Mount Holly council tables golf cart proposal

by Sarah Melton

It looks like Mount Holly residents will need to keep their golf carts on the golf course.

Currently, golf carts are not allowed on any public street, road or highway in Mount Holly. City Council member Carolyn Breyare heard from a few residents that wanted to drive their golf carts on the streets to get to parks, restaurants and other businesses.

But other council members were not sure allowing golf carts on city streets is a wise idea.

Police Chief David Belk talked to city council leaders Feb. 28 about establishing a golf cart ordinance at the request of City Manager Danny Jackson.

Allowing golf carts would save residents gas money, reduce use of motor vehicles and help residents who do not have any other form of transportation, Belk said. Golf carts also emit fewer pollutants than cars.

But there are drawbacks to letting golf carts on the roadways.

The city could be liable if someone was injured or killed in a golf cart crash. Golf carts are not equipped with seatbelts or child restraints, and no crash ratings were available. Additional equipment would be needed on the golf carts to meet compliance with the ordinance.

Capt. Shannon Harris researched golf cart ordinances already established in Windsor, Erwin, Dallas, Pineville and Baton. Dallas has only had two golf cart registrations since evoking its policy last year, while Pinehurst, an area with many golf courses, typically registers 15 golf carts a year. The cities all had similar ordinances, except Pinehurst, which doesn’t require golf cart drivers to have a driver’s license. The town does requires the driver be at least 18 years old.

Belk told council members a potential ordinance would only allow golf carts on streets where the posted speed limit is 35 mph or less, which would exclude N.C. 27 and 273, Hawthorne Street and Belmont-Mount Holly Road.

Establishing an ordinance would provide alternate transportation to residents before gas gets $4 or $5 a gallon, Breyare said. The ordinance could bring more jobs to the city, Breyare added.

“I’ve seen in towns and cities where they’ve had (a golf cart ordinance) for a long time and businesses open up, people get jobs working on golf carts and it really flourishes when it takes off,” she said. “We have bikes, lawn movers, motorcycles, Hoverounds and everything else on our streets. I just think golf carts would be a good way to go in our town.”

Councilman David Moore said he is not sure the council needs to be looking at a golf cart ordinance right now. The idea of a 16-year-old driving a golf cart with another small child in the passenger seat “scares me to death,” he said. But if city leaders felt differently, Moore said drivers should at least be 21 years old to operate a golf cart.

Mayor Bryan Hough thought the ordinance might be better suited for a city with beach or golf course traffic, but not for Mount Holly.  Allowing golf courts on the roadways would impede traffic, open up the city to liability issues and create problems that currently do not exist, he said.

“The first time Freightliner, which is cranking back up, gets out and hits a golf cart and kills a child, who is going to be blamed?” Hough said. “We think $2,000 to keep a greenway each year is expensive. Wait till you get sued by the family whose kid got killed.”

The council agreed to table the issue and revisit it at a later date.

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