PARIS — The use of ATVs on a public road, as well as the issue of notification of the road’s residents, led to a lengthy discussion Monday at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting.

James and Paula Hakala, of 17 Parsons Road, asked to appear on the agenda to discuss the issue. James said he was concerned that the selectmen authorized the use of the road by ATVs as a way to connect to different trails. According to state law, ATVs cannot operate on public ways unless municipal officials approve a road as an ATV-accessible route. In those cases, the town must ensure that the ATVs will not interfere with traffic or operate in an unsafe manner, and riders must keep to the extreme right of the road. Several signs along Parsons Road set the speed limit at 10 miles per hour.

James said he and his wife moved to Paris looking for a quiet area, and specifically sought to be away from off-road trails because they formerly lived near them in Auburn. James said he received a letter from the X-Tra Mile ATV club about the intent to use the road for ATV access, but was never informed that the selectmen would act on the request. At a June meeting, the selectmen authorized ATV use on stretches of Parsons Road, Elm Hill Road, and Brett Hill Road to connect with trail systems in other towns.

James said the selectmen should have given notice to residents in the area before making the decision.

“Our right to privacy, integrity, security and being in God’s country for the roads being impacted was taken away by the town of South Paris,” he said.

James said ATVs often pass his home in large numbers, with 66 going by in one weekend, and that they increase the risk of car accidents. He said ATVs produce high levels of noise pollution, health risks from noise and dust, and depreciated home values in the area. He asked the board to reconsider its decision.

Other residents also spoke against the use of the road for ATV access. Lawrence Curtis, who lives near an intersection of ATV trails on Parsons Road, said he has had problems with groups of riders stopping while idling their engines and talking over the noise. Jeff Parsons, who said his family has had a home on the road since 1787, argued that the ATV use was harmful to the area.

“I think the more this area might become known as a safe haven, or a place where ATVs are common and welcome, the quality of life is going to suffer,” Parsons said.

Mark Stearns, treasurer of the X-Tra Mile ATV Club, said notice of the club’s intent was given to all neighbors in the area, though some letters were left in mailboxes rather than delivered personally. Stearns said he did not receive any complaints, and also that ATVs are not supposed to exceed a noise level of 96 decibels.

“They’re not intrusively loud at a distance any more than an automobile or a lawn mower,” he said.

Chris Kennison of the Oxford Trail Riders said he did not receive any initial complaints on the proposal to use the road to connect Oxford trails to the Paris network. However, he said the club will now use property owned by Robert Ripley to avoid the gravel section of Parsons Road.

Ripley, who owns four pieces of property along Parsons Road, said the riders he has come across on the road are courteous and obey the speed limit. Ripley suggested that the clubs and residents work out an understanding without contention, and also argued that the ATVs do not make as much noise as some other vehicles.

“What’s next?” he asked. “The neighbor mows the lawn too early or too loud? The farmer haying too early or too late?”

Chief David Verrier of the Paris Police Department said a patrol over the weekend observed 23 ATVs, with no violation of laws. He urged the clubs to keep up discussions with residents and provide someone to continue monitoring the use of the trails.

“People that aren’t in these clubs, they’re the ones who seem to be the offenders, and they’re probably the ones who are causing problems,” Verrier said.

Selectman Jean Smart said she did not realize that the June vote would open Parsons Road to ATVs, and instead thought it would only open a section of Elm Hill Road to connect with West Paris trails. Selectman Ted Kurtz suggested that a ban on ATVs would also threaten the use of other kinds of vehicles on the road.

“If we’re going to have to rule out ATVs, we’re going to have to rule out motorcycles. We’re going to have to rule out snowmobiles,” he said.

Kurtz said he did agree that the town should make sure that residents are informed of any proposed developments in their neighborhood. He motioned for the issue to be tabled for three months, with notice given to Parsons Road residents, and encourage discussions between clubs and residents in the interim. The board voted 4-1, with Smart opposed, to revisit the issue at the Dec. 13 meeting.

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