Silverton voters might be experiencing a moment of déjà vu. Almost exactly two years ago, the town’s residents voted to give off-highway vehicles the boot from streets inside town limits. Now, they are being asked to take up the issue again.
The question is a contentious one that has repeatedly divided the town.
On one side, many business owners contend that allowing OHVs to traverse Silverton’s roads boosts the town’s summertime tourism economy.
But other locals argue that the dust and noise created by the vehicles interferes with the quiet quality of life that drew many of the town’s residents there in the first place.
OHVs were allowed in Silverton until October 2021, when residents voted on two ballot questions addressing the matter.
The two questions were worded differently, such that an affirmative vote on one would ban the vehicles from the streets, while an affirmative vote on the other would allow them to stay.
On both questions, the voters firmly handed down a verdict to expel OHVs from the town’s streets.
A November 2022 article in The Durango Telegraph states that the town’s sales tax revenue does not paint a clear picture of how the vote may have impacted businesses, but some business owners offer anecdotal evidence.
Paul Zimmerman, who owns Smedleys Suites and The Pickle Barrel with his wife, said he has noticed a precipitous decline in revenue at the hotel and restaurant.
“My guess is, adjusted for inflation, we're probably down about 30%,” Zimmerman said.
He clarified that the decline could not solely be attributed to the ban on OHVs in town, but also suggested that it played a significant role. The town needs to avoid “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” Zimmerman said.
Other residents and visitors alike have taken to the comments sections of social media posts to verbally joust over the issue, highlighting just how divisive the question continues to be.
The current proposal before voters would allow OHVs to operate on Greene Street, Silverton’s main thruway, from 7th Street to the town’s northern limits on County Road 2. They would also be allowed on the sections of Blair St. beginning at 10th Street going north, as well as the numbered cross streets between Greene and Blair in that section.
In addition to a handful of other side streets, the proposed code would allow the vehicles on the segments of CR 2 and CR 110a that connect to one another within town limits.
Town officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
A “yes” vote on the question would allow OHVs onto the routes listed, while a “no” vote would maintain the current restrictions.
To be eligible to vote, residents must be of legal voting age and have resided in the town for at least 30 days preceding the election. Ballots were mailed to voters earlier this month, and can be dropped off or replaced at the Silverton Town Hall.
All ballots must be returned no later than 7 p.m. on Oct. 3.