The Presque Isle town board on June 3, as part of a two hour and 40 minute meeting, approved an ordinance for all terrain vehicle and utility vehicle use on town roads, an action that has ignited a firestorm of sorts in the town. 
At one point, in the extensive discussion regarding the ordinance and prior to the town board vote, it was mentioned by one of the town’s planning commission members a draft of the ordinance hadn’t been presented for its review. 
In comments made to The Lakeland Times before the meeting, town resident Jeff Burke stated in an email “there appears to be a blindside agenda item to create an ordinance tonight to allow the use of ATVs in Presque Isle – perhaps immediately.” 
“This is nuts and defies the wishes of Town residents,” Burke wrote. “With such short notice it’s pretty much impossible to get the news out to enough people and since the decision would be made only by town supervisors without input from residents present, this is outrageous.”
After the meeting, Burke stated, again in an email, “the town board tonight ramrodded through an approval of immediate ATV use on all town roads – no survey, no vote, no hearing and no ordinance committee input or notification of residents/taxpayers unless you printed the agenda within the last 24 hrs.” 
“This is the new normal – no accountability, lip service only to ‘I'm here to listen to the people’ BS and an apparent intention to nullify any future ordinances regarding anything that resembles ecological protections or common sense rules for behavior by visitors or others.  Presque Isle finally ascends to its next advertising cliché: Wisconsin's lost wilderness. We've lived here twenty years and this is truly a sad day!” 
Burke’s reference to listening to the people was directed at the town’s new chairman, John Maclean, who was elected in April. 
“The chairman must seek to balance legitimate competitive interests,” Maclean wrote in a candidate profile published in the April 2, 2021 edition of The Lakeland Times. “Obviously, any representative of the people must avoid favoritism and self-dealing or even the projection of what could be perceived as these vices. Listen to the people! Apply their wisdom. This insures a thoughtful and balanced approach for a representative of the people to govern.”
As the nearly hour long discussion surrounding the proposed ATV/UTV ordinance for Presque Isle unfolded Thursday, it was quickly established which way the matter would ultimately go. 

Town’s economic future
Maclean opened things up by reading an email he’d received from who he said was “my uncle, Barry Maclean.”
In his letter, Barry Maclean said he appreciated “your efforts to open up all the roads in Presque Isle for ATV use.”
“This is very important the town approve (the ordinance) for the town’s economic future,” Barry Mclean wrote. “I have participated in virtually all sports used all modes of transportation during my long history in Presque Isle. I think it’s very important we share the roads with all types of vehicles.”
Barry Maclean said in his letter ATVs, UTVs and electric bicycles would allow more people to get out and see “the great outdoors and enjoy the scenery Presque Isle has to offer.”
 “Today’s vehicles are so well engineered and they’re quiet, too,” he wrote. “We should not be afraid to embrace these technologies in Presque Isle.”
After he finished reading the email, John Maclean went into some of his family history as it relates to Presque Isle and also went into an endorsement of the use of ATVs and UTVs. 
“When you think about ATVs or UTVs ... think about driving around in a convertible or a (Ford) Bronco,” he said, adding the machines don’t have to be loud and if they were, “we’ll come after ya.”
“We’re gonna put a potato in your exhaust pipe,” Maclean joked and that drew laughter from those in the meeting room.
On a more serious note, he said he wants people to enjoy the Presque Isle area. 

Very enforceable
The town’s attorney, Steve Garbowicz, said the proposed ordinance was similar to ordinances other towns have adopted. 
He’d been on the Three Lakes town board for 12 years, not running for re-election in 2020. 
Garbowicz said since the town board adopted its ATV/UTV ordinance, things have been “uneventful.”
“The horror stories that everyone anticipated have never materialized,” he said. “In all honesty, when you look at noise, as I told everybody who complained to me about it, ban Harleys, ban the big boats on the chain ...  and the snowmobiles, somebody mentioned that, yeah, and then I’ll come talk to you about ATVs. But until you do, don’t come and talk to me about noise because I can hear a Harley from two miles away ... when they crank up these 350 horsepower motors on the chain, I’m a mile away. It sounds like it’s in my backyard. So, noise with these things? No. I can’t hear ‘em most of the time.”
As for the ordinance, Garbowicz said he felt it was “very enforceable” and put together, he thought, by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The caveat to the enforcement, he said, was that would have to be done by the town constable. 
“The Vilas County Sheriff’s Office will not enforce it, that I can tell you,” Garbowicz said. “Unless it’s on a county road.”

Why not a survey?
Maclean then opened the floor for discussion, acknowledging there would be opinions on the matter from both sides. 
While there were several people attending the meeting in person, there were nearly 40 on the Zoom meeting platform, which once again caused problems for town clerk Lorine Walters. 
While there were those speaking in favor of the ordinance citing the economic future of Presque Isle as a basis for its approval, much of the opposition expressed centered around safety concerns and at least one member of the town’s ordinance committee stating he hadn’t read the draft ordinance. 
The future of the Presque Isle area’s relative pristineness was also a concern mentioned by those opposed to the ATV/UTV ordinance. 
“If the town board passes this ordinance, you’d better pass another ordinance changing our town slogan ‘Presque Isle is Wisconsin’s last wilderness,” Presque Isle resident Ramona Kubicka said. “We will no longer be Wisconsin’s last wilderness.”
Presque Isle resident Phillip Preston, piggybacking off Kubicka’s comment, said he believes in addition to more noise there will also be “rampant trespass on private land.”
One of the largest objections to the draft ordinance, however, was the manner in which it was being, in the words of one of the meeting’s attendees, “pushed through.”
Presque Isle resident Carol Phillips, who weighed in several times on that town’s recent proposed ATV/UTV ordinance that ultimately failed, asked via Zoom why the town board was rushing the ordinance’s approval. 
“It appears that you fear that your only hope of getting what you personally want is to blindside your constituents,” she said and she urged a survey be done. 
Richard Phillips, also on Zoom, said the issue was “emotional on both sides.”
“There is going to be a strong sense in the community that you are ramrodding this,” he said. “There is no good reason to not conduct a survey by mail or by email. Do it however you want but conduct a survey. If your objection is it’ll cost money, I’ll pay for it.”
With a motion from town supervisor Carl Wolter to approve the ATV/UTV ordinance already on the table with Maclean’s second, Maclean called the question. 
After some confusion  as to what that meant and clarification from Garbowicz it meant it was, basically, the town chairman calling for a vote, Maclean and Wolter voted in favor of the ordinance. 
Town supervisor Cathy Logan Weber voted against. 
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at bjopek@lakelandtimes.com.