The number of UTV vehicles authorized to be on the road has gone up following a unanimous vote by the Las Cruces City Council. The city eliminated a requirement stating all UTVs must have a speed capability less than or equal to 45 mph.
Assistant City Attorney Roberto Cabello addressed the council, stating many UTVs did not qualify to be on the road.
“I’m asking for that provision, maximum speed capability not greater than 45 mph, be eliminated,” Cabello said. “It already reads the speed limit for recreational off highway vehicles or UTVs, operated in the city shall be 45 mph or the posted speed limit, whichever is less. Since it’s in the definition, this actually eliminates a number of UTV vehicles because a number of them can actually go much faster than 45 miles per hour.”
Other UTV ordinance changes included an amendment to the engine displacement definition. The definition was changed from less than 1,000 cubic centimeters to equal to or less than 1,000 cubic centimeters.
Mayor Ken Miyagishima read a public comment from a resident concerned about the impact UTV activity has in neighborhoods.
“I have been deeply disappointed by the council's decision to legalize UTVs on city streets, and it is clear that decision has made a major impact on the safety and quality of life in and around Las Cruces,” the public comment read. “This is now my number one topic that will affect my voting and activism decisions in the future. I live on the edge of the city/county but in the city, and since the legalization of UTVs on city streets, there has been a massive explosion in their presence and use…many driven at high speeds through our city neighborhood without a license plate at all.”
While Councilor Gabe Vasquez was okay with the changes, he also feels the ordinance should be reviewed in the future.
“I think in a couple of months we should review where we're at with this ordinance,” Vasquez said. “I think having the appropriate data from our Las Cruces Police Department, but perhaps even inviting our partners at the Bureau of Land Management to share the data that they have on illegal off road use…would give us a good picture of if we're causing a significant harm to our community as a result of having these UTVs on the street…The reason I say that is, you know, I'm all for responsible use of these vehicles but thus far I only hear negative stories from folks and all across the district.”
The council also voted unanimously to disperse over 5 million dollars awarded in small business pandemic relief grants prior to reimbursement approval from The New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration.
Councilor Vasquez felt the delay would be harmful to small businesses trying to survive the pandemic.
“In the spirit of what this legislation was created for, you know, [not] having these paid out until late December just to me, almost defeats the purpose of what we're essentially trying to do, especially for such small amounts of reimbursement,” Vasquez said.
This means the city will be on the line for any reimbursements not approved by The New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration. It’s a price Vasquez believes is well worth paying in order to bring relief as soon as possible.
“If the only concerns that we have are a couple of $10,000 reimbursements that for whatever reason aren't qualified by DFA, I'd much rather have that than have businesses wait, you know, another three months to get paid out for this,” Vasquez said.