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Panel gives support to golf cart ordinance

By Staff | Apr 16, 2009

The Captiva Community Panel has approved an ordinance that will allow only legally licensed drivers to operate properly equipped golf carts in the village during the day and at night.

Now that the panel has almost unanimously shown support for the ordinance (there was one dissenting vote), the ordinance will go before the Board of County Commissioners for final approval.

“What’s being proposed is to increase regulations of golf cart use so that you have to have a license in order to operate one and to allow night-time use for appropriately equipped carts in the Village area where they are already allowed to operate,” said Ken Gooderham, who noted that this particular ordinance does not include any issue of extending the golf cart zone beyond its current borders.

“That has to be done by DOT (Department of Transportation). That is not done by the County Commissioners. It’s the DOT’s responsibility to do an engineering study to approve any expansion,” Gooderham explained, adding that the purpose of the this particular ordinance is also to give the Sheriff’s office concrete rules to enforce.

Many members of the audience seemed to be most concerned with the prospect of extending the golf cart zone and made those concerns known.

The input was taken into consideration, but panel members Harry Silverglide and Nathalie Pyle reminded all audience and panel members alike that the particular ordinance they were discussing at that time made no provisions nor even mentioned the extension of the golf cart zone and that a separate study by DOT would be necessary to even consider extending the zone.

“The issue here is enforceability of the use of golf carts at night. Without this ordinance, nighttime usage on Captiva is arbitrary,” Silverglide said. “Some of the deputies will enforce it, some of the deputies won’t. The sheriff may or may not support it. It just turns into and arbitrary situation.”

The ordinance the panel approved on Tuesday, April 14, provided solidly enforceable language for two issues: nighttime driving in the village and the mandatory licensure of all golf cart operators.

This golf cart ordinance states that only golf carts equipped with headlights, brake lights, turn signals and windshields may legally operate in the village at night.

“With the ordinance, it allows nighttime use with certain restrictions on the golf carts and makes it enforceable that somebody under the age of 16 or 17 after 11 at night cannot drive a golf cart on Captiva. Period. Expanding use is a totally separate issue.” Silverglide added.

In addition, only licensed drivers will be able to operate a golf cart on Captiva, both during the day and night. Licensed drivers under 17 years of age, when operating a golf cart after 11 p.m. and before 6 a.m. must be accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age, unless that underage driver is going directly to work.

A 17-year-old driver operating a golf cart after 1 a.m. and before 5 a.m. must also be similarly accompanied.

“We just went through the Easter holiday where I saw so many children driving golf carts and I saw so many things. They don’t signal, they don’t even know how to signal,” Stilwell said in support of the ordinance.

“And also, people that are habitual drinkers drive golf carts. If they have a DUI, it doesn’t mean that they can hop on their golf cart and have a form of transportation because now you have to be a licensed driver and I think that’s very important for the island,” she said.

The panel passed the ordinance with the exception that any language referring to a “shared use” path be removed from the ordinance due to the fact that there are no shared-use paths on Captiva, only safety shoulders.