considering banning motorized recreational vehicles in response to city
residents who want dirt bike and ATV riding in their neighborhood to stop.
During its February meetings, the McKeesport city council will discuss and vote
on an ordinance drafted by resident Beatrice Longo that would prohibit the use
of recreational motor vehicles within city limits. Longo presented a second
ordinance that would have put moderate restrictions on operating such vehicles.
"We feel that it's urgent that you do consider this," Longo
told council this month. "We need an ordinance that not only addresses banning
or restricting these vehicles, but also puts in some pretty serious
consequences for not abiding by that ordinance."
She suggested a "strong" ordinance that imposes fines and
threatens the confiscation of vehicles.
Longo's concerns became public in September when residents
Jimmy and Marcie Young purchased five acres of land across the street from their
home. That drew attention from neighbors who opposed their idea to have a
trail-riding area for their eldest son and his friends.
A handful of Haler
including Longo, began speaking out about the long-term disruption of dirt
bikes and ATVs on the nearby "Fawcett meadow" property behind Wainwright drive,
about which a formal complaint never had been filed.
After hearing about those concerns for several months,
council president Darryl Segina met with police Chief Bryan J. Washowich and
solicitor J. Jason Elash to discuss Longo's proposed ordinances and the state
motor vehicle code, which prohibits the operation of unregistered vehicles on
all roadways unless crossing them directly.
"We went over the ordinances she presented and contrasted them
with the current state law and analyzed potential changes," Elash said. "The
president of council decided to put the ordinance banning all ATV use on the
agenda, as is."
If the ban or similar ordinance was not added to the
council`s agenda, Segina said, it would take only a few signatures and a court
order for displeased residents to get it there. Putting it on the February
agenda makes it open for public hearing on Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m. and for the
council`s vote on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.
"It's been a hot issue in town," Segina said. "People are
displeased with what's happening up there, and I think that's the big issue.
Anyone who has something to say, pro or con, is welcome to come down and do
Segina said he doesn't want to hurt anybody, but he wants
people to know that at least some neighborhood residents "can't tolerate what's
happening up there."
Before the ordinance was suggested, Young said he was under
the impression that he and the Haler Heights residents who opposed his plans would come to
a compromise that is "better" than McKeesport's
current noise ordinance.
While the ordinance prevents disruptive activity such as
yard work or excessive noise between the hours of 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., Young said he is
willing to promise neighbors to wait until 11 a.m. and have his children home by 8 p.m.
"I would even tell the kids they can't ride during dinner
time, if that's what the neighborhood wants," he said.
But the compromise that residents wanted to discuss in
September seems off the table now, since they attended January's council
meeting to learn the status of their suggested ban.
Longo approached the council regarding the status of two
draft ordinances that she submitted late in 2012 when Young's purchase drew
attention to problems with ATV and dirt bike activity in Haler
Heights, Christy Park and Grandview.
"We do not live in a rural area," Longo said. "We live in a
city and these are residential areas."
Drive resident Marti Gastel brought her concerns
about another popular riding spot to council in January.
Heights is a wonderful
place to live. Where we live, there is a beautiful deck overlooking a beautiful
bowl of trees," Gastel said. "Now, in the center of that beautiful bowl of
trees that my deck overlooks, we have a huge dirt bike scar - a big, muddy,
runny brown sewer of water that in the summer is so noisy you can barely think.
Gastel said she is concerned with aesthetics as well as
humming engines that can reach 90 decibels. She said the noise is amplified by
the bowl-effect of the terrain, like in an amphitheater.
"The people that are using that dirt bike trail have no
accountability to the city, as far as I know," Gastel said. "We don't know who's
using it. We don't know who's accountable. We don't know what hours they'll be using
Because his neighbors believe current ordinances are not or
will not be enforced, Young said he may be prevented from using his private
property as he intended.
Young maintains that he should not be told what type of
recreational environment he can provide for his children on private property
and that a disagreement among neighbors should not escalate to a citywide
"I can't sign for the rest of McKeesport,
for the kids in Christy Park or Grandview,"
Young said. "I can control my kids and my property, but I can't control vacant
lands across town."
Longo said December's warm weather brought a preview of what
she expects to hear and see in the spring. Longo said she has seen unregistered
vehicles riding the streets of Haler
"The issue of enforcement of taking unregistered motor
vehicles off city roadways has come up a few times," Mayor Michael Cherepko
said. "Each and every time, I ask individuals if they called the police, and no
one has. We will be fair and consistent across the board. I fully expect our
officers to respond to the call and enforce the ordinance or state law,
whichever is applicable."
Cherepko said there always is the chance of a verbal warning
the first time something is reported, but the city can keep a log of warnings
that are issued so that all officers recognize habitual offenders.