT District and it now goes to the full board for approval by a two-thirds (10) vote.

The concern now is that in 2 weeks, since the resolution will include all roads and not just River Road, it will once again fail to get the 10 votes necessary for approval.

Commissioner Sam Lyles addressed his constituents directly and told them that if they oppose approval, they need to be present in two weeks to make their opposition known; otherwise it was likely to be approved.

Garrett later made the same request of supporters on Facebook, to be present and make their support known to commissioners.

The full board will meet on Monday, August 15th, starting at 6 p.m. The opportunity for the public to speak will come before the commissioners take up any resolutions for vote. This will be the public opportunity, not when the resolution is actually presented.

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