The Winchester Town Board on Monday voted to repeal the town ordinance adopted on March 3, 2021, which allowed for operation of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) and utility vehicles (UTV) on town roads.
This was the first regular meeting to feature the town board’s newest members, John Grimmer and Jeff Whitney. 
The two men were elected as town supervisors on April 6, having defeated incumbents Galen Brownewell and Sulo Wainio. 
There has been much in the way of contention in Winchester lately leading up to and since the passage of the ATV/UTV ordinance.
It was developed by the town’s planning commission, which also ultimately developed a survey sent to Winchester residents and taxpayers, the results of which showed the majority of those responding were not in favor of allowing ATVs and UTVs on town roads and property. 
Despite that, the town board proceeded to approve the ordinance in March on a 2-1 vote with town chairman Joe Discianno voting against.
During the time the survey was circulating, Grimmer, a designated spokesperson for an anti-ATV group named “Safe Roads Winchester,” and Whitney filed to run for election to the town board. 
Soon after they were elected, Winchester resident Mike Potts filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission regarding campaign signs featuring Grimmer and Whitney which had no financial attribution on them. 
That complaint is pending. 
It’s against this backdrop Monday’s meeting took place, among the items on the agenda a possible amendment to or repealing of the ATV/UTV ordinance passed in March. 

Tourism impact
There were, at one point, nearly 70 people attending the meeting via Zoom and the meeting room itself was packed with another 40 or more people. 
Discianno had his hands full, telling those in the room before he called the meeting to order “get it through your heads now. This is our meeting. You’re here as guests, OK? There will be a point, you can ask some questions ... I have a meeting to get through. That’s our point tonight.”
After the Pledge of Allegiance and before Discianno proceeded with the agenda, he said something more to that effect. 
“One more thing before we get rolling,” he said to the audience in the room. “Chattering between yourselves gets up here and it distracts us from what we’re doing. So please, just keep the conversations down.”
Then Discianno asked for a motion to approve the meeting agenda and Whitney made a motion to change the agenda to have public comments after the correspondence portion of the meeting with a limit of one minute per speaker, a motion that was approved.
The May meeting agenda was the first to have a different format from other Winchester regular meeting agendas in recent years; like Presque Isle Town Board meetings, there are now provisions for miscellaneous public comment before the old business section as well as the agenda’s new business section. 
In correspondence received by the town regarding the ATV/UTV ordinance, Discianno read a letter from Presque Isle Town Board member Carl Wolter who wrote as a property owner in Winchester, he wanted to “commend” the Winchester Town Board for what he referred to as “forward thinking” for passing the ATV/UTV ordinance. 
“This will allow many property owners to use their vehicles in a fast growing, outdoor recreation, much like snowmobiling,” Wolter wrote. “ATV and UTV recreation will also help to boost tourism in the area.”
Wolter pledged his support as a Presque Isle town supervisor and said he will work with local ATV/UTV groups to “link up routes” from Marenisco , Mich., Land O’ Lakes, Presque Isle, Winchester and “into Iron County.”
“The impact of tourist dollars will be key to the health of our local small businesses and economy,” his letter concluded. 

