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ATVs banned in McKeesport

| Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 3:57 a.m.
Beatrice Longo, a resident of McKeesport's Haler Heights neighborhood, addresses city council during a Wednesday hearing about a possible ban on recreational use of dirt bikes and ATVs. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Jimmy Young, a resident of McKeesport's Haler Heights neighborhood, said he believes property owners should be permitted to engage in recreational activities of their choice on their land. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News

In response to mounting controversy, McKeesport council banned the recreational use of dirt bikes, ATVs and other off-road vehicles within city limits.

An ordinance prohibiting the use of recreational motor vehicles, defined as self-propelled motorized vehicles used for recreational purposes, was adopted in a 4-3 vote. Councilors A.J. Tedesco, Keith Soles, V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery and president Darryl Segina approved the ban, while Dan Carr, Richard J. Dellapenna and vice president Dale McCall dissented.

While she voted in favor of the ordinance, Walker-Montgomery said it is a temporary solution that she hopes to amend in March.

“It's gone on long enough, and we need to decide on a solution tonight,” she said. “This issue has gotten out of hand and we need to address this immediately ... I don't want these residents to suffer any longer than they have on both sides.”

Walker-Montgomery said council should consider amendments including ATV-appropriate zones that would maintain a residential ban. She expects Segina to include an amendment on the March agenda, and she will request a special meeting to discuss potential revisions in a public forum. Such a meeting would require advertisement of the time, location and purpose at least 48 hours in advance.

Dellapenna suggested the matter be tabled until revisions could be made.

“There needs to be some type of compromise,” Dellapenna said. “I'm against a total ban. However, I would support restrictions being placed on a distance from residences or areas for recreational use.”

After a public hearing on the matter, Mayor Michael Cherepko urged council to find middle ground on the issue.

“With this ATV ordinance on their agenda, they have a difficult decision to make,” he said. “I think you need to find a happy medium to make sure that the ones who ride the ATVs can continue to do so, but in a manner that they're not doing it and infringing upon residents' rights.”

David Zavetsky, a Diehl Drive resident in McKeesport's Haler Heights neighborhood, spoke during the public hearing that preceded council's voting session. He said the proposed ban infringes on the rights of all city residents.

“It is about how we each enjoy our own property and how we all need to be tolerant of others' use of their property,” Zavetsky said.

Referencing the potential stress of neighbors who have loud pool equipment, operate lawn care machines, play basketball in their driveways, house excitable dogs, or smoke cigarettes on their porches, he said those matters should not stir public opposition.

“It's extremely annoying, but I don't haul my neighbors before you folks and ask for ordinances,” he said. “Because frankly, I may annoy a neighbor or two myself with my own activities.”

Larry Maneer, who lives along Cleveland Street in the city's Grandview neighborhood, said it's “ridiculous” that a “squabble between two neighbors has reached this point.” As a quad owner who uses the vehicle for lawn maintenance, which is a permitted exception in the recreational ban, Maneer said he never has received a complaint from neighbors.

Zavetsky and Maneer referenced the public dispute that has been occurring since September, when several Haler Heights residents took issue with the Young family's purchase of acreage across the street from their Arnold Drive home. The Youngs said they intended to allow their children and friends to ride dirt bikes and ATVs on the land, and neighbors said the activity is annoying and hazardous.

After a handful of residents presented their concerns to council each month, Wainwright Drive resident Beatrice Longo in December presented council with sample ordinances, one of which was approved in its exact submitted form on Wednesday night.

“Spring is coming,” Longo said. “Tensions are high. Things are getting really vulgar (online), and we need to have you decide if we are going to preserve the residential areas of this city for all citizens or you're going to turn it into a recreational park for a few.”

During the hearing, Longo presented council with a petition of approximately 180-190 residents who support the ban.

Wainwright Drive resident Marti Gastel was among those who supported the ban, focusing her hearing testimony on the ill effects of noise pollution.

“Noise pollution is not just something that old folks like me find annoying,” Gastel said. She cited the Environmental Protection Agency's finding that “the annoyance can have major consequences, primarily to one's overall health.”

Jimmy Young said he doesn't believe the issue ever truly has been about a dirt bike or ATV.

“In my opinion, this has been a kid issue,” Young said.

Because Young's children and their peers are “playing in the woods where people have quietly enjoyed their backyards,” he said that expected peace is disrupted. “Fortunately, they're my kids and I know where my kids are at when they're down there playing in those woods.”

In response to neighborhood complaints about recreational vehicles violating the state Motor Vehicle Code by spending any time on a roadway, Young said he purchased license plates and registration papers for three of his family's bikes.

“What I will never do is buckle to an ordinance that tells me what I can and cannot do on private property,” Young said. “I'll be doggone if I let someone tell me I can't ride on my property. That would be like somebody saying you can't drive your car onto your own driveway.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or

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