NEWBERRY – The Villages may be the best known retirement community in Florida with retirees living out their golden years zooming around alongside cars on their golf carts.
The Newberry City Commission has been wrestling with the pros and cons, not to mention the acceptable wording, of an ordinance that would make certain areas of Newberry “Golf Cart Communities.” A Golf Cart Community is one in which the city would allow the operation of golf carts on public rights-of-way with certain provisions, based on Florida State Statute 316.212.
The operation of golf carts on public streets is permissible, provided the municipality has determined that golf carts may safely travel on or cross the public streets. In addition, appropriate signage must be posted to indicate that such operation is allowed. Municipalities may pass more restrictive ordinances governing golf cart use in their communities in the future.
Although the issue has been brought before the Newberry Commission several times since 2013, the wording of an appropriate ordinance has yet to be decided. In a presentation by City of Newberry Planning Director Bryan Thomas, he reviewed the history of the city's efforts to complete an appropriate ordinance.
According to city records, the commission reviewed a staff determination by former City Planning Director Lowell Garrett on Jan. 14, 2013. At that meeting Garrett said that golf carts were permissible, with conditions, on public rights of way, pursuant to Florida State Statute 316.212. Although a motion was made and seconded to ratify the determination, after discussion a motion was passed to table the item indefinitely.
On Feb. 25, 2013, a follow-up two-hour workshop was conducted to discuss the proposed use of golf carts in residential areas of Newberry. Discussion focused on posting signs on designated street areas, registering golf carts and providing regulations for operation on city streets and charging a registration fee to cover the cost of signage and sign maintenance.
During the workshop, Newberry Mayor Bill Conrad suggested scheduling another workshop or bringing the item back on a future commission agenda to allow time for further review.
Recently, a commissioner requested it be brought back before the commission, which is why it was on the Nov. 14 agenda. Approximately, six residents were on hand in support of moving ahead with the initiative, according to city records.
Alachua County Sheriff Department Sergeant Billy Beck was also on hand to speak to the commission's safety concerns and answer commissioners' questions.
Commissioners tasked the city’s attorney, Scott Walker, to incorporate the items discussed into an ordinance, which is expected to be brought back before the commission at the Dec. 12 meeting.
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