Tuesday, August 15th, 2017
New golf cart law runs into rough
Legal travel to some areas questioned
By William Kincaid
CELINA - City council members may revisit a multi-use vehicle policy that took effect just a few days ago after having learned some residents in and around the Eaglebrook Subdivision can't legally access restaurants and businesses by golf cart.
City council members in July approved on a 4-3 vote legislation to permit multi-use vehicles, including golf carts, onto city streets where the speed limit is 25 mph or slower.
The policy was drafted in response to a request from mayor Jeff Hazel, who had said that a resident had asked if he could drive his street-legal golf cart in town. Though permitted by state law, golf carts must also be allowed by a municipality to use its streets.
Days after the policy had gone into effect, councilors learned that some residents - chiefly those in the northeast part of town - cannot travel by golf cart to some restaurants and businesses without breaking the law by either driving on a 35 mph road or crossing private property.
Eaglebrook Subdivision residents for years have been crossing city streets in golf carts to safely access all the holes of the golf course, local businessman/developer John Irmscher said.
"I can see now that if a homeowner in Eaglebrook owns his own golf cart that he uses for golfing, he can no longer drive it on the streets to the golf course ... because he has to be licensed," councilman Eric Clausen said.
Mayor Jeff Hazel agreed some areas are surrounded by 35 mph roads, preventing residents from legal travel by golf carts to other parts of town. Councilors in their recently enacted policy had confined the use of golf carts and similar vehicles to roadways with speed limits of 25 mph or lower due to safety concerns.
"What we have found is there is some isolated areas that they cannot cross because there is not a 25 mph road that they can travel on, even if they cross perpendicular on a 35 (mph road)," Hazel said.
Some residents have asked the reason why officials didn't "figure this out before" passing the policy, Hazel said.
But prior to council's decision, golf carts weren't legally permitted on any city streets, Hazel said, explaining city officials first had to "get a structure in place" to allow the legal use of golf carts and other vehicles on public streets.
"Let's figure out how to connect the town because there are people in all four quadrants of our community that have golf carts and they all want to be able to do that," Hazel said, adding that the developer of a proposed condominium/hotel resort along West Bank Road wants to allow people to use golf carts, too,
Councilors Jeff Larmore and Fred LeJeune, who both voted for the policy, said officials may need to modify the new law to allow residents to legally access businesses and restaurants.
Larmore said the policy was a good starting point.
"I don't know in the future if there's any option to potentially consider speed limit changes ... to address (a resident's) concern with being close to the golf course but still outside of that 25 mph area," LeJeune said.
City law director George Moore said under state law, councilors can authorize the use of multi-use vehicles on streets up to 35 mph.
Councilman Mike Sovinski noted that Industrial Drive in the northeast part of town goes nearly to the Lakewood Village Shopping Center along Haveman Road. He suggested "working something out" with private property owners to get a pathway for golf carts and multi-use vehicles to use.
Hazel said the city also has asked the Ohio Department of Transportation if officials could authorize the use of multi-use vehicles in the bike path lane of Haveman and Grand Lake roads. They are still awaiting an answer, he said.
"If we're moving the golf carts into areas where people are walking and bicycles ... we better be careful about the liability side," councilman Mark Fleck said.
Police Chief Tom Wale told the newspaper last week that his department will fully enforce the city's new multi-use vehicle policy that took effect Thursday, emphasizing that golf carts and other applicable vehicles must pass inspection before legally hitting the streets.
As the law stands, all multi-use vehicles must pass police inspection before being permitted to travel on city streets.
Those seeking a permit must present a valid Ohio driver's license and proof of insurance. All multi-use vehicles must be legally registered with Ohio license plates and have working brakes, brake and taillights, a horn, a steering mechanism, a windshield, a rearview mirror, safe-condition tires, front and back turning signals, a white license plate light and front and back seatbelts.