By Dan Moffett
In May, Briny Breezes passed what it thought was a comprehensive golf cart ordinance that would clarify how and where residents can use their vehicles around town.
As it turns out, when it comes to golf carts, clarity is itself a moving target.
On Nov. 19, Briny’s corporate board approved a plan to spend $75,000 for widening a sidewalk and constructing a golf cart crossing on State Road A1A. The plan would satisfy a state law regarding golf carts crossing state roads.
The approval raised new questions, however. Where would the crossing be located? That’s up to the Florida Department of Transportation, Town Council President Sue Thaler said, and DOT hasn’t decided.
Also, in giving its blessing and its money to the crossing project, the corporate board wants the town to enforce several requirements on golf cart operators: They should carry insurance, have valid driver licenses and be registered, board liaison Joe Coyner told the council.
Those requirements may not be compatible with the new ordinance, Town Attorney John Skrandel said. More research is needed.
“We may not be able to require these things,” Skrandel said.
Briny Mayor Mike Hill thinks it’s not a good idea to require driver licenses. A significant number of residents don’t have them because of age or physical infirmity. Yet, they have no problems operating golf carts on the town’s quiet streets. In fact, some residents need the carts to get around and stay mobile.
“It’s not uncommon, particularly for people in their 80s and 90s who are perfectly capable of driving a golf cart, to not have driver licenses,” Hill said.
Then there is the matter of who owns Old Ocean Boulevard and what vehicles should be allowed on it.
In researching the ordinance, Skrandel found that the town never formally received the deed to the road decades ago, so technically it still belongs to the state. So technically, again, when residents operate golf carts that aren’t street-legal on the road, they are violating the law.
Skrandel said he heard from the DOT in November, and state officials say they’re willing to formally give Old Ocean to the town for no charge, perhaps in relatively short order by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, golf cart owners must weigh the nebulous pros and cons of spending thousands of dollars to convert recreational golf carts to street-legal, “low-speed vehicles.”
The state requires LSVs that have top speeds between 20 and 25 mph to have much of the standard equipment you’d find on family autos: headlights, stoplights, turn signals, parking brakes, reflectors, windshields, windshield wipers, seat belts, horns and vehicle ID numbers.
Converting a cart from use on the golf course to use as a street-legal LSV can run anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, residents say. And once you convert to LSV, you can no longer legally operate your cart on sidewalks.
Thaler said council members should know more about where golf cart policy is heading by the Dec. 17 town meeting.
In other business:
• Deputy Town Clerk Steven Cooper said that qualifying for the March 15 municipal election ended on Nov. 24 with no new candidates coming forward to challenge incumbent council members’ seats. Though Briny voters won’t have to select aldermen, they will have the chance to go to the polls for the presidential preference primary that day. Ú