Others for and against
Several minutes later, when the town board got to new business and after bids were opened for three culvert replacement projects but no decision made, Discianno was ready to open the floor to public comment. 
“As it pertains to the agenda,” he said, adding as had been stipulated in Whitney’s earlier motion, people would be allowed one minute to speak. 
“Like I said, if this just turns into some kinda repetitive conversation,” Discianno said, anticipating much comment from both sides on the ATV/UTV ordinance issue, “we’re just gonna move on.”
First to speak was Winchester resident Maymee Siegner, who said the town has the opportunity “to be a leader to our neighboring towns by allowing ATVs on our town roads.”
“The main concerns I hear are about erosion, noise and safety,” she said. “The erosion, we’re all gonna be on roads. The noise? Are they any louder than any vehicles or motorcycle as they drive by and a neighbor is mowing the lawn? And safety, we did look into the accidents in the last three years and there were 19. This is year round on trails, routes, town roads ... there was one death. That was on a private campground.”
Siegner went on to say ATVs and UTVs are “an awesome activity to help attract and retain youth” in Winchester. 
“We need youth to shovel roofs, put in docks, work in restaurants ... along with responding to your fire and ambulance needs,” she said, adding as the fire department’s assistant emergency medical services (EMS) director, there was a desperate “need for volunteers.”
“Our small team gets burned out,” Siegner said. “This has been a problem for quite some time ... will the elderly be able to live in Winchester without some assistance from its youth?”
ATVs, she said, were just one aspect.
“I’m extremely nervous as to your agenda for our future for all our opportunities,” Siegner said and she began to get emotional. “The actions that have already been taken and how this has been handled so far has caused a divide in our town that greatly saddens me. It is awful enough to see this all over the U.S. Let’s do better and learn to live cohesively, embracing everybody’s love for activities like silent sports and motor sports in the Northwoods. I know change is scary but necessary for growth. Do you absolutely have the best interests of our town? Or do you simply have your own personal agenda?”
She urged the town board to keep the AT/UTV ordinance and review it in a year. 
“This forward act gives us the courage we need to better assess what it is our community needs to thrive,” Siegner, well past her alloted one minute to speak, said in conclusion.
By contrast, Winchester resident Marjean Schuelke, who said she’s been a Winchester area property owner for more than 30 years and full time resident for more than 17 years, said she hoped the town board “will follow what the majority of both the voters and non-voting property owners wanted” and asked the town board to repeal the ATV/UTV ordinance. 
Sulo Wainio, one of the two town supervisors voted out of office on April 6 and involved as a member of the town’s planning commission in formulation of the ATV/UTV ordinance, said one thing the town board is supposed to do is “look out for the best interest of the township of Winchester.”
“Not personal opinion,” he said. “You’re looking now at the future. Right now, Winchester is years behind Olma and if you don’t know where Olma is, Olma’s that void between Mercer and Hurley. They’ve actually picked up a business this year. They actually opened a business back up that’s been closed. Winchester’s about 10 years behind them.”
Wainio then spoke to Schuelke. 
“Marjean, my family’s owned property here since 1957,” he said, which helped prompt a small back and forth Discianno, already seeing the one minute limit on speakers had failed, had to put a stop to. 
Wainio continued. 
“I’m just saying newer people didn’t see what Winchester was like when we had a restaurant. We had a grocery store. We had a laundromat,” he said. “All I’m saying is, look at the future of Winchester. The way the ordinance was written, it gives the ordinance a year and you can review it. Are you that much afraid that it might work and want to kill it before it ever starts?”
Planning commission Craig Van Ark spoke to what he said are “four items” the planning commission considers when looking at topic, such as the ATV/UTV ordinance. 
“Number one, if there’s prejudicial, underlying tones in there, we need to address them as commission members,” he said. “Number two: do we agree that tourism is a bloodline to this town, OK?”
Van Ark said the answer to the first question was no and yes to the second question.  
“We do want tourism in our town,” he said and then mentioned the third of four items the planning commission considers. “Do we support all facets of tourism? Well, there’s hunting, fishing, whatever. The answer again was yes.”
The fourth item, Van Ark said, is what was being talked about at that point in the meeting: the ATV/UTV ordinance.
“And that’s where the disconnect starts,” he said. “So, you gotta go back to the first question: are we prejudiced in our belief? It’s very tough because prejudicials or prejudicial motions require guidance and help.”

Board decision
There were other speakers, most in opposition to ATVs and UTVs, and then there were other topics brought up in public comment that led to, while no decisions made, plenty of discussion not on the meeting agenda for those items. 
Eventually, the town board got to the ATV/UTV ordinance agenda item and Discianno began with a comment. 
“It has become very apparent that after the election mandate and the recent survey, that the constituents of Winchester at the present time are not interested in ATV/UTV use on their town roads, I feel that a few things should have happened, which I expressed,” he said. “Public hearings, a referendum, and I think that with whatever decision we make today, I think we need to look at this, we need to slow down, we need to figure out what direction this town is heading in.”
Some discussions Discianno said he wanted to have would include topics such as economic development which he said has probably never happened.
“We need to figure out where this town is heading, what is the best thing for this town and we can certainly look at ATVs and UTVs down the road.”
Whitney said his feeling was identical to that of Discianno. 
“I don’t have an agenda here as many people have pointed out and making insinuations that I do,” he said. “I was voted into this position because the people that were doing this job took it upon themselves to ram something through after a survey was done and the majority of the people said ‘We don’t want this.’”
Whitney said he doesn’t own or have “interest” in an ATV.
“I have no problem with people riding ATVs,” he said. “As Joe said, take it a little step further and have a referendum, have some more information. Not just a group of people that are just as biased as they say we are.”
Discianno said he does a lot of listening. 
“I talk to a lot of people,” he said. “It’s — I feel, the biggest part of my job is listening to what the people tell me and if it’s the survey or it’s the election, to me, that’s the people talking to me, OK? So, I don’t wanna be a bad guy or anything like that but I’m gonna make decisions that ... we’re all gonna make decisions that not everybody’s gonna agree with and that’s life. That’s just the way things go.”
Discianno said he was passionate about what it is he does as town chairman. 
“I wanna see Winchester bloom into something,” he said. “It’s not a dream. It’s there but we need help ... the time and effort needs to be put in.”
Winchester, Discianno stressed, is not “a dying town.”
“We’re selling more houses ... there’s no property,” he said. “Everything’s sold right now. Is that a dying town? I don’t believe so. A dying town is where people are moving out. They’re moving in.”
“I believe everyone spoke passionately and clearly and to the point we do want to find the way to live together, to work together, to play together,” Grimmer said. “There are things that this town needs and wants to do that aren’t contentious. That we’ll be able to accomplish together and I believe we can do that.”
Following Grimmer’s comments, Winchester resident Bernie Klotz, saying he’s been a Winchester area resident since 1960, expressed his frustration by saying the town was being “regulated to death.”
Wainio urged the town board to table the matter, stressing again the town board could reconsider in a year. 
That led to some commotion and Discianno struggled to keep order. 
“I’m trying to make a motion here,” he yelled over the crowd noise from people in the meeting room as well as on Zoom. “Please, everyone. So, I am going to make a motion to repeal the ATV/UTV ordinance 2021-02 for the town of Winchester adopted on March 3, 2021.”
Discianno’s motion was approved unanimously and the town board received a round of applause. 
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at bjopek@lakelandtimes.com.