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Pawleys Island: Town limits range of golf carts to 2 miles

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The town of Pawleys Island this week scrapped its ban on golf carts to comply with a state law passed last year, but it took advantage of a provision in the law to reduce the range of golf carts from 4 miles to 2 miles. That means an owner on the island’s north end can’t drive a golf cart to the south end because the island is 3 miles long.

It’s unclear how the limit might affect people who drive golf carts to the beach from outside the town, where the legal range is 4 miles. “Our focus is on safety rather than semantics,” Police Chief Mike Fanning said.

Town Council met in closed session with David DuRant, the town attorney, this week to discuss the law. “The town is going to enforce it based on the 2-mile limit,” Mayor Bill Otis said. Whether a cart is outside its legal range would only become apparent if it was stopped or cited for another violation, he added. The town doesn’t plan to run license checkpoints.

The General Assembly passed a law last year that allows golf carts to travel up to 4 miles from the owner’s address on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. The carts must be registered and be operated by a licensed driver. The law prohibits local government from regulating the carts, but does allow municipalities to reduce the range to 2 miles where there is a safety concern.

The town adopted a golf cart ban in 2000. At the town’s request, state Rep. Stephen Goldfinch introduced an amendment to a pending bill that would have restored the ban, but he withdrew the measure after an outcry from other constituents and some fellow lawmakers.

The town is concerned that golf carts will increase traffic on streets that fill up with cars, bikes, joggers and walkers during the summer. “You mix golf carts in with that – and you’ve got traffic going a minimum of 25 miles an hour – it’s a bad recipe,” Otis said. “Every one of those people believe that they can take their place in the road.”

Owners say the golf carts will take up less space on the road and in parking spaces. “I wish they would just relax and see what happens the first year,” said Matt Lowenbach, who lives on the mainland off the South Causeway. “I really don’t think it’s going to be the problem they think it is.”

The South Causeway is 40 mph for much of its length so golf carts can’t use it. Fanning said he plans to ask the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office to watch for golf carts on that stretch of road.

“Our police department will be learning this law like everyone else,” Otis said. “The law was loosely written. There is a lot of room for interpretation.”

A bill in the legislature would allow golf carts to operate at night if equipped with the proper lights. It would also impose a $100 fine for violations. The law adopted last year didn’t include a penalty, so Pawleys Island Town Council included a $50 fine in its ordinance.

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