PERALTA–Peralta town officials are now allowing side-by-sides and other off-highway vehicles on its public roads within the town.

The new ordinance, approved unanimously by the town council on Dec. 27, still does not allow these vehicles on N.M. 47 or other state roads; however, a driver can cross state highways from one Peralta street to another.

“(When) this came up, we had a couple of off-road vehicles driving down; they had the lights, they had everything on there, but the police were stopping and citing them because we do not have an ordinance,” Peralta Mayor Bryan Olguin said. “Those do not automatically justify being out on the street.”

With the ordinance’s unanimous passage, Peralta is the only jurisdiction within Valencia County to legally allow people to operate OHVs and ATVs on municipal paved roads with a proper driver’s license, permit and insurance.

In order to operate these vehicles on paved roads in Peralta, all drivers must have an off-highway motor vehicle permit. They must also carry motor vehicle insurance, the same as any other motor vehicle, and obey all traffic laws.

Drivers cannot operate OHVs between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. on town roads.

“I know several people who have these, again they have to abide by all laws — speed limit and everything else out there,” the mayor said. “I think it’s a good thing for us to allow these here. They’ve been out there anyway.”

The ordinance says any peace officer — local, county or state within New Mexico — may conduct “random administrative stops in order to ensure compliance with registration, insurance, and safety equipment guidelines.”

Failure to follow the ordinance can result up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

The mayor added that prior to the ordinance, he believes the police department has been lenient on people who have operated OHVs on town roads.

Councilor Joseph Romero said he also violated this law by riding on town roads prior to an ordinance, garnering “dirty looks and shame-on-yous” from Bosque Farms Police Chief Andrew Owen.

During the discussion of the issue, councilors mentioned the several OHV-type vehicles in use by the town of Peralta and the Peralta Fire Department.

“So, we’ve been violating our own ordinance probably, breaking the law,” Olguin said with a chuckle.

In addition to town roads, OHV’s can also operate on public lands when properly licensed and permitted. According to the New Mexico Game and Fish website, vehicles used strictly for agriculture do not have to be permitted, however no such distinction exists in the town of Peralta ordinance.

The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District made the distinction last year that ditchbanks did not classify as public land, barring the use of OHVs and ATVs except for agricultural use.

Councilor Randy Smith first mentioned introducing a possible ordinance in the town during his Sept. 13 councilor report, using his own experience partially as reasoning to advocating for approval.

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.