Golf cart usage on Wellington streets and paths has been a perennial discussion, and village officials are studying the issue once again now that the village is in the process of paving a number of new pathways.
With a path along Aero Club Drive nearing completion and one along Big Blue Trace set to get underway, village officials are exploring the idea of making the use of such vehicles on village streets and pathways legal and will seek input from the relevant village committees.
State law makes it legal to use golf carts on local streets that have a posted speed limit of less than 25 mph. If golf carts are street legal, which is a very different vehicle, it can be on any roadway with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or less, must be driven by a licensed driver, have a license plate on the golf cart and must meet other motor vehicle requirements.
At a recent Wellington Village Council workshop, Village Manager Paul Schofield said that there are two sets of criteria that come into play. The state statute governs having them on public streets, and the village would have to be compliant with that statute, which does not require registration and allows the golf cart driver to be as young as 14 years old.
Schofield said that the village can create its own regulations for use on village pathways. This requires an engineering study, which the village has already done. Staff recommended that the maximum speed on pathways not exceed 15 mph, drivers must be licensed, be at least 16 years old and have a Wellington registration sticker.
The council gave permission for village staff to present the matter to committees that have a vested interest in the issue and to the public to receive input. Schofield anticipated that the public input process would take about four months.
“We would like to have input prior to the end of the equestrian season,” Schofield said.
Mayor Anne Gerwig commented that golf carts are a necessity in the equestrian community. “It is how they get around,” she said, adding that clearer rules would make the use of golf carts safer.
Councilman John McGovern agreed, saying that the village is looking to make the use of golf carts safer and in a uniform way. He suggested that the Senior Advisory Committee be given a chance to offer input.
Gerwig said that communication with schools and the Education Committee is also important, since some parents take their children to and from school using golf carts.
Councilman Michael Drahos agreed that all relevant committees should be polled for their input but did not want the process to get too unwieldy. “We would like for this to stay on track,” he said.
McGovern warned against rushing the issue. “This is a large-scale transformative undertaking,” he said. “If the village does this, there should be a good deal of input.”
Schofield stressed that safety is the goal. “The village needs to find a way to deal with the golf carts for them to be operated safely on the pathways,” he said.
Currently, the laws are enforced similar to traffic violations. If the PBSO sees an infraction, they will stop the person and cite them. Schofield said that in neighborhoods, very few citations have been written in the last few years.
Drahos said that the village also wants to increase community awareness. “The village has an obligation to make golf cart use safer,” he said.
Councilman Michael Napoleone agreed. “The goal of the ordinance is to put the rules in place,” he said. “And then, the PBSO will have enforcement.”
Schofield said that the golf cart issue is timed with the expansion of Wellington’s multi-modal pathway system. “By the time this is completed, the standards need to be in place,” he said.
Assistant Planning, Zoning & Building Director Michael O’Dell said village staff will work on the matter and bring it back in a timely fashion.
O’Dell told the Town-Crier this week that the committees will include the Public Safety, Senior Advisory, Education and Equestrian committees.
“It is the decision of the council to take the matter through the committees to seek their input and the public’s input,” O’Dell said. “Within neighborhoods with speed limits of 25 mph or less, we have identified roadways and communities that are covered by the state statutes.”
O’Dell noted that many Wellington communities are connected to roadways that are 35 mph. He said that rules will need to be formulated for pathway usage, such as the pathway width, speed limit, age of driver, required safety equipment and appropriate traffic regulations. “We see a lot of kids on carts where there are more kids than seats,” he noted.
O’Dell expects that the new regulations will be in place by March of next year.