Cherokee County Board of Commissioners
Cherokee County residents wishing to ferry family and friends around in their golf carts may now do so in designated areas, pending an approval process laid out by the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners.
Commissioners passed the long-considered and repeatedly edited motorized cart ordinance – an agenda item that has been on the table since September – by a 4-1 vote on Tuesday.
“I’d like to preface the motion I’m about to make with the fact that this is kind of a work in progress, and it’s something new that I don’t know has really happened in many other locations,” Commissioner Bob Kovacs said before the ordinance’s approval. “So I think it’s going to be subject to some adjustment over time if we feel the need to do so.”
Commissioner Scott Gordon voted in opposition, citing concerns with the process of designation in communities without a homeowners association.
“I sincerely appreciate Commissioner Kovacs’ willingness to entertain quite a bit of what we talked about in the work session, but I’ve got some significant concerns about how we handle the non-HOA areas,” Gordon said. “We have a bit of a difference of opinion on that, and I’ll just state that for the record.”
The ordinance will allow neighborhoods, both with and without homeowners associations, to petition the commissioners to hear the area’s desire to become a motorized cart district.
In neighborhoods or areas without an HOA, “a petition may be submitted by the residents of the area, however said petition shall require the signature of at least five separate parcel owners of the proposed motorized cart district,” according to the ordinance.
In both cases, the county engineer will receive the petition, verify land ownership or proper status of the HOA and identify areas appropriate for signage, the ordinance states.
A notice soliciting public comment will be posted at entrances to the proposed motorized cart ordinance for at least 30 days, after which public comments will be documented and submitted to the board of commissioners for consideration.
The board of commissioners will then hold a public hearing before taking a vote on whether to approve or deny the neighborhood’s request.
“Areas with HOAs will be defined based on the area covered by the HOA… The area governed by an HOA typically represents a ‘neighborhood,’ and even most non-HOA areas have some semblance of neighborhood boundary, typically based on how the area was developed,” Kovacs, who has headed the ordinance since its inception, said in an email interview Wednesday. “For those areas where it's not clearly definable, county staff will work to provide a boundary that works for the group that is petitioning for golf cart use… and the area will be approved during the public hearing.”
One of the board’s concerns from the beginning of the drafting process has been about the requirement of signage in the county. Commissioners have questioned the cost of the signs and who will bear that cost.
State law requires that counties pay for and post signs only where state roads enter the county, and Cherokee will use the registration fee required to operate the carts to offset those costs, Kovacs said. If individual neighborhoods want signs posted to indicate the cart district, those neighborhoods or areas would bear that expense, he said.
The registration process, including with which county department residents would have to register their carts, has also been a point of ongoing discussion among the board. At this point, Kovacs said the county has not come to a decision on who will be responsible for registration.
“(The county manager) and his staff are working on that, and we should have that finalized soon,” he said.
Kovacs said most of the opposition to cart use has centered on unlicensed drivers or drivers who are too young operating the vehicles. This opposition is irrelevant to the ordinance, because operating the carts comes with the same restrictions as operating any other motor vehicle, he said.
The ordinance also mandates that:
• Carts do not exceed 20 mph at any time;
• Carts may not be operated on public roads outside the designated cart district;
• Carts may not be operated on public roads with a speed limit exceeding 25 mph;
• Carts must have: a sufficient braking system and parking brake; a reverse warning device; a main power switch; headlights; taillights; reflectors; a rearview mirror; safety warning labels; hip restraints and handholds; and visible registration decals;
• Cart registration fees will cost: $15 for one year; $25 for three years; or $40 for five years;
• Gas-powered carts will have a proper exhaust system;
• Carts may not operate on sidewalks, swales, bicycle paths, trails or multi-use paths;
• All laws and ordinances relative to alcohol use in a motor vehicle will apply to carts;
• No cart shall have more than four passengers, unless each passenger has their own seat;
• Violations of the ordinances could result in a fine and/or imprisonment not to exceed $1,000 or 60 days in jail.