Polk commissioners approve golf cart ordinance

Published 10:23 pm Thursday, January 25, 2018

COLUMBUS – Beginning July 1, residents of Green River Cove Road will be able to get proper inspections and stickers to drive golf carts on the road. Other residents also have the opportunity to petition the county to add their roads as long as the speed limit is 35 mph or less.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday, Jan. 22 and following the second public hearing on the subject, approved an ordinance to regulate golf carts by a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Ray Gasperson, Jake Johnson and Myron Yoder voted in favor of the ordinance, while commissioners Shane Bradley and Tommy Melton voted against.

During the public hearing, commissioners heard comments both for and against the county regulating golf carts. The state currently allows the use of golf carts on public roads as long as the speed limit is 35 mph or lower, but residents from Green River Cove Road asked the county to regulate them because the state requirements to be registered a vin number are $2,600. The state does allow counties and municipalities to regulate their own ordinances, as long as the ordinance is at least as restrictive as the state’s regulations.

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Polk County is requiring seat belts and car seats as well as other regulations. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office will register the golf carts as well as give annual renewal stickers.

The cost to register a golf cart in Polk County will be $100 for the original inspection and $75 every year for the renewal if the golf cart is trailered and brought into the sheriff’s office for the inspection. If the sheriff’s office has to go to a property to perform the inspections, the cost will be $150 for the original inspection and sticker and $125 for the annual renewal.

During the public hearing, Keith Holbert said he is strongly opposed to the county regulating golf carts. He said Green River Cove Road is heavily traveled with buses for tubers, motorcycles and automobiles. Holbert said he’s not willing to sacrifice his law enforcement coverage so officers can patrol Green River Cove Road and asked why commissioners would add another item to the sheriff’s office’s list of things to do.

Grey Lancaster said he’s in favor of the county regulating golf carts. He said he was curious about babies and car seats and isn’t really in love with requiring seat belts, but he understands. He also said he wants the county to allow golf carts with the proper equipment to be allowed to drive at night.

Commissioners did allow golf carts that are properly equipped to drive at night, while golf carts that do not possess the proper lighting will only be allowed to drive during daylight hours.

Pat Morrison said he is in favor of golf carts on Green River Cove Road and also asked that the county allow night driving for carts properly equipped.

Melton said he called Henderson, Buncombe and Transylvania counties and talked with law enforcement and wildlife officers. Melton said one of the concerns is alcoholic beverages on golf carts as well as parents letting children drive golf carts.

The golf cart ordinance in Polk County will not allow anything that is not allowed for driving a vehicle. Drivers will have to be licensed and at least 16 years old and alcohol or driving under the influence is also against the law.

Commissioners decided violations against the county’s ordinance will be a $50 fine. Any other state law violated will be prosecuted in court as a vehicle violation.

Yoder said he sees allowing golf carts as just another privilege commissioners can give the citizens. He said he thinks it will help the county’s senior citizens and the county allows horses on the road as well as bicycles and other vehicles.

“I just can’t see that much difference with a golf cart,” Yoder said.

Bradley said right now the state allows golf carts if someone pays the fees.

County attorney Jana Berg said the difference between the county regulating versus the state is that the county can regulate without the owner having to get a VIN number.

Golf cart operators, once the ordinance goes into effect July 1, will have to get registration, proof of ownership and proof of insurance on the golf cart.

Residents wishing to have their roads added to the list of allowed roads can fill out an application, which will also include an attachment for a list of residents on the road in favor. The application will be available at the county clerk’s office in the Womack building in Columbus. County officials asked for the ordinance to be effective July 1 to give time to order stickers, get officers acquainted with the regulations and to prepare applications to add specific roads.