Drivers might soon be taking their golf carts off the course and onto city streets come July. Dunedin City Commissioners are expected to pass an ordinance tonight (April 7) making it legal to do in some designated areas.
Commissioners voted 4-1 on its first reading on March 24 with Commissioner Julie Scales being the only dissenter, saying she would rather have more information on safety issues than give it a nod. A second public hearing on the ordinance will be held during tonight’s regular commission meeting at 6:30 p.m., and commissioners are expected to take a final vote, passing the measure with some requested changes.
If passed, the new ordinance will replace one implemented in 1983, which allowed golf carts on roads within a one-mile radius of Fairway Estates, located north of downtown, off of Alt. U.S. 19 and south of Curlew Road. The idea back then was simply to allow golfers to get from their homes to the golf course and back, said Robert Ironsmith, Dunedin Community Redevelopment director.
In recent years, residents have gone to commissioners and asked to expand the golf-cart zone to other areas of the city and last year the commission asked staff to look at the idea.
A Golf Course Task Force was set up and reviewed it, and staffed has recommended opening up golf cart travel in some areas of the city west of County Road 1.
“It’s about an alternative form of transportation, a little more eco-friendly and having fewer cars in the city,” said City Manager Rob DiSpirito.
And it’s not just those in golf communities who want to move the carts from the green to the asphalt. They come from all over the city.
“These are all folks who want to go downtown,” he said.
The ordinance maps out two designated golf-cart zones. The included streets must not have a speed limit exceeding 35 mph, or in many cases have more than 5,000 cars traveling on it per day.
In the northern zone, the boundaries are (but don’t include Curlew Road on the north):
- County Road on the east,
- Main Street on the south, and
- Alt. U.S. 19 on the west.
- Harbor View Villas and Dunedin Shores are included with a golf cart crossing zone at Palm Boulevard.
The southern zone boundaries are (but don’t include Main Street on the north):
- Keene Road (CR 1) on the east,
- Union Street on the south, and
- Alt. U.S. 19 on the west.
- Virginia Street between Milwaukee Avenue and Keene Road, Patricia Avenue between Union Street and Main Street are excluded but have designated crossing zones.
If made law, those driving the carts must be licensed drivers, unlike the previous ordinance which allowed those 14 and over to drive the vehicles.
Carts must be operated like any other motor vehicle when on the streets like state law requires. Those cart owners who wish to drive them on city streets will be required to register the golf carts with the city for a $10 annual fee and must, among other things, present a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance.
In addition to reliable steering and brakes, a rearview mirror and reflective tape on the front and back of carts, they must also be equipped with a horn, which is an additional safety requirement that the state does not require. The golf carts must be driven during the daylight hours unless having the proper headlights, brake lights, turn signals and windshield. They must also have a maximum attainable speed of 20 mph.
Some residents and commissioners were concerned about safety but in the nearly three decades the carts have been allowed around the golf community, no accidents have been reported, city staff says. Code enforcement and Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies will handle ordinance enforcement issues.
Vice Mayor David Carson said during the March 24 meeting that there are risks whether someone chooses to drive a car, ride a bicycle or even walk on city streets.
“Will there ultimately be an accident? I am sure there will be, but that’s not to say the same person wouldn’t have gotten into an accident had he or she chosen to ride a bicycle that day and got run over by a car,” he said. “… Life is dangerous.”
He said this ordinance just gives people more options.
“I’m not telling you have to buy a golf cart,” he said. “I’m telling you if you want to use one, go right ahead.”
If the law passes, it will go into effect on July 1. Required signage in golf-cart zones will be paid for by city gas tax funds and the Community Redevelopment Agency downtown public improvement fund, $3,000 and $1,000, respectively.