ST. PETE BEACH – Motorists beware. In a matter of a few weeks, it may become common to see St. Pete Beach residents headed to the grocery store or other nearby venues in a golf cart.
City commissioners are considering an ordinance that was originally crafted to include only Pass-A-Grille but decided Aug. 27 to possibly expand the scope to include the entire city in areas where the speed limit is 25 mph or less.
If that happens, it would include most side streets except Blind Pass Road, Gulf Boulevard and 75th Avenue where the speed limit is higher.
City staff was expected to research safety and signage issues before presenting a revised ordinance at the city’s Sept. 3 meeting. If the measure passes on first reading, the second and final reading would be on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
St. Pete Beach normally meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month but since the city will be conducting public hearings on the proposed 2014 budget, city officials moved the September meeting dates so they would not conflict with public hearings on the county budget.
The golf cart ordinance, which has been proposed and failed in the past, is modeled after a similar ordinance in Dunedin that law enforcement officials say is working well.
The big question was whether to limit it to areas south of the Bay Way or include all areas of the city.
“I’ve had several people comment to me that it doesn’t seem right to them to give a privilege to one area and not others if it is (within) a 25-mph speed limit,” said Commissioner Jim Parent.
Parent said he would “strongly suggest” opening it up to any street with a speed limit of 25 mph or less.
Commissioner Marvin Shavlan and Mayor Steve McFarlin agreed.
City Manager Mike Bonfield said more signage would likely be necessary at entry points to state roads where golf carts may be crossing. He said the cost could be high.
“If we’re going to go with signs, they’re not cheap,” Bonfield said. “You’re probably talking about $100 a sign. And if you’re talking about every road that’s entering onto a state road, that’s going to ring up a lot of money in a hurry. We were thinking just two or three down there (Pass-A-Grille).”
Cpl. Drew Campbell of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said signs would likely be necessary.
“You would have to post (signs on) the streets, explaining where they can go and not go,” Campbell said. “As far as enforcement, it’s just general patrol. If a deputy sees a golf cart on Gulf Boulevard, they would have to do a traffic stop.”
He said it’s legal to have a golf cart on the roadway as long as it has insurance, a tag and lights.
“But,” he reminded, “If they’re out drinking in a golf cart, it would be just like a regular traffic stop. It would become a DUI at that point.”
Golf cart owners also would be responsible for paying for parking, if the cart is parked in a city parking lot.
Under terms of the St. Pete Beach ordinance, golf cart owners would pay a small fee to the city for an annual permit. They also would have to show proof of insurance and pass a cart inspection.
In Dunedin, city officials require owners to show proof of insurance and pass a golf cart inspection. They issue a copy of the ordinance and a map of areas in the city where driving a cart is legal.