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Gulfport Council Discusses Golf Cart Use on City Streets

The city council covered several items on its workshop agenda Thursday, including the use of golf carts on city streets and ideas for a new sign at the entryway to downtown Gulfport.

Gulfport's City Council heard one presentation and examined four items at its workshop on Thursday including the operation of golf carts on public roads, an amendment to the Historic Preservation Ordinance, the Waterfront Redevelopment Area entryway sign and the proposed mooring field.

For the third time in the past year the city council discussed the feasibility of allowing golf carts – or low-speed vehicles – on public roads. Early in the discussion City Attorney Associate Caitlin E. Sirico confirmed that the city of Indian Rocks Beach allows golf carts on city streets that do not exceed 25 mph, which seemed to be what many in the discussion wanted to emulate. It was golf carts crossing or driving on busier streets such as Gulfport Blvd. or its intersections with 58th St. or 52nd St. that most agreed was a common danger.

Driving a golf cart in downtown Gulfport was seen as a positive for the town by some, saving both natural resources and parking. It was also seen as a sign of a friendly, eclectic community open to more forms of travel and comfort.

Resident Bonnie Bray spoke in favor of legalizing golf carts on the streets.

“With the city tax base and everything else decreasing and the tax roles going down we have to develop some uniqueness for the city. We have a small little community here in the middle of a big area and the more unique our community can become the better our property values will increase. Golf carts within the city of Gulfport will keep our business within our community, within our restaurants; it will keep the community a little bit more quaint.”

She said the city of Dunedin recently legalized golf carts on the street and that members of its merchant's association helped push the ordinance through. She claimed it would help the lack of parking in town and that insurance can be covered under homeowners policies.

The major points of debate were whether registration of the golf carts was necessary, if insurance was necessary and how much, how rules pertaining to their use would be enforced (police department or code enforcement) and whether allowing their use might open the possibility of younger or unlicensed drivers operating them on city streets.

One possibility brought up was to create a set of safety regulations for each cart such as lights, indicators, windshields, horns and seat belts, and make the owner have it inspected by the police and put an easily identifiable marker on those carts so that the police would be able to quickly identify an approved cart.

Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent addressed the council and admitted it would be difficult to expect his officers to write code enforcement citations during their course of duties, as opposed to traffic violations, which are part of their normal duties.

“That does bring up an issue,” Chief Vincent responded to a question from Council Member Barbara Banno as to the enforcement of citations. “It would be enforced via a code violation not a uniform traffic citation, which is a little bit more complicated procedure. We would have to change some policies in the way we do things otherwise we would never get cops to do it. For an officer to write an ordinance violation citation right now requires that they complete an offense report, that they complete an arrest report, that they complete a booking report. It's a very complicated process. It's not anywhere near as simple as writing a traffic ticket.”

He said that officers rarely write code enforcement violations but when they do it's typically for a barking dog or loud music, and that they have to file a long list of reports.

“I think that Gulfport could use a golf cart ordinance,” Vice Mayor David Hastings suggested. “I'm not in favor of this [one]. It does have some of the features in here that I would like to see as required equipment but it does lack, I think, the specifics.”

He mentioned light levels and that he wasn't in favor of allowing carts at night. Living in thehe noted that it does have a golf cart ordinance and that teenagers will sometimes pile on the carts at night and create dangerous situations for themselves and automobile drivers. He also said he would be in favor of allowing golf carts in the downtown Beach Blvd. area.

“I think we definitely need to stay away from 58th and 22nd,. That is not a place to allow a crossing,” he stressed. “I would think that we would want to require, for everybody's concern, that a golf cart would have to be insured with a minimum amount of liability to protect all.”

Council Member Sam Henderson also suggested minimum liability insurance, as well as licensed drivers only, for golf cart operators on the streets of Gulfport.

Ultimately, City Manager O'Reilly agreed to write a new ordinance stating specific requirements for the carts and where they can travel. The council will vote to approve or deny that ordinance at a later date.

*****

Mike Meidel, Director of Pinellas County Economic Development (PCED) spoke to the council to make them aware of the services that it provides including consulting, education and assistance with small business loans.

One of the points he made was that Gulfport may be able to qualify for a Brownfield grant to help develop areas around 49th St. that may have been contaminated by hazardous materials. He suggested that the city may take advantage of working with bordering St. Petersburg to apply for such grants and that designating an entire corridor as a Brownfield may be beneficial in qualifying for a grant.

“Over time if the areas are lopsided in development it drags down the development of the entire neighborhood,” Mr. Meidel said, referring to the 49th St. area.

*****

Community Development Director Fred Metcalf announced to the council that the Waterfront Redevelopment Advisory Board (WRAB) is looking at prices and ideas for a new sign at the entryway to the Waterfront Redevelopment Area at the intersection of Gulfport Blvd. and Beach Blvd.

