DeWitt City Hall

Are DeWitt’s laws regarding the use of utility-terrain vehicles (UTVs) on city streets hindering the local economy? One resident thinks so, and he brought his thoughts to the Jan. 4 DeWitt City Council meeting. 

Matt Kent, of DeWitt, believes restrictions in DeWitt’s city code should be more aligned with the county’s. He said limitations on which streets the vehicles can drive on hurts riders’ ability to enter town. He also said the window of time in which the UTVs can drive in town — sunrise to sunset — is a turnoff for some UTV operators. 

UTVs, also known as side-by-sides, are considered high-speed vehicles that seat two or more people, have four or more wheels, and have a roll bar construction. They can be driven in town on certain streets by operators over 18 years old with a valid driver’s license. 

“I know a lot of business owners look at this, as there are a lot or rural rides and (riders) stop in towns to get gas and things like that,” Kent said. “I think DeWitt is missing out on that.”

Kent made similar statements at a council meeting in October of 2019.

The city’s code says UTVs cannot drive on streets with posted speed limits higher than 25 mph. It also prohibits the vehicles from driving on many of DeWitt’s main roadways, including Lake Street, Sixth Avenue, 11th Street Humeston Road, Industrial Drive, and U.S. Highways 61 and 30. 

Kent asked the council to consider aligning the city’s UTV rules with those adopted by Clinton County, which vary slightly. For example, county code says UTVs can drive on any roadway with a 35 mph speed limit. The county allows UTVs to be driven between 4 a.m. and 10 p.m., whereas the city’s code says the legal hours of operation are “between sunrise and sunset.”

UTVs are required to pass inspection by the DeWitt Police Department and have a permit to operate within the city. The permit sticker must be displayed on the UTV’s read bumper or “similar component,” city code says. 

Kent said groups of people from outside DeWitt go on UTV rides in the area, and don’t have interest in obtaining a permit for DeWitt.

“Without the city sticker, legally, they really can’t drive in the town,’ Kent said. 

Kent said he would monitor lawmakers in Des Moines and hopes they adopt a state-wide registration process for the UTVs. 

Steve Lindner, DeWitt city administrator, said the city doesn’t plan to make any changes to its UTV codes in the near future. 

“The council indicated that if the state made those changes the city would consider changes at that time, otherwise the city will continue to review this code annually,” Lindner said.

“I might touch base with (the council) in a month or so and see what the state does,” Kent said. 

New street shop purchase gets green light

The council unanimously approved the purchase of 706 E. Industrial Street for $550,000. It will be used to replace the current street shop, which is split among several buildings that have become obsolete, Lindner said. 

Lindner said the city won’t begin revamping the new property right away, but is working with an engineering firm to conceptualize the space. 

Other business

In other business, the council:

Approved the subordination of a mortgage covering a property participating in the city’s 2019 home rehab program. The home’s owners, Angela Newkirk and Darin Dochterman, entered into a five-year forgivable loan agreement with the city for $14,865.70. The loan has depreciated by 20% and has a balance of $11,855.36, according to documents provided by the city. The change was spurred by the owners seeking a refinance of their mortgage with Quicken Loans for a lower interest rate, Lindner said. With the city’s mortgage and the new Quick Loans loan, the loans total $131,905.36

“Based on an appraisal, the property’s estimated value is $122,000,” Lindner said. “This leaves the value to mortgage a little unfavorable, although the city’s mortgage will drop 20% a year for 4 more years and then be completely depreciated. With no other cash out, this seems to be a reasonable request for the reduction in payment.”

Approved $300 in dues for the Highway 30 Coalition, an advocacy group that encourages improvements to the highway including expanding it to four lanes.