This joke of a ‘law’ is a flat-out insult, a disaster of policy and arrogance

To the Editor:
As a 20-year resident of Rensselaerville’s quiet, bucolic roads, I share the outrage of my neighbors at the Berne Town Board’s nonsensical proposal Local Law #1, seeking to use taxpayer-funded municipal transportation roads as a plaything for the hobbies of private ATV owners — a small minority of the Hilltown population [“Some Berne residents question ATV bill, public hearing set for February,” The Altamont Enterprise, Jan. 13, 2023].

This is in full violation of the ATV Safety Institute guidelines, the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council’s safety ethics, and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

In addition to desecrating the rural atmosphere of the area as well as the enjoyment of resident and visiting nature enthusiasts, birdwatchers, dog walkers, runners, and strolling senior citizens — especially surrounding the Hyuck Nature Preserve and Partridge Run — this joke of a “law” is a flat-out insult.

To suggest the guidelines will be “self-regulated” is an absurd lie. When has that ever worked? It won’t be “self-regulated” at all — it will be an unlawful and unaccountable free-for-all on public roads, a de facto giveaway to private interests, a public safety hazard and a permanent threat to a way of life.

It will degrade the environment of any adjacent nature conservancy, animal refuge, or land trust, interfere with family farms and livestock, will drive down property values and cause people to move to quieter areas — lowering the tax base that funds our schools.

A nature preserve is no longer a nature preserve if it is surrounded by a noisy go-kart speedway. You may as well pave the forest and send the flora and fauna packing.

Why does the Berne Town Board want to infect the countryside with the noise and air pollution of city life? Don’t they like it here?

Further, the failure of the board to present even a map to the public via any town website or listserv — or even post it at transfer stations — or to even notify any of the other Hilltowns is a transparently dishonest and undemocratic strategy to defraud the public at large and cater to a small minority of private citizens.

This is the same tactic used by corporations and developers to subvert the public will. It is not democracy; it is back-room dealing. The board members know an informed populace won’t tolerate it, so they hope to slip it by when no one is looking.

In short, this absurd “law” is a disaster of policy and arrogance.

Americans are free to do whatever they want on their own private property, within reason and the confines of laws we all agree to. If you want to rip up your own property with unlicensed teenagers tearing through your trails and forest, go for it.

But don’t try to legitimize what amounts to the theft of public space by sneaking through an absurd, arrogant, and unjust law via back channels. This subversion of democracy will be met with full-throated community resistance.

Should this “law” move forward, I will vigorously oppose it in court either alone or as part of a multi-resident lawsuit, which is already being discussed in the Hilltowns.

Tom Gilroy


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