“It's a nice sign but it might need a little work,” Mr. Metcalf said of the existing blue and white “Gulfport Waterfront District” sign set into a flower garden for Gulfport Blvd. traffic to see. He and others at the meeting admitted that they barely notice the sign when driving because of the concentration needed to drive at that point of the road.

He said WRAB members would like to incorporate sailboats and a regatta theme into the new sign and for it to be artistically tasteful to reflect the art district. He presented an architectural drawing of a concept of a new sign structure about 20 feet in diameter featuring three sails labeled with the attractions of the city within a water fountain.

Mr. Metcalf said WRAB was hoping to keep the cost of the entire structure within the $25,000 to $30,000 range. They came up with an initial estimate of $1,500 for construction drawings before unveiling a final concept. Since WRAB is under the auspices of the council, council members would have to authorize the project.

He said WRAB has $11,000 in its capital budget to help pay for the sign but it was not stated where the rest of the funds would come from to pay for the project. No further discussion followed about the next step to bid for drawings or to settle on a final artistic plan for a sign. WRAB will approach the council at a later date with an update on its plans.

Frank Verdino May 28, 2011 at 06:07 PM
I'd like to point out that "street legal" golf carts are permitted in Gulfport and every else , already. They require certain safety features, insurance and registration just like a car and are cited like any other vehicle on the road. An ordinance would only be required for what is currently considered "non-street legal" golf carts which cost $500-$700 less than those modified properly for street use.
CJ May 28, 2011 at 07:54 PM
Interesting reply. We are from Kansas and moving there soon. I have an electric golf cart that is pretty nice and I was wondering how I can use it there. I do not play golf. We used it at a weekend cabin we sold during our preparation to move to Gulfport. I knew that I could change it to what is called an ''NEV''...which is a fairly new vehicle class....Neighborhood Electric Vehicle. It sounds like that is what you are talking about. I had heard that golf carts were in use there, and you reply helped me understand better what that mean't. I bought my cart at a flea market, and it has no title, etc...so I am now skeptical as to whether I can use it. I am not sure what I can do with it, but I will see if a title is required. I did not know if golf carts have titles or not...do they?
Frank Verdino May 28, 2011 at 09:14 PM
The statute relating to registering low speed vehicles is Florida s.320.02 passed in 2007. You can find it at http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/filestores/web/statutes/fs07/CH0320/Section_0320.02.HTM
Nancy Kelley May 29, 2011 at 12:04 AM
I don't see how golf carts are going to improve our parking problem. Does this mean that the people driving them will not park them? I can't imagine backing out of a parking space on Beach Blvd in a golf Cart, it is dangerous enough backing out in a car. I see no need for Golf Carts in Gulfport and I can not imagine Homeowners insurance picking up the liability, we're lucky we can even get homeowners now. and as we all know it is not inexpensive.
Mr. Fish May 29, 2011 at 02:41 PM
Thanks Nancy, you always were against anything that looked like progress. lets look at parking, two or three golf cars can fit into one parking place, much like motorcycles. Backing a golf car out on Beach blvd. Actually safer as they have a higher profile. And I do it all the time. Since you always eat inside, you could not appreciate the lack of exhaust fumes an electric car has. Golf cars have no title, and to register it as an LSV you need to take your vehicle to Tampa to get it inspected by DMV and they issue you a title. With homeowners insurance on the rise, with Gov Scott phasing out Citizens, the cost of everything in Florida will go up as insurance leads the way.
mtober May 29, 2011 at 05:35 PM
WRAB only presented one option for a sign, with incorrect grammar to boot?
Mr. Fish May 29, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Well take a look at the board. Maybe they had an exhaustive contest that we were unaware of. Obviously they did not have any English teachers on the selection committee. Why is it Fred Metcalf always seems to have all these ideas that cost money and never get done. Cannot he get his building department to do something about the derelict house behind O'Maddy's?
Nancy Kelley May 29, 2011 at 05:50 PM
Jim Greenwald read my lips.
Mr. Fish May 29, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Nancy I haven't walked by your house to see what the code violation is, but I laugh every time I think of it. Love ya
Nancy Kelley May 29, 2011 at 08:39 PM
Jim Greenwald, hard to believe you ran for mayor of Gulfport! You have such a great respect and love for this city. Higher power was looking out for Gulfport on that matter.
Mr. Fish May 29, 2011 at 10:50 PM
Nothing irritates us southerners more when you northerners can't get your facts straight. Jim Greenwald did not run for Mayor, he ran for Congress 11th District Florida. Please use your fact checker. And take care of that violation before you piss off one of the neighborhood nit pickers and the city puts you on the habitual offender list.
mtober May 30, 2011 at 12:48 AM
Jim- you call yourself a Southerner, how's that when you are from Calif. ? AND did you forget that you ran against Michele King in Ward 2?
Mr. Fish May 31, 2011 at 01:49 AM
I'm from Southern California, never lived in snow never wanted to. Wasn't that the start of the end?
