Golf Carts Don’t Get Green Light Yet in Barnegat Light

By Maria Scandale | Aug 21, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Barnegat Light — Will electric golf carts (classified by the state as “low-speed vehicles”) be seen more and more on Barnegat Light streets? The answer is not certain, as borough council tabled an ordinance that would say go ahead.

An ordinance that had been introduced at the July monthly meeting would have allowed the vehicles on roads except Central Avenue – technically, borough roadways whose speed limits do not exceed 35 mph. Comments at a public hearing Aug. 14 were heard both against the idea, and fewer for it. Council tabled the ordinance to gather more information.

As for state law, Department of Motor Vehicles rule says low-speed vehicles “have to be titled and registered and insured, have to be a four-wheel vehicle with an attainable speed of more than 20 miles per hour but not more than 25, and they can not be gas or diesel and would have to comply with safety standards,” Borough Administrator/Clerk Brenda Kuhn had summarized last month.

At the caucus meeting Aug. 14, a Long Beach Township police officer stated issues to consider, including possible legalities. At the public hearing, several residents expressed concerns about the safety of mixing golf carts with higher-impact traffic.

But resident and business owner Joy Luedtke, who has a registered, safety-feature-compliant cart, said she considers herself to be a safer driver on Bayview Avenue in the “pedestrian-friendly” low-speed vehicle than in her Range Rover.

“From everyone that has stopped me, everyone that has waved, thinks it’s fantastic for the town,” Luedtke added. “Doing 25 miles per hour down Bayview Avenue makes me realize how necessary it is to change that speed limit to 25 miles per hour.

“From reaction that I’ve had ... they love it; they think it’s a great idea; it’s environmentally friendly,” she told council. “I appreciate the comments about safety, but when I operate one, I’m a safer driver in a golf cart, I have to admit it, because you’re one with the pavement and one with what’s going on.”

As of the end of the council meeting, a few council members said they were not ready to pass the ordinance that night due to several complexities and pending consultation with county and other officials.

“We have already had three accidents here on the north end this summer with motor vehicles,” noted Councilman Frank Mikuletzky. “God forbid that a golf cart gets caught in one of those.” Mikuletzky is chairman of the public safety committee on council. “My other fear is crossing the Boulevard,” he added.

“As the zoning officer and the code enforcement officer in town, I’m going to get a lot of complaints from people on Central Avenue who are not allowed to have carts,” said Jeffrey Washburn. “As a firefighter in town, we talked about this in the firehouse. ... It’s the vehicles versus the golf carts that we’re concerned about. We get people from all over the country coming in, and they’re not paying attention. The rear-end accident that we had in Loveladies this week, it was only 20 or 30 miles per hour, and if it had been a golf cart, it would have been destroyed.”

Other residents brought up some questions.

“Why do we need them? What is the motivation?’ asked one taxpayer.

“People want to drive electric vehicles,” Spark answered.

“Has anyone done a poll or survey on how many people are interested in passing this resolution, purchasing one, and going through all the legal rigamarole to get these things on the road? Are we going to change the quality of life in town to satisfy one or two people who might want a golf cart?” was another question.

Among other comments were that “golf carts belong on golf courses ... they’re dangerous ... and I've seen accidents in golf carts.”

“I’m very apprehensive about having more vehicles of this type on the road,” added a 10th Street resident. “I’m a cyclist and I’m out on the roads often, and I think we have bigger crowds here than ever in the summer.”

On the other hand, a 28th Street resident agreeing with Luedtke said he thinks low-speed vehicles make the traffic situation safer.

“You’re not increasing traffic, you’re actually downsizing it. You’re so much more at the level of the pedestrian when driving a golf cart.”

“Legitimate questions have been raised, and we will confer with our attorney, and Beach Haven and other towns,” said Council President Michael Spark.

Beach Haven borough has allowed the vehicles by state law, not by passing an ordinance. The carts are still not allowed on the main road. There have been no police reports of accidents, but some officials noted that Barnegat Light traffic patterns are entirely different than Beach Haven’s.

In order for low-speed vehicles to be allowed on roads where the speed limit is more than 25 mph, an exception to the state law could be made if “deemed appropriate by the municipality, county, or the NJDOT,” state rules say.

That seemed to be a sticking point for some Barnegat Light Borough Council members after hearing from the township police representative.

“The state says we can pass an ordinance, but we may be leaving ourselves open to a lawsuit if there was an accident. That is part of the ongoing discussion,” explained Spark.

A question is “what liability does the borough have?” Officer Neil Rojas had stated. “There is an avenue in the law that allows you to do it, but you’re kind of going against what the law is; you need to really justify as a borough why you want to do it.”

Another technicality is that in order for the carts to cross the main road (Central Avenue) with its higher speed limit, state law allows that only at signaled intersections. Barnegat Light has only two of those that qualify, 10th Street and 20th Street, it was stated at the meeting.

Councilwoman Mary Ellen Foley was another council member who made a recommendation to table the ordinance and “continue to investigate it.” She said, “I think, clearly, there is a lot of interest in it, but I think based on what Officer Rojas has to say, and is explaining to us, I think there are some implications we need to consider, and I would like to table it.” Councilwoman Dottie Reynolds agreed.

For his part, Mayor Kirk Larson had said at the beginning of the meeting, “I’m not against them; I’d love to see this happen,” but he added that on the other hand, it could be unsafe if someone from out of the area brought one in that was not up to safe quality. He had to leave after the caucus meeting to attend a function and was replaced by Spark in the presiding seat.

Officer Rojas said the low-speed vehicles are required to have seat belts, headlights, a parking brake, a windshield, and a car seat if a child rides in it.

Luedtke, whose vehicle does comply with all requirements, said if the ordinance does not pass, she will just park the vehicle at her real estate office. But she added that if nothing else, perhaps the discussion will lead to lowering the speed limit on Bayview Avenue from 35 mph to 25 mph for greater safety.

Maria Scandale

mariascandale@thesandpaper.net

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