By a 3-2 vote, the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council directed its staff Tuesday to draft an ordinance allowing golf carts to be operated on town roads.
Florida statutes provide for municipalities to allow golf carts on roads that have been designated for such use, but the municipality must determine that golf carts may travel safely on or cross public roads or streets by considering factors such as the speed, volume and character of motor vehicle traffic also using the road.
Golf carts have a different definition under the statutes than low-speed vehicles and mini-trucks, which are already allowed as long as they have the required operating equipment, including lights and turn signals, and all-terrain vehicles, which cannot be operated on roads.
Discussion of the question had been postponed from the council’s Aug. 20 meeting, where only three council members were present, in order to have full discussion.
Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel, who was not present then, said he was concerned about safety and security issues and wanted no action taken.
“I’ve read through all this, and unless I’m wrong, the way I interpreted this from legal [staff] we need to leave this alone and keep it like it is,” Jarriel said. “For us to start dedicating roads for certain types of vehicles, whether it’s a golf cart, and then they said the minimum age was 14 — a 14-year-old does not have a driver’s license. If you’re going to operate a vehicle in the Town of Loxahatchee, I expect you to carry anything from a restricted license up to a driver’s license, so when PBSO stops you, you’ve got identification of who you are and where you live, and whether that golf cart comes from your residence.”
Jarriel pointed out that thieves use golf carts to case potential targets surreptitiously.
“People like to ride around on golf carts and four-wheelers and scope out residents, and then they like to steal if nobody’s around,” Jarriel said. “They’re quiet, they’re sneaky, and I just don’t like the idea. This council shouldn’t be designating a road for people to ride golf carts on without the residents agreeing to that, because the residents are the ones affected.”
Jarriel pointed out that nursery work vehicles and other low-speed vehicles such as tractors are already covered, which are required to have equipment including mirrors, turn signals and lights.
“If you look at the golf carts, they don’t have that stuff,” Jarriel said. “I personally think we’re opening a can of worms. I say we leave it alone and concentrate on more important things at this time.”
Jarriel added that he was also concerned about the town’s liability if someone is hurt or killed in an accident.
Councilman Tom Goltzené said he did not have a strong opinion on the question, pointing out that it was something that had been discussed by the Roads & Trails Committee.
“I would say we should allow golf carts on the town roads, but I’m not going to fight for it,” Goltzené said. “I don’t have a golf cart. I was trying to help it out for people who did and try to make things easier for residents. I would hope, though, that the PBSO makes sure that people who do, understand that they are breaking the law and treat them as such, because we can’t have unequal enforcement.”
Councilman Ryan Liang favored the use of golf carts. “I know a lot of folks do use the golf carts just to check the mail or go to their neighbor’s house, but then I also understand there are folks who take advantage of using golf carts or ATVs. But I don’t want to penalize the property owner who wants to use their golf cart to check their mail or take their garbage out.”
Councilman Jim Rockett said he uses a golf cart to check his mail and take out his garbage but never leaves his property. “I don’t need to go on town roads or district roads,” Rockett said. “Quite frankly, I’ve seen too many times where we have recreational golf carting on the roads, and it’s dangerous.”
Rockett also pointed out that statutes require posting roads where golf carts are allowed and that cost has not been determined.
Mayor Dave Browning said he was among the people interested in a golf cart ordinance.
“I would have been sure it had been a licensed driver to drive the golf cart,” Browning said. “We already allow horses on the road, we allow tractors on the road, we allow the utility vehicles from the nurseries on the road. The ATVs are already illegal, the dirt bikes that aren’t licensed are already illegal. My thought was, what would it hurt to designate the roads with licensed drivers to use the golf cart to go to their neighbor’s house?”
Goltzené made motion to allow golf carts on town roads and also require that the operator be a licensed driver. It carried 3-2 with Jarriel and Rockett opposed.
Attorney Michael Cirullo pointed out that authorization of golf cart operation on town roads would still have to come back to the council for approval in an ordinance, which he would prepare for a future meeting.