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Council again mulling golf carts on city streets

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Elizabeth City officials are again considering allowing golf carts like the one ECSU police officer Eric Poyner is shown in this file photo cruising around the campus in, to be driven on some city streets.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Saturday, August 11, 2018

With Elizabeth City officials reconsidering an ordinance to allow golf carts to be driven on some streets, the slow-moving vehicles could soon become a common sight in city neighborhoods.

City Council will discuss a proposed ordinance on golf cart use during its 7 p.m. meeting on Monday, city councilors agreed during Thursday's finance committee meeting. The ordinance was first proposed in 2014, but councilors rejected it by a 5-3 vote.

First Ward City Councilor Billy Caudle said Friday he was prompted to bring the matter back up after several constituents asked him about allowing golf carts to be driven on city streets. Caudle said other communities allow people to drive golf carts on some city streets.

“My thought was driving them in outlying areas,” Caudle said, meaning people could drive them through low-speed, residential areas, to visit neighbors.

Caudle said he discussed the golf cart proposal with Third Ward Councilor Kem Spence — a supporter of the ordinance in 2014, notably — and Elizabeth City police Chief Eddie Buffaloe before bringing it forward.

Spence couldn't be reached for comment Friday, but his fellow Third Ward councilor, Rickey King, said he supports allowing golf carts to be operated on some city streets.

“I think it's a good idea,” King said, adding that allowing them would benefit elderly residents. He said his constituents have also asked about being allowed to use golf carts on city streets.

Fourth Ward Councilor Darius Horton said Friday he doesn’t object to allowing golf carts, but said he needed to research the issue further.

Mayor Bettie Parker, however, expressed reservations about allowing the slow-moving, exposed vehicles on city streets.

“I really think it might be a little dangerous,” Parker said Friday, adding she's worried other drivers will hit the golf carts.

Parker also expressed concerns that regulating golf carts would burden city police.

“We don't need one more thing” piled on officers, she said.

City Manager Rich Olson also opposes allowing golf carts on streets, citing safety concerns.

“Having these on roadways is not in the city's best interest,” he told councilors Thursday.

In response to safety concerns, the 2014 ordinance councilors rejected included numerous restrictions on golf carts' operation on city streets.

According to its provisions, golf cart drivers must have a valid driver's license and may only drive a golf cart in a residential area. The golf carts would be allowed to cross — but not travel on — any road with a speed limit higher than 35 mph. The ordinance explicitly states the streets golf carts wouldn't be allowed on, including the entirety of Hughes and Halstead boulevards, Ehringhaus Street, and Road Street.

The ordinance also requires golf carts driven on city roads to have seat belts and, if operating in the rain, windshields and windshield wipers. If they're driven at night, they must also have headlights and taillights.

The ordinance would further require golf cart drivers to get their carts inspected and permitted annually by the Elizabeth City Police Department.

The ordinance also proposed a $10 annual inspection fee. Olson noted Thursday that, while council hasn't decided whether to allow golf carts, he brought the matter to the finance committee because of the fee.

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