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After complaint from Gull Aire Village resident, Oldsmar City Council to decide if golf carts will be street legal

5:39 PM, Aug 2, 2011   |    comments
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Oldsmar, Florida -- Bags of empty cans sit in piles across from Walter Stewart's home in Oldsmar. He's preparing for his weekly journey to help Relay for Life.

"Every Tuesday, we collect cans, turn them in, and all of the money goes to cancer," says Stewart.

Stewart reaches hundreds of homes in his community, Gull Aire Village, thanks to the golf cart he's owned for 10 years. Without it, he knows what would happen to his volunteer effort.

"That would be the end of it," he says. "Especially with the price of gas."

You'll see golf carts in several driveways across Gull Aire Village, but residents say someone in the community apparently complained about them being on the roads.

"The problem apparently is because they're on city streets," Stewart says.

Now, the decision to let golf carts drive legally in Gull Aire is up to Oldsmar City Council. Members are discussing the proposal, and putting it up for an initial vote on Tuesday night. If it passes, it'll go up for final approval in mid-August. It would then take effect December 1.

"I'm very supportive, but I want to make sure that this is what [the residents of Gull Aire] want," says Vice Mayor Doug Bevis.

The proposal would require golf carts to have a rearview mirror, warning reflectors, and other gear in order to drive safely. They'll also have to install lights, turn signals, and a windshield if they want to drive around in the dark.

According to Bevis, Gull Aire is one of the largest communities in Oldsmar. There are more than 600 houses, and it's home to a lot of retirees on fixed incomes. Some of them say a golf cart is the easiest method of transportation.

"To the best of my knowledge, in 13 years, there's never been an accident," Stewart says. "If it's not broke, why fix it?"

In order for a community in Florida to let golf carts drive around, the city must have an ordinance on the books. In Gull Aire Village, residents have been riding for decades.

"It's been going on for 30 years," Bevis says. "Nobody has ever said anything. The city hasn't said anything and it kind of came to a head, so now we have to either make it an ordinance or they become illegal."

Another option that council members had considered was to turn the streets over to Gull Aire. That would allow the community to have control over what is legal on those roads, but would also make residents responsible for any maintenance. According to Bevis, some residents determined that was too expensive.

Recently, the city of Dunedin made it legal for golf carts to drive on many streets.

Stewart's cart is already decorated for Christmas festivities.

"All the golf carts get together and go around in a parade," he says.

Now he just hopes they'll be able to join that parade legally.

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