Nancy Kelley May 31, 2011 at 05:30 PM
Jim Greenwald-- the tag you see on my door is to let me know there has been a theft near by in our neighborhood. I suppose you have had so many code violation tags , you think every tag you see is one.
Mr. Fish May 31, 2011 at 07:07 PM
You mean the tag you got just made it look like a code violator. SO sorry, I am wondering why there were not other tags in the neighborhood, regarding the theft. Wait another theft in the neighborhood. I guess the police cruisers were elsewhere. Hey Nancy you should be advocating for more police protection, not leaving the city and complaining. HA HA HA
Nancy Kelley June 01, 2011 at 12:21 AM
Jim you are the master at complaining. I can't recall that you have ever had a good word to say about Gulfport. For the record I believe the Gulfport police do a very good job.
Mr. Fish June 01, 2011 at 04:23 AM
Hi Nancy, I went and talked to your neighbor across the street and they got no notice about a theft in the neighborhood, whats up with that. And why is it that you have the only house in the neighborhood with a three lock burglar proof door on it. Makes it look like an unsafe neighborhood and discourages investors to come to our area. I believe that the Gulfport Police do an excellent job with the resources they are given. But using the police department as a revenue generating area for the city discourages patrols to keep down thefts in your neighborhood. Keeping down crime does not generate any income for the city, Traffic violations do. You approve of that don't you, weren't you one of the ones that didn't want to pay a higher tax for better police protection. Maybe that's why you have a big "paranoid" persons door.
Nancy Kelley June 01, 2011 at 09:48 AM
Jim Greenwald , Why don't you go directly to the Police dept and ask them? Why don't you go find a man to harrass. My house is just the way it has been since I bought it. I would like to see the millage go up. End of communication.
mtober June 01, 2011 at 11:11 AM
Jim- stop already! What do these personal attacks add to the conversation? We all know you hate Gulfport and why. There are some, actually many, of us that still enjoy living here despite some of our concerns and our observations that there is room for improvement. You said you were moving somewhere else--have you? Perhaps it's time for you to start participating in a dialog there, wherever there is.
Mr. Fish June 01, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Thanks Margarete I was thinking the same thing! I should just let you guys sink into your own morass! But me unlike yourself and others in Gulfport, believe in letting live and let live be my philosophy. My neighbors in Gulfport with illegal RV's on their property have no worries that I will call the authorities on them. Every time I walk by the house with an illegally parked RV, a boat parked in front, numerous cars and of course "According to Bruce" an illegal trailer. I think how lucky these people are that you are not their neighbor.
mtober June 02, 2011 at 01:05 AM
Jim- I have never complained about my neighbor's RV nor anyone else's. I did ask if that ordinance was being enforced and if it was legal to keep a "gazillion" vehicles on one's property in G'port. The city determined they weren't em=nforcing the ordinance and brought it forth for action, with which i agreed. So, please Jim, keep your facts straight. I did ask the city to look into my neighbor's fence that was close to falling on my house and not being fixed. You see I wanted to also let live and let live and not have a heart attack if and when it fell on the wall of my bedroom during the night. I really don't understand all of the hateful comments you are making. The US is a society of laws and you can either follow them or not. When you don't there are consequenences. The consequences should be applied equally. Many of us agree and empathize that in your case that did not happen with the code enforcement person. On the other hand there were times by your own admission that you intentionally didn't follow the rules. That was not right either. Ifyou choose to live in a place where there are rules and live and let live doesn't fly then you have chosen the wrong place. Please Jim, stop the hateful banter and the personal attacks.
CJ June 09, 2011 at 11:14 PM
The Gulfport sign did not look bad, but it did not seem like it was right for a City Emblem. It was too complex. If that is the one they go with, then it seems OK. At this point, it appears as if it is cut and dried and that is the one it is going to be. Guess it will have to do until a future meeting that talks about changing to a new one. These things never seem to stay the same long. Most city emblems I see that I take notice of are ones that main logo details can be seen from at least ''some'' distance. You would have to be real close to this one to read the things on it. I am assuming this is for more than just letterheads and envelopes, and that it would also be used on signs you would see along streets, etc. Frankly, it kinda looked like a lady's hat when I first looked at it...one Lady Gaga might where. It would sure beat wearing a lampshade on my head at parties. If I was going to make one, I would steal a few ideas from this one, but make it more simple. For example, one main sailboat with a big sail that has big letters that say Gulfport on the sail, and the boat itself with the words...''The City Where It's All At''. I am not an artist, though, so all I can do is think of possible words. This would have made an excellent art project contest for local schools.
CJ June 14, 2011 at 06:06 PM
...''wear''...not ''where''...I can't spell very good...but I do know that one

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