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Golf carts: Town plans to start requiring permits in 2017

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The town of Pawleys Island plans to require permits for golf carts by the summer of 2017. There haven’t been any particular problems with golf carts since a change in the state law in 2012 ended the town’s ability to ban them from the island’s streets, town officials said. But they have seen an increase in golf cart traffic.

“There’s no way to know if the golf carts comply with state law,” Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri said. “Our main reason for doing it is we have people coming from 5, 6, 7 miles away. They shouldn’t be doing it, but we can’t prove it.”

Golf carts have to be registered with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, they must be insured and drivers must have a valid license. The carts can only be operated within 4 miles of where they are registered and only on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or below.

Pawleys Island used an exception in the law to limit operation to within 2 miles of the cart’s registered address. That would be a factor in issuing a permit, Fabbri said. However, Police Chief Mike Fanning said the town is unsure how to apply that limit. For instance, would someone be allowed to operate a golf cart on the entire island if their home was within 2 miles of the town limit or would they be allowed on the island only to the extent of the 2-mile limit? The island is 3 miles long, so a cart registered on the north end wouldn’t be allowed to drive to the south end.

“We’re still having that discussion,” Fanning said. “We try to use common sense policing.”

But it’s clear that someone whose golf cart is registered in Columbia can’t bring it with them on vacation to drive on Pawleys Island, Fabbri said. Council Member Ashley Carter said his initial concern when the golf cart ban ended was that vacationers would use them to drive to the beach from back row houses and take up parking spaces used by day visitors. “I haven’t seen that,” he said.

Fanning hasn’t seen that either. Police ticketed a golf cart over Memorial Day weekend because it was illegally parked at the Third Street beach access. Since the state can’t provide police with registration information on golf carts the way it does for other vehicles, a “boot” was placed on a wheel and a note told the owner to contact the officer. The owner said he didn’t want to park in a space that a car could have used. He got off with a warning, Fanning said.

He sees the permit system as a way of educating owners. An ordinance from Folly Beach is being used as a model. It requires owners to provide registration and insurance information and acknowledge they have read the laws pertaining to golf carts. Folly Beach charges $5 for residents and $10 for nonresidents. Carts without permits can be ticketed if they are parked on public streets, rights-of-way or parking areas.

Requiring a town permit will allow police to stop carts that don’t have a town decal. “It’s more of an educational thing than enforcement,” Fanning said.

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