Upper Arlington's golf-cart exemption again allowed on, around July 4

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Despite concerns about how some July 4 revelers have operated golf carts, the city again will allow them, even non-regulated ones, to be driven on local streets for five days around the holiday.

Before last year's celebration, Upper Arlington City Council unanimously approved new rules for the operation of golf carts on city streets that included requiring them to have headlights, taillights and turn signals and be registered and titled with the state.

At the time, city officials said they would revisit the local law ahead of the 2020 celebration to address public safety.

While council President Kip Greenhill continues to have concerns about how some residents operate golf carts during the holiday, council -- at Greenhill's recommendation -- decided June 10 not to change how the vehicles will be treated this year.

That means that for July 4 -- as well as for the two days prior and two days after -- the operation of non-registered or titled golf carts will be permitted.

"This council has been putting a premium on community input," he said.

"With everything that's going on -- not just in our community but across the country -- I don't think we should necessarily take a chance that residents have had sufficient opportunities to weigh in on this topic."

Golf carts have become popular during the week of July 4 in the city, especially with members of the Upper Arlington Civic Association.

In deferring to last year's handling of the vehicles, council members tabled a proposal that would have reduced the exemption to using them as they set up and tear down stages for the annual Party in the Park at Northam Park.

Golf carts also have become popular rentals for other residents during that week.

In bringing forward the new safety standards last year, council members and city attorney Jeanine Hummer expressed concerns for how some celebrating July 4 have operated the carts but noted that carts rented for the holiday typically don't come equipped with the necessary safety features.

Greenhill recommended tabling the new restrictions until after July 4, saying his decision had nothing to do with the issue of safety.

A May 18 staff report to council from Hummer stated the recommendation to limit the cart exemptions from five days to three came from police Chief Steve Farmer.

Other recommendations from Farmer, according to the report, included prohibiting carts from being operated after dusk "without proper front/rear lights."

In addition to concerns about providing ample time for feedback from residents, Greenhill said council members acknowledge some residents already might have contracts in place to rent carts for this year.

Greenhill said council will address the proposed changes to golf cart laws "at a later time."

"Things kind of snuck up on us with the pandemic and everything else that's been going on," he said.

Greenhill called the continuation of the five-day exemption a compromise and said he thinks the reckless nature in which some operate the vehicles must be addressed.

"Some people say no golf carts at all, and some people want it more wide open," he said. "My opinion on golf carts has changed.

"I'm very concerned after seeing some YouTube videos in Arlington of people operating golf carts."

While golf carts are exempt from being "street legal" during these five days, those who operate them are subject to the city's traffic laws.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate