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Some residents want fewer restrictions on golf carts in new ordinance

Some residents want fewer restrictions on golf carts in new ordinance

As the Spencer City Council moves toward allowing ATVs and golf carts on city streets, several council members have heard from residents who want fewer restrictions placed on golf carts in the new ordinances.

Those ordinances would allow ATV owners with driver’s licenses and state ATV registrations to drive the vehicles on city streets at any time, but not on state highways 18 and 71, where they are currently not legal. Sixteen and 17-year-olds would need safety certificates.

The new golf cart ordinance would allow those vehicles on city streets from sunrise to sunset as long as they have slow-moving vehicle signs and safety flags attached.

While the second filing of the ATV ordinance was approved 7-0 without much discussion, the council spent more time on the second filing of the golf cart ordinance before voting to approve 7-0 but agreeing to discuss possible changes and clarifications in committee.

Both ordinances must be approved a third and final time before they would go into effect.

Some golf cart owners have spoken out about those additional limitations that would not apply to ATVs.

Ward 2 Councilman Bill Orrison said he received an email from a resident questioning why the city could not “loosen” those rules. 

“I appreciate the individual’s concern,” Orrison said. “I really believe that we ought to start with this and let it go for a year and see how the issues fall into place. If the police don’t have any issues with it and we’ve had no significant accidents, especially after dark, then maybe we want to look at it, but I think we leave it alone.”

Councilman at-large George Moriarty shared concerns he received during a call with a resident, but also said he felt the new ordinances were appropriate.

“I told him that I thought we’d gone far enough along with it but that I would bring it up,” Moriarty said. “He was concerned about going to the golf course with your golf cart and not being able to go home after dark. He said if he stays until 8 p.m., it’s dark before he gets home. It’s not him, it’s for a neighbor, really.”

Moriarty said he mentioned to the resident that the new ordinance is moving forward “in increments” and that more could be changed if all goes well with these changes.

Ward 4 Councilman Donavan Wunschel noted that the only difference between an old city code and the new ordinance regarding golf carts was that they would be allowed on all city streets. The sunrise to sunset provision was always in place. 

“All that changed in the golf cart section is the fact that now we can drive them on all city streets, besides the main highways,” Wunschel said. “It stated in the previous code that it was sunrise to sunset. It also stated it needed a triangle and a flag. That was all in the old code.”

Police Chief Mark Warbuton said he also heard from a resident. He said he is not comfortable “giving the blessing” for golf carts to drive at night.

“The speed that they’re going is much slower than the rest of the traffic,” he said. “So, that has me concerned.”

Councilman at-large Loren Reit said he wanted more conversation about the matter at a committee meeting. Wunschel and Ward 3 Councilman Tracey Larsen, who also is chair of the Public Safety Committee, also said they would appreciate that. 

Reit said he’s concerned with night time driving, mostly during the fall when days are shorter, and also with slow-moving vehicle sign requirements. He had other questions, too, including age, license and insurance requirements for golf cart drivers.

Orrison asked Scott Simpson of Community Insurance, who joined the virtual meeting to discuss a separate topic, about changes of insurance an owner has to have if they are driving a golf cart on the street.

“Typically, golf carts that are just used on the golf course, homeowner’s insurance provides liability automatically,” Simpson said. “The minute it leaves the golf course, the homeowner’s policy no longer provides. So it’s important that if you are using the golf cart off the golf course, you have to get proper insurance in place.”

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