City passes law allowing golf carts on streets

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By Shaina Stockton, Staff

A draft ordinance to allow golf carts on city streets in downtown Galax has been approved and put into action by Galax City Council.
The final decision was made to approve the ordinance after a public hearing on Feb. 24.
The ordinance will allow the carts to travel on 70 different 25 mph roads within the city limits — including many downtown areas such as Main, Oldtown and Grayson streets — from April 1 through Oct. 31 each year.
According to the ordinance, several other steps are required in order to legally operate a golf cart in the city:
• Operators must have a valid driver’s license.
• Carts must be insured with a liability policy of at least $50,000 per incident or claim. Operators must also purchase a slow-moving vehicle emblem to display on their cart at all times, and get a valid safety inspection for the vehicle.
• Carts can only be operated on designated streets from sunrise to sunset.  
• Operators and passengers must comply with all state and local laws that are applicable, including regulations pertaining to the consumption or possession of alcohol, drugs or other illegal substances.
• Passengers must be at least eight years of age to ride in the carts.
• The police or fire department chief may temporarily suspend the operation of the golf carts on designated streets as they deem necessary to protect the public health, safety or welfare.
• The city reserves the right to add or remove streets or portions of streets upon its own motion or upon application and after public hearings as an amendment to the ordinance. Residents of the city may request approval of a street or a portion of a street, upon which a $250 fee would be required per street. In addition, all costs, as determined at the time of the application [road signs, etc.]  would be required to be paid for by the applicant. Fees and costs will be required at the time of an application, with an interest-free refund if the street is not approved by the city.
• Violation of the ordinance may result in revocation of the permit, and operation of a cart without a valid permit or outside of the designated streets or portions of any designated street as permitted by the ordinance will constitute a Class 2 misdemeanor.
• All operators must file a disclaimer with the city, where the operator consents to the understanding that carts are not designated to be operated on the roadways, and the city shall have no liability for any damaged or injury that occurs on a roadway.
Upon proper application containing an approved inspection report, a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance, the city’s disclaimer, and a $25 permit fee, the city will then issue a permit that will be valid for one calendar year, according to the ordinance. The permit will contain a decal that must be affixed on the front driver’s side of the cart so that it is easily visible.
No one spoke at the Feb. 24 public hearing on the ordinance.
A motion was made by council member Bill Webb to accept the draft as presented, and seconded by council member Sharon Plichta. City council unanimously voted to approve the ordinance.