Town wants to review impact of golf carts
The town of Pawleys Island is moving forward with a plan to raise its fee for golf cart permits from $10 to $25, with Town Council members calling for a review of the impact that the carts are having on the island.
“Golf carts seem to be a little more wild, west, kind of a free-for-all,” Mayor Brian Henry said at a Town Council meeting last week. “We, as a town, need to get a handle on who’s coming on the island, because these golf carts are mixing with vehicles. It creates a little bit of a dynamic. It’s a little more dangerous with golf carts and vehicles mixing, especially when golf carts don’t pull over, [which] of course they don’t have to.”
The town issued 667 permits last year, including 204 that were issued to Pawleys Island Golf, which rents carts to visitors. The company paid $5 for each of its permits. The town took in $4,374 in total permit fees.
Administrator Dan Newquist said either he or Town Clerk Daniel O’Hara spends about 15 minutes processing a permit.
“It takes time to handle the registrations and it takes money to pay the people that do that,” Henry said. “And it takes money to enforce the law.”
Police Chief Mike Fanning said the permit fee isn’t important to his department.
“For the sake of law enforcement, we just need to be able to identify who the owner is and potentially enforce the two-mile limit,” he added.
Although golf carts must be registered with the state, police don’t have access to the registration information the way they do for other vehicles.
The town permits allow police to ticket carts for parking violations without waiting for the driver to return.
“I think we really need to consider everything so we don’t overstretch our resources, like the chief and his policemen,” Council Member Rocky Holliday said.
Council needs to consider the capacity of traffic and parking on the town’s road system, Holliday