Holmes Beach golf cart limits confuse, anger drivers

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Eric Irons, manager at AMI Beach Fun Rentals at the Anna Maria Island Centre shopping plaza in Holmes Beach, poses March 8 with two low-speed vehicles available for rent at his shop. Both are street legal — allowed on all island roads. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

People have strong feelings about golf carts in Holmes Beach.

However, what they consider a golf cart may be a street-legal low-speed vehicle.

It seems “golf cart” has become a generic term for the fun, small, electric-powered vehicles that formerly found use only at the golf course.

Holmes Beach commissioners voted Feb. 26 to approve on first reading an amended ordinance requiring seat belts and age-appropriate child restraint devices — such as car seats — for golf carts.

Also, golf carts are prohibited on roads with a speed limit higher than 25 mph, including East Bay, Gulf, Marina and Palm drives and Manatee Avenue.

The speed limit requirement remains the same as the current ordinance, but the new wording in the proposed ordinance removes specific streets by name.

Currently, golf carts — as defined by the state and not to be confused with LSVs — are restricted by state law from roads with speed limits of 35 mph or higher.

LSVs can operate on any city road on Anna Maria Island. They require a title, registration, insurance and are equipped by the manufacturer with seat belts.

Both golf carts and LSVs must be operated by a licensed driver.

“Nothing has changed for LSVs,” Police Chief Bill Tokajer said March 7. “LSVs are street-legal golf carts. And that includes all the rentals and most of what you see now on the road.”

Residents and visitors have responded to the city commission’s decision with comments on social media both for and against an updated ordinance, with some people threatening to halt vacations on the island or sell their property and move if the ordinance passes.

Other people posted comments on The Islander website and social media that golf carts loaded with kids on the main road are a safety concern.

Eric Irons, a manager at AMI Beach Fun Rentals, said he tries to inform customers that what people rent at his shop and call a golf cart is an LSV, and is fully compliant with state and local laws.

“I let them know that all our golf carts are street legal,” Irons said. “They all have license plates, they’re registered and have seat belts, mirrors and headlights.”

Commissioner Carol Soustek said she was driving behind a golf cart when the driver took a turn too fast and a child tumbled out. The incident contributed to her concerns about golf carts and public safety.

“He wasn’t hurt badly, but it is still scary and could’ve been worse,” Soustek said. “That is why we want safety measures for golf carts.”

Holmes Beach is the only city on the island that allows golf carts its roads.

The final hearing for the ordinance and vote will be held at the city commission meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

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