The owners of these golf carts parked outside Indian Rocks Beach City Hall were inside hearing a discussion on opening up the city for extended golf cart use.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Indian Rocks Beach Mayor R.B. Johnson wants some definitive answers regarding the use of golf carts in his community.
Although he admits it will take some time, perhaps years to solve all the issues surrounding the use of carts in the city, he wants to get the ball rolling.
For some time now golf carts have been allowed to operate on city streets. In fact they are allowed to cross Gulf Boulevard to get to the beach. The city has even provided golf cart parking at beach accesses and in other places throughout the community. But there has been a sticking point.
Golf cart owners who live south of Walsingham Road cannot get to the rest of the city because they cannot legally cross Walsingham, which is a state road. And while they can cross Gulf Boulevard they cannot drive along it without the county’s permission. They also can’t drive on the sidewalks or in the bike lanes. Golf cart owners who live between Ninth Avenue and the Nature Preserve are in the same boat. City Manager Chuck Coward had been asked to look into the issue and he came back with a definite answer.
“Can the City Commission authorize golf carts on Gulf Boulevard or on the sidewalks?” he asked. “The answer is no. It is outside the purview of this commission and you would have to make a request to the county to get it to happen.”
Johnson didn’t let the issue stop there, however. He wondered about the issue of seat belts in golf carts. City Attorney Maura Kiefer suggested the commission not touch that subject. “Golf carts don’t come with seat belts,” she said. “It is a manufacturers’ issue so let them take the responsibility for whatever might happen.”
Johnson then wanted discussion about ways to facilitate the carts getting to all parts of the city. He talked about other cities’ efforts, including a golf cart trail in Naples. Commissioner Terry Hamilton-Wollin suggested that the golf cart owners are such a small segment of the population that others might object to spending any money to help them get around. “People who don’t have golf carts manage to get all over town,” she said. “They use bicycles, their vehicles or they walk. Why can’t the golf cart owners do the same?”
Several golf cart owners spoke on the subject. Doug Norman asked if the commission would be open to hearing suggestions and possible solutions from residents. Helen Laramee suggested that the golf cart owners do some research and get back to the commission with some ideas.
Donna Valery urged the commission to keep looking into the issue but realized it would take some time.
“This is not going to happen tomorrow,” she said. “It will take time and we don’t want you to spend a lot of money; we don’t expect that. But we know people who will buy golf carts if the city is opened up.”
In the end the commission agreed to let Commissioner Cookie Kennedy speak to Pinellas Planning Council Interim Executive Director Michael Crawford to see what he might suggest would be the best way to proceed with the issue.
The City Commission unanimously passed a resolution declaring the intent to revitalize and develop the area known as the Business District Triangle, or the Narrows. The idea of the resolution is to try to get some federal money to help pay for certain improvements. But to do that the district had to be declared blighted. And the resolution defined a blighted area as “one in which there are a substantial number of slum, deteriorated structures and conditions which endanger life or property.”
Planning and Zoning Director Danny Taylor told the commission that the area is not in fact blighted by that definition but it is lacking in certain infrastructure situations and the resolution had to be worded in that way so as to be acceptable to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which would be awarding the grant for the improvements in the area.
Town Hall meeting on Law Enforcement
Indian Rocks Beach has set Thursday, Nov. 29, 6:30 to 8 p.m., for a Town Hall meeting to deal with law enforcement issues in the city. From time to time residents have complained about the treatment they receive from sheriff’s deputies. To answer those complaints the Town Hall meeting has been scheduled. City Manager Chuck Coward said there are three questions to be addressed by the residents.
“What do you believe the goals and objectives of law enforcement should be,” he said. “How do you feel about the demeanor and attitude of the deputies, and what do you believe the role of the new community deputy should be?” Coward said city commissioners also will be able to weigh in on the subject.
Coward brought commissioners up to date on a number of projects that are going on in the city. He said the IRB library has taken advantage of an offer from the Pinellas County Library Cooperative to join its e-book program. Residents can now download library books either from home or in the library once they get the appropriate card and password. The program costs the city $4,000 a year.
Coward also reported that the library will soon be looking better. He said the Beach Art Center is going to display artwork on the walls inside the library. The paintings will be changed on a rotating basis.
City Hall itself will soon be looking better. The planned facelift on the west and north sides of the building will go out for bid in early December and the contract should be awarded in early January. He said the work will be done in February or March.
Coward also promised the commissioners they would see a presentation soon of the plans for the “pocket park” at Walsingham and Gulf Boulevard. He said the presentation would be ready for the next meeting on Nov. 27. At the same time the commissioners also will see a presentation for townhouses on property at 601 Gulf Blvd.