GALLIPOLIS — During a regular meeting on Tuesday, the Gallipolis City Commission discussed a possible amendment to the recently passed “golf cart” ordinance which allows registered golf carts to be used on certain city streets.
The amendment would allow the Gallipolis City Police Chief to issue certain “variances” to golf cart users in relation to their compliance to safety and equipment requires of the State of Ohio for motor vehicles.
The initial ordinance passed following a second reading early in July stipulates that golf carts must be inspected by the city police department and have all applicable safety equipment as required by state law on all motor vehicles, including headlights, brake lights, turn signals, mirrors, etc., before being allowed on the city streets with speed limits of 25 miles per hour or lower.
However, some individuals interested in utilizing golf carts within the city have inquired about exceptions to these strict motor vehicle laws in relation to golf carts as many have only one headlight, may have difficulty complying with the windshield wiper requirement due to the material used for the windshield, and other small issues.
Due to this, the City Solicitor Adam Salisbury presented a possible amendment to the commission during their meeting on Tuesday evening.
“There’s two ways to go about this. One way is try to anticipate all of the different types of golf carts out there and then write that into an ordinance. The other way is to give the chief [of police] some discretion about what kinds of things are going to be acceptable and what aren’t,” Salisbury said. “This is in respond to people coming in and asking for different variances.”
Salisbury further stated that if the proposed amendment is passed, he would advise those wishing to apply for a variance for their golf cart to contact the chief of police prior to submitting an application for a permit to determine if the variance would pass inspection.
“There are definitions in the Revised Code about what is a motor vehicle and what is not a motor vehicle and the different safety and equipment — things you have to have on a motor vehicle — to put it on the street,” Salisbury said. “The way that I wrote the amendment is that if somebody wants to ask for a variance from those rules then they need to bring that to the chief before they apply for a permit for that particular golf cart and he can look at that — whatever it is — and determine whether or not it has an impact on the safety and security of the vehicle itself; and, if it doesn’t have an impact on it, then approve it.”
City Commissioner Jim Cozza reiterated Salisbury’s comments, stating that attempting to draft an amendment to the ordinance to cover every conceivable variance would be a nearly impossible task.
“So what your saying is you would be hard-pressed to have an ordinance that could cover every conceivable issue that could come up relative to a golf cart. Therefore, we are saying, is it feasible to give [the chief of police] the authority to make those decisions,” Cozza said.
City Commission Vice-president Steve Wallis commented on the impact of giving one employee within the city the authority to grant variances in relation to the golf cart ordinance, as well as any possible liability surrounding granting such exceptions to state law.
Salisbury reported that this would not be the case, and, of all the employees of the city, the chief of police would be the individual most well-equipped to grant exceptions in relation to state traffic law and its interpretation surrounding the utilization of golf carts.
“I think that out of all of the people that we have working for us, the chief is probably the only expert that we have on safety and security of motor vehicles and interpreting the law of the State of Ohio in regard to traffic,” Salisbury said. “I felt, when I drafted the amendment, that the chief was the natural fit given the staff that we have.”
Gallipolis Police Chief Clint Patterson was also present during the meeting and stated that he does not foresee the request for variances to be an overwhelming task for himself or his successors, but as something that should be treated on a case-by-case basis.
“I don’t think we are going to be terribly overwhelmed with this. I don’t really ever expect to be terribly overwhelmed with it,” Patterson said. “I think it is something we can take on a case-by-case basis as long as I have the authority to say, ‘no,’ as well as, ‘yes.’”
Patterson further reported that he would be completely comfortable granting variances for golf cart users.
“The big issues are going to stay the way the state code says they have to stay, but the little things, I think, we can have a little leeway. It probably wouldn’t be a bad thing,” he said.
Following the discussion, Salisbury reported that he would bring a draft of the proposed amendment before the board during their next meeting.
Additionally, the commissioners confirmed that the current golf cart ordinance, which is now in effect, should be followed and those wishing for variances would need to wait for the possible passage of the amendment.