Wellington’s Assistant Planning, Zoning & Building Director Michael O’Dell has spent months with his traveling show presenting the preliminary plans for a new village golf cart ordinance.
After addressing local public forums, boards and advisory committees, O’Dell finally played the big room, as the matter was workshopped by the Wellington Village Council on Monday, May 24 with a specialist attorney and members of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in tow to answer questions.
The objective was to receive input from the council regarding the measure in order to develop a final ordinance to bring for a public hearing. But animated comments by the council members stressed that agreement is still much discussion away from being found.
“We don’t make decisions at a workshop,” Mayor Anne Gerwig stressed. “We don’t give consensus except at meetings.”
With the divergent opinions, there seemed little chance of that. Comments were wide ranging, which complicated the development of a final measure.
While golf carts are a fixture in the equestrian community and various neighborhoods throughout Wellington, they are technically not legal except on private property.
Councils have been talking about developing a Wellington ordinance to regulate golf carts for decades. “Everyone has just kicked this can down the road,” Vice Mayor John McGovern said.
With village pathways being upgraded and more added, many feel now is the time to legitimize golf cart usage and provide an education campaign and enforcement of the new rules.
Staff has undergone studies and reviewed existing statutes and the rules of other communities to get to the current status of a draft ordinance.
Gerwig said the matter will be advertised on a future council meeting agenda to get final input from the public.
Councilman Michael Drahos verified from O’Dell that, “Every committee thought we should do something,” as doing nothing is no longer an option.
After learning that staff had removed the registration requirement due to the difficulty of enforcement, Drahos was not happy.
“The registration is the most important part,” he said. “My concern is 14-year-olds driving around, and registration forces the parents to be involved.”
Councilman Michael Napoleone was worried about 14-year-old users being too young. “They actually can operate on some of the roads [in HOAs],” he said. “We can’t do anything about what the state says, but I can do something about our pathways.”
Napoleone also thought that registration was important, so golf cart users were educated on the road rules.
Councilwoman Tanya Siskind wanted to be sure that equestrian areas were included in the ordinance. “The trail along the side of Pierson Road was not addressed for inclusion, and it has been used for decades,” she said.
Nighttime usage might need to be considered to accommodate the equestrian users, she added.
Village Manager Jim Barnes said that any effort will likely require fine tuning down the road. “Today’s solution is tomorrow’s problem,” he said.