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Pawleys Island: Change in state law allows golf carts back in town

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A change in state law last year went unnoticed until last week when a golf cart showed up on the streets of Pawleys Island. The driver had a license, registration and a copy of the statute adopted unanimously by the legislature that says local government can’t restrict golf carts beyond what the state does, according to town officials.

The town adopted a golf cart ban in 2000. This week Town Council met in a closed-door session with the town attorney, David DuRant, to discuss their options.

The council adjourned without comment on the issue, watched by a group of people who sat through 30 minutes of other town business to see what the town would do.

“We just wanted to see what their reaction would be,” said Ben Marlow, who lives on the west side of Pawleys Creek.

“It makes sense,” Rommie Gray, another mainland resident, said of the state law. “We pay taxes to maintain those roads, they’re state roads.”

Besides, two golf carts take up as much space as one car in the island’s limited stock of parking, he added.

The change in the law emerged from a House bill that was introduced last year that proposed allowing people who live in gated communities to drive golf carts two miles from the community entrance rather than two miles from their house.

By the time the bill emerged from the Senate Transportation Committee, the range had been extended to four miles and the local governments were barred from adding further restrictions, except that they can limit the range to two miles.

A four mile radius for Town Hall means residents from Hagley to Willbrook could drive golf carts to Pawleys Island. Some restrictions apply.

The range is measured from the address where the cart is registered. Golf carts are not allowed on roads where the speed limit is more than 35 mph, although they may cross roads with higher limits. The carts must have a state registration and the driver must have a license.

Mayor Bill Otis said he was not aware of the change in the law. Beyond that, he said he couldn’t comment on the implications for the town.

If the town adopted a two-mile limit, it would restrict carts to those between Kings River Road and the island.

The town also bans what are known as “low-speed vehicles.” Those are defined by federal standards, but differ from golf carts in requiring equipment such as lights, mirrors and seatbelts.

State law still allows local government to ban low-speed vehicles, which the town of Pawleys Island did in 2008. Guy Osborne, police chief at the time, argued that allowing those vehicles would add to congestion on the town’s streets.

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