Safety Harbor Waives Golf Cart Regulations | Clear water

SAFETY HARBOR — City commissioners declined to issue an ordinance that would have designated specific routes for golf cart travel, meaning golf carts will retain their nebulous status in the city for the foreseeable future.

The decision, made at a June 21 commission meeting, comes amid a noticeable increase in golf cart use in residential and commercial areas of Safety Harbor. Despite their popularity, golf carts—by their strict definition—are technically illegal on most public roads, absent county or city ordinances to the contrary.

Florida law states that golf carts may only be used on roads specifically designated for them by a county or municipality. ‘Golf cart compatible’ ordinances have been passed in Dunedin and Oldsmar, but not in Safety Harbor – meaning people driving golf carts in Safety Harbor risk incurring traffic citations from police. Pinellas County deputies.

The hypothetical ordinance would have designated legal routes for golf carts, as well as regulated age limits, safety features and vehicle registration.

An online poll, conducted between May and June, identified a large majority of residents in favor of allowing golf carts on public roads – 77%, an increase of 10 points from a similar poll conducted by the city ​​in 2012.

However, City Manager Matt Spoor cautioned at the meeting that neither Dunedin’s nor Oldsmar’s ordinances provide a perfect model for Safety Harbor.

“There is no perfect prescription, solution or program; they all have their pros and cons,” Spoor said. “There are nightmares of what happens in these cities and what doesn’t.”

Some commission members, including Mayor Joe Ayoub, argued that switching from state law to city ordinance would only confuse golf cart owners rather than help them.

“It’s going to be difficult to educate people,” Ayoub said. “(Combined with Florida law), it’s a patchwork of statutes and ordinances. It’s confusing.”

State law also prohibits golf carts from being driven on roads exceeding 35 mph; therefore, any ordinance proposed in Safety Harbor would necessarily divide the city into three golf cart-friendly “zones,” separated by Enterprise Road and State Road 580.

“If we do the ordinance, and we have the specified zones, and people are out of their zone, they’re going the wrong speed (crossing Enterprise or SR 580),” Commissioner Nancy Besore said. “They’re going to get a ticket. And that will put some people off.

Spoor also noted that golf carts are legally distinct from “low-speed vehicles.” While golf carts are defined as recreational vehicles that cannot exceed 20 mph, LSVs travel between 20 and 25 mph; LSVs also include features that golf carts typically lack, such as windshields, side mirrors, and license plates — and as such must be insured and registered with the state.

The survey provided to residents of Safety Harbor did not distinguish between golf carts and LSVs.

According to Spoor, the order would have provided “another option” for reluctant golf cart owners to register their carts as LSVs. Besore, who supported the order, agreed, saying many golf cart owners choose not to register their vehicles as LSVs even if they meet the criteria, due to the inherent difficulty of the process.

“The golf cart people I heard said it was very bulky and very expensive,” Besore said. “If they try to make (their golf cart) a LSV, they have to take it to Hillsborough to get it registered. They say it’s $75 a year to throw it on their home insurance, and it costs $77 a month to do it with the license plate – so in a way it’s a question of fairness. People are already in LSV if they have the money and are ready to jump through all the hoops, we see them.

Nonetheless, the commission questioned the idea that the ordinance would further stimulate golf cart traffic in the downtown area. Commissioner Andy Steingold noted that residents drive their carts regularly, regardless of their registration or LSV status.

“I don’t think by not enacting an ordinance we’re stopping people from using golf carts,” Steingold said. “There are a lot of them out there. (People) are going to use them anyway, so I don’t think it’s going to really make a difference.

Ultimately, the commission decided not to implement a citywide golf cart policy, allowing golf cart and LSV owners to maintain the status quo.

“I was all for visiting (the problem), but I just think it’s going to be very problematic,” Steingold said. “People are not going to comply, we have the zoning problem; it will be very problematic. It is easier to rely on state law.