By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- After an emotional three-hour hearing, a Philadelphia City Council committee today approved the mayor's plan to impose stiff penalties for riding all-terrain vehicles on city sidewalks and in parklands.
City Council chambers were crowded with both opponents and supporters of ATVs.
The Rev. Derick Scudder said that ATVs regularly terrorize his Juniata neighborhood.
"It's so loud inside and outside my house that my three-year-old daughter runs to me shaking when one of these things drives past. My six-month-old is regularly woken up from her nap when they go roaring down our alley. If you want to get away from the ear-splitting noise, you have to stay inside, shut the windows, and turn the volume up on your TV," he told the committee.
Adrian Wimberly of Friends of Cobb Creek Park had his own disturbing testimony:
"ATVs are a danger to the park grounds and terrain, which they destroy day to day by doing spinouts and wheelies. They don't really care. They get down there and start spinning out. ATVs have been seen chasing deer and fox out of Cobbs Creek Park. So they are a danger to the protective species that live there. ATVs have been seen with kids riding on the back, tandem style, from ages as low as two years old, with no helmet, and popping wheelies, which is dangerous. We see it all the time."
But supporters, like Gene Kradzinski of G-Team Racing, said the city fails to provide a legal place to ride, as many other municipalities do.
"If you have an off-road vehicle park, number one, you are controlling the environment of the people who are riding," he testified. "They are all going to be in a safe environment. They are all going to be going in the same direction. You don't need a bazillion acres of ground."
But city officials weren't jumping at the idea. Parks and Recreation chief Michael DiBerardinis told the councilmembers that the city has neither the land nor the money for an ATV park.
"We simply do not have the space in Philadelphia to allow for safe operation of these vehicles and to create a buffer to help prevent community and environmental disruptions. To put it frankly, I think it's crazy to consider public land as a venue for these vehicles," he said.
After the more than three hours of testimony, the committee approved a bill that, for the first time, imposes penalties for using an ATV off-street, on properties controlled by the city including the sidewalks.
The initial fine would be stiff -- $2,000, and possible forfeiture of the vehicle.
Current state law governs city streets, and the state already imposes fines up to $300 for ATV use on roadways. The measure now goes to the full City Council for a final vote later this month.
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