The Sunnyside City Council enacted an emergency ordinance Monday night that immediately puts into effect special rules regulating the use of motorized foot scooters within city limits.
Council had two ordinances before them on Monday night. The first ordinance had an emergency provision, which allowed the ordinance to be enforced as soon as Council passed it. The second version stated the ordinance would become effective five days after Council passed it, which is the standard operating procedure for passing new ordinances.
Council adopted the emergency version of the ordinance, citing growing concerns about people riding the motorized scooters around town.
The ordinance states all motorized scooter riders shall obey the rules of the road applicable to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Motor scooter operators are not allowed to carry any additional passengers. The ordinance also forbids motorized scooters to be operated in the central business district of Sunnyside, which encompasses the area bounded on the south by Franklin Avenue, north on Decatur Avenue, west on Fifth Street and east on Ninth Street. Motorized scooters may also not be ridden on Yakima Valley Highway or along Central Park. The scooters are also prohibited from any city-installed or city-maintained grass or landscaped areas. Scooters are also prohibited from being operated on sidewalks within the city limits or on any street with a posted speed limit greater than 25 miles per hour.
The ordinance has standards, too, for operating motorized scooters. Riders must wear a helmet, have the required light and reflectors, brakes and a muffler. Mufflers are required for every motorized foot scooter operating with an internal combustion engine. The minimum age for operating a scooter in the City of Sunnyside, under the provisions of the new ordinance, is 16.
The ordinance also requires all scooter dealers to provide buyers with copies of the city's operating regulations.
Anyone caught violating the ordinance will face a $250 fine. A police officer may also impound a scooter in addition to issuing a fine.
Sunnyside City Manager Bob Stockwell told Council this ordinance is not only brought about as a result of concerns about operating motorized foot scooters state-wide, but also in the city.
"We have come up with what we feel is a reasonable set of standards," said Stockwell.
Council asked Police Captain Phil Schenck about concerns with compliance concerning the implementation of the ordinance. Schenck said he would want to issue one warning to riders first before citing them.
Councilman Bruce Ricks expressed his astonishment that not only Sunnyside but other cities around the state are working to implement ordinances regulating scooters. Ricks said he felt something as simple as safely operating a scooter should be something parents oversee with their children, not the city.
"Six months ago I would have said this is no problem," added Councilman Don Vlieger. "But this is a problem."
Vlieger said the scooters are not only creating safety concerns for riders but problems with noise and other issues.
Assistant City Manager/City Attorney Mark Kunkler said there were some problems with devising an ordinance that addressed city concerns. Kunkler said the problem is the state doesn't consider scooters a motorized vehicle.
"It (the ordinance) is more of an attempt to regulate, as far as we can," said Kunkler.
Councilman Jim Restucci had concerns about scooter operators driving under the influence of alcohol and what the city could do. Schenck admitted he wasn't sure what the city could do to people operating the scooters under the influence.
"This is new territory," said Schenck.
Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar wanted to make sure the city did everything it could to educate the public on the new ordinance. She noted there has been a couple of deaths in the Tri-Cities involving people riding motorized scooters.
"This is very much a safety issue," said Aguilar. "I think parents are buying them (scooters), just thinking they are a toy."
The Council voted unanimously to pass the emergency version of the ordinance. Mayor Ed Prilucik noted that the penalty portion of the ordinance exceeds the cost of the scooters.
"There is some teeth to this ordinance," said Prilucik.
. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at email@example.com