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Pawleys Island: Legislation would restore town’s golf cart ban

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A week after the town of Pawleys Island learned state law longer allows it to ban golf carts on the island’s roads, state Rep. Stephen Goldfinch has proposed a change in the law. “We’re trying to get it pushed through this year,” he said.

Goldfinch offered an amendment to another bill on golf carts that will allow municipalities to regulate the vehicles. It passed in subcommittee and he expects it to pass the full committee and reach the state Senate in time for a vote this year.

The town discovered earlier this month that a change in state law last year that allowed golf carts to be operated on public streets farther from the owner’s home had also prohibited local government from adopting more stringent regulations. Pawleys Island adopted a golf cart ban in 2000.

Only a few golf carts have appeared on the island since the new law attracted attention. “I don’t think it’s been significant yet,” Mayor Bill Otis said.

But the island’s roads are narrow and traffic is heavy during the summer. Otis said the addition of golf carts would impact safety.

“We consider the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists and people pushing baby carriages at the top of our public safety issues,” he said.

Goldfinch said he considered introducing a new bill after he was contacted by Otis, but decided an amendment would be quicker. While he’s no fan of regulation, Goldfinch said “most government needs to be local government.”

“Local government should have the right to manage what’s on their roads,” he added.

The 2012 change in the law extended the legal range of golf carts from 2 to 4 miles from the owner’s home. It also allowed that distance to be measured from the entrance of gated communities.

The restriction on local government regulation appears to have been added in the Senate Transportation Committee. Lawmakers often say they know what’s best for communities in their district, Sen. Ray Cleary said, but “they all feel like the beach is their community. That may have happened here.”

Neither Cleary nor Goldfinch have heard any opposition to local regulation of golf carts.

“If it was put on in the Senate and got through the Senate and the House, there must be somebody who doesn’t want local regulation,” Cleary said. “We’ll have to watch for that.”

Pawleys Island Town Council met in a closed-door session with the town attorney last week. It took no action afterward, but Otis said this week one of the flaws in the new law is that it doesn’t contain any penalties for violations.

The law requires golf carts to be operated by licensed drivers and requires the carts to be registered with the state Department of Motor Vehicles. “None of those requirements are enforceable,” Otis said. He doesn’t believe that was the intent of the legislature, just as he doesn’t think the state intended to limit local government authority.

“I think it was a clear oversight when this bill was written, not allowing the government closest to potential problems to take necessary action to protect public safety,” he said.

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