Golf cart drivers in Holmes Beach will motor with less of a handicap in the wake of an ordinance approved unanimously by commissioners Dec. 13 allowing golf carts on more city streets.
The new law allows golf carts to be driven on any street in the city with a speed limit of less than 35 mph.
The city’s first golf cart ordinance was enacted in 2000 and amended in 2002. The new law, instead of carving out cart-legal streets, allows golf carts on all city streets with the following exceptions:
• State Road 64/Manatee Avenue.
• State Road 789/Gulf Drive.
• Gulf Drive, north of State Road 64.
• Marina Drive from Gulf Drive to Palm Drive.
• Palm Drive.
“I’ve publicly made no bones about it from the very beginning,” said HBPD Chief Jay Romine. “I’m not in favor of it from a public safety point of view.”
Romine maintains golf cart travel on city streets is risky to drivers and passengers.
“We have been lucky” that no golf cart related accidents have occurred in the city, said Romine.
The new ordinance, which included the chief’s input, also requires street-going golf cart drivers possess a valid driver’s license.
In addition, street-driven golf carts must comply with state laws. Such laws regulate the hours of operation between sunrise and sunset and equipment, including windshield, rear-view mirrors, front and rear reflectors, headlights, brakes, brake lights and turn signals.
Commissioner John Monetti said the ordinance had been “one of my concerns,” and that he had been hoping his “neighbors would be able to tool around.”
While most city crossroads pose no barrier for carts, Mayor Rich Bohnenberger told commissioners the carts may not cross at intersections involving state roads unless they are signalized and approved as golf-cart crossings by the Florida Department of Transportation. State law otherwise prohibits golf cart operation on state highways.
“The state will not give us a permit to cross the state highway,” he said of East Bay and Gulf drives, a signalized intersection considered important for the city’s cart traffic. Such a pathway could open up the southwest commercial area of the city to cart motorists from the east.
“We need to create a pathway that dead ends behind Mike Norman’s” real estate office and provides safe passage from the east to west side of the road before the DOT will consider approving a golf-cart crossing, Bohnenberger said.
The mayor said DOT activity in this southwest area of the city has been stalled by a turnover in personnel at the state level. Even though a DOT plan includes a proposed path through Grassy Point, a designated preserve, golf cart use would not be permitted there. Another pathway would be necessary to open up the southwest side to golf carts, he said.
In closing the discussion at the commission meeting, Monetti said, “one day we’re going to be able to cross the road.”
But no permit application is pending for a golf cart crossing in Holmes Beach, according to Lauren Hatchell of the DOT public information office. She said the city submitted for a permit for a golf-cart crossing at Gulf Drive and State Road 789 in 2009, but that application became “null and void” once the DOT’s signal project, including a pedestrian crossing and crosswalk, was completed.
“Because of the condition of the roadway” after the project, a new application would need to be submitted, she said.
“They never submitted one. I don’t know whether they were satisfied with the improvements.”