Tarboro council discusses measure to allow golf carts on streets | Local News

Golf carts may become a regular issue for drivers of motor vehicles to deal with in the future.

A straw poll conducted by council members on Monday night resulted in four members saying they would not be in favor, two saying they would be concerned and the remaining two supportive.

A public hearing was called for Feb. 8 on a 5-3 vote for further discussion and a vote on whether or not to approve an ordinance allowing the presence of golf carts on town streets.

Ward 4 representative C.B. Brown started the discussion and spoke multiple times in favor of the passage of such an ordinance, pointing out that golf carts are allowed in several North Carolina communities, citing Emerald Isle and Greensboro.

He pointed out that electric golf carts are already approved for use on state roadways, but that he was talking about gas-powered golf carts. When asked why the gas carts were not approved, he said he didn’t know.

Mayor Pro Tem Othar Woodard, chairing the meeting in the absence of Mayor Joe Pitt, alternated from one side of the dais to the other, calling on each council member for their take on the issue.

Councilman Leo Taylor, who represents Ward 2, said, “I would not be in favor unless they had a state tag and followed all the same laws as the operator of a motor vehicle.”

Taylor, like Brown, spoke multiple times against the idea of an ordinance, later citing the fact that motor vehicle operators pay taxes and other fees and maintain insurance on their street-legal vehicles.

Councilman John Jenkins asked the opinion of police representatives in the council chamber.

“We’ll do what the council wants,” he was told. “Some ATVs are licensed now.”

When pressed by Jenkins, he was told that the police would have “concerns over safety issues” about carts on the street.

Woodward then switched sides of the dais and District 6 Councilwoman Deborah Jordan said her main concern was safety, adding, “No tag … then no.”

Councilman Tate Mayo of Ward 8, who was approached about the issue last summer at a Tarboro River Bandits game, said, “I don’t think it’ll be a big thing, but we need to get input.”

Councilwoman Sabrina Bynum, who represents Ward 7, asked if carts would be allowed on all streets and was told by Town Manager Troy Lewis that they would only be allowed on streets with speed limits of less than 35 miles per hour.

Several streets — including Main Street from the Tar River to Howard Avenue — have posted speeds of less than 35 with heavy traffic, including tractor-trailers.

In a later discussion, Lewis told the council that it did not have to accept a suggested ordinance from NCDOT but could tweak it and make adjustments as they saw fit.

Following Bynum’s comments, Councilman Steve Burnette of District 3 said, “I’m not in favor. I’ve seen them in other communities and some of them can be expanded to carry up to eight passengers. These are 15-year-olds. It’s not a good idea.”

After hearing from everyone, Woodard said he would “be concerned.”

Jenkins again went to the police and asked about golf carts on the streets today.

“They have to be registered with the state,” he was told. If not, the operator would be in violation of state law and would also be in violation of town ordinances, since they are not approved on town streets.

Brown again reiterated he was talking about gas-powered carts and was again asked why the state didn’t give them the OK.

Taylor again reiterated his opposition unless carts faced the same ordinances as motor vehicles and said “they (carts) go faster than you might think.”

The sample ordinance provided notes that golf carts “are not designed or manufactured to be used on public streets, roads and highways” and “all persons who operate or ride upon carts on roads do so at their own risk and peril.”

Most golf carts are open and constructed of fiberglass, generally weighing between 500-1,100 pounds depending on the make, model and added modifications, according to data provided by www.golfcartreport.com.

In other action, council members:

  • Recognized the state champion Tarboro High School Vikings with a resolution and presented it to Head Coach Jeff Craddock and members of his staff. Craddock told them, “This doesn’t get old and we don’t take it for granted.”
  • Held a public hearing on an annexation request for 1.24 acres for the Starbucks development in the River Oaks Shopping Center and unanimously approved the annexation.
  • Approved a budget amendment adding $179,905 to the electric department budget for expenses incurred while providing mutual aid in south and southwestern Louisiana following Hurricane Ida. Tarboro crews went to Lafayette first before moving to Houma.
  • Approved a budget amendment to add $3,000 to cover drug seizure expenses incurred by the police department. The council was told the amendment was needed due to the scope and volume of police investigations and that funds have been depleted, requiring additional funding to conduct other investigations.
  • Called for three public hearings in February or properties at 504 Edmondson and 704 and 910 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
  • Approved March 5 and 6 as the dates for its annual budget retreat.

Last March, the council called its normal two-day retreat in early March, then wound up holding an abbreviated session that lasted less than two hours and failed to include every department head.