AVON PARK – The road to allowing golf carts on some Avon Parks roads is gaining momentum.
A proposal for an ordinance for letting Avon Park residents legally drive their golf carts on city streets was presented at the City Council meeting Monday, the first step in possibly permitting golf carts as modes of transportation within the city limits.
The proposal was drafted and written by Jason and Kristi Albritton, owners of J. K. Kustoms Golf Carts and residents of the Avon Park Lakes golf community.
Based on similar golf cart ordinances in Winter Garden west of Orlando and Cutler Bay south of Kendall in Dade County the Albrittons found online, the proposal outlines requirements to allow golf carts on the roads as long as they meet “threshold safety requirements under state and municipal law.”
The proposal was presented to the council by George Hall, who lives downtown. He said the push to permit golf carts in Avon Park Lakes near the Highlands-Polk county border got him into action. In early May, that community submitted a proposal to Highlands County that members hope will lead the way to designating all or some streets there as suitable for golf cart use.
The proposed ordinance, if approved and enacted, would provide procedures for city council to legalize the act; require golf carts to be equipped with statute-mandated safety devices; give the hours carts could be used; give regulations for unlicensed golf cart drivers; denote law enforcement and codification; and give control for conflicts, provide for severability and set an effective date.
In addition, sections would include what defines a golf cart, authorization to allow them on specified roads, minimum standards for equipment, hours of operation, requirements for use, compliance with traffic laws, regulations and regulation enforcement. There are also sections relating to codification and ordinance control.
“We want to make it safe,” said Jason Albritton. “But it would also be easier to find parking downtown and benefit downtown businesses. We have a lot of customers in the city that like to drive their golf carts anyway; if I can help, I want to try and do it.”
At the meeting, Hall, 46, a lifelong Avon Park resident who owns one golf cart, said permitting fees for golf cars - limited to those not capable of going over 25 mph - would be recouped by the city for to use for golf cart-related infrastructure and road signs. He said it would cost owners somewhere between $25 and $100 for permits and a cart could be made “street legal” for about $1,500 including tag and insurance. That would include efficient brakes, reliable steering, safe tires and a rear-view mirror.
Golf carts that would be driven at night would need headlights, brake lights, turn signals and a windshield.
Hall, pastor at Avon Park Lakes Baptist Church, also said area vehicle businesses could be subcontracted by the city to be used as permitting sites.
“I don’t know if the city would even need to be involved in permitting,” he said Tuesday. “My main goal is to get the council to talk about it, whether they support it or not. I believe it (the ordinance) can pass based on a form they create. I think it would be win-win for everyone.”
Currently, state law prohibits use of golf carts on any street or road unless the county designates the thoroughfare as safe for golf cart use. Around Highlands County, there are already communities that permit golf carts on their roads, including Sun ‘N Lake, Spring Lake, Placid Lakes and Tanglewood.
Donald Toth, Tanglewood Homeowners Association president, said the majority of homeowners in Tanglewood’s 1,100 residences have at least one golf cart. He said the maximum speed limit is 17 mph and rules of use are based on federal guidelines. He said Sun ‘N Lake, adjacent to Tanglewood, even has a back entrance for golf carts and they’ve been used for trips to the nearby Dollar General store and Wal-Mart off U.S. 27.
Toth said from his experiences, Avon Park residents would appreciate the transportation flexibility if the ordinance ever becomes official.
“It would benefit them, but they would have to study it and make sure it’s compatible with the streets and speed limits there,” said Toth, 75, who works part-time as sitter-observer in the nursing department of Highlands Regional Medical Center. “It’s really safe if you just obey traffic rules. When you’re driving any vehicle, your responsibility is to make sure you’re driving it safely.”
If the issue is pursued, an official draft of the ordinance would be written by Gerald Buhr, Avon Park city attorney. He said based on wording suggestions by city council, he should have the ordinance ready for its first reading at the June 23 city council meeting.
In other action Monday: The city council unanimously approved annexing over 38 acres on the south side of Lake Glenada. As part of the annexation, the city is also extending water and sewer facilities for a future development.
“The city continues to grow, and accordingly, as we grow, we build infrastructure to facilitate development,” said City Manager Julian Deleon. “Although, this land is vacant, it has a tremendous amount of potential with its borders located on the southern shore of Lake Glenada.”
The council also approved authorizing Mayor Sharon Schuler to enter into a Joint Participation Agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation and the city for the demolition and design-construction of T-hangars and constructing a taxiway at the Avon Park Executive Airport. The act does not bind the city to grant but is a “placeholder” for funding, which can wait until 2017-18.