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Winter Springs works to make golf carts street legal

Golf carts and other small four-wheeled vehicles could soon be legal on the streets in Winter Springs after the City Commission and police department discussed terms for making the city a “golf cart friendly community.”

But that discussion on Jan. 10 raised some questions of its own about the legality of smaller vehicles in the city which had already been in broad use.

“I thought this was done, and I consider myself a pretty well informed guy,” Mayor Kevin McCann said. “I think the bulk of our residents would look at this and say ‘Huh?’ I see golf carts on my street where my home is every single day, multiple times a day … everybody assumes that this has already been dealt with.”

“It has been an issue for a while and it has reemerged as an issue whether the city of Winter Springs is a golf cart community or not,” City Manager Shawn Boyle said. “We’ve done this process in the past. I do have some recollection of why we never got to the finish line, but we are not to the finish line yet.”

The issue of urgency with passing an ordinance, Boyle said, comes from residents being at risk from other enforcement agencies.

“We have external law enforcement agencies creating the problem for us. I don’t take these kinds of issues up for fun. There are external forces that are forcing our hand and putting pressure on our residents, and our residents are turning to this commission. … I just feel the citizens are at risk of having penalties imposed on them because we haven’t completed the business yet.”

The issue is more complicated than just saying golf carts are legal now, City Attorney Anthony Garganese said. “There are a lot of moving parts.”

The city has to decide what roads are safe for golf carts to operate on, doing individual studies on each road, then putting up signage, working together with the state to create state road crossing points, and registering vehicles.

“We’re stuck with how the [state statute] scheme is laid out,” Garganese said.

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Deputy Mayor Kevin Cannon mused aloud about why the state can’t make laws that create a state-level set of laws for golf carts and low-speed vehicles.

“Where’s the preemption now?” Cannon said, in a throwback to the defiance some commissioners had shown in December when they mulled fighting the state over a new law that preempts cities’ home-based business laws

To become street legal, the minimum standard, Boyle said, is golf carts would need to be inspected for $10, showing that they have, among others, a rear view mirror, turn signals and brake lights. The police department would issue a sticker to show the cart is legal. A driver’s license and insurance would both be required.

The discussion brought up the recent growth of electrified vehicles that used to be either less popular or nonexistent.

“I think we should look into something that goes a little beyond golf carts,” Commissioner Rob Elliott said, talking about motorized bicycles and electric skateboards and scooters.

“The electric scooters have taken off in other jurisdictions … and they are definitely a problem,” Cannon said. “A friend of mine … almost lost her leg because somebody was on one of these electric scooters and plowed into her while she was walking.”

Boyle said that some of those issues had already been decided at the state level, but that the city would have to designate motorized vehicle safe areas.

“I wish it were just ‘go post some signs and we can move on,’” Boyle said. “But we’ve got to cross some T’s and dot the I’s.”

“It’s clear the ordinance needs to catch up with the times,” Commissioner Ted Johnson said.

The process will start with city staff and the city manager looking into precedent with other cities and looking at which neighborhoods the city could start studying. It will be brought back at a future meeting.

“Historically we are a golf cart-friendly community,” Cannon said. “We just need to finish the job with regards to the golf carts.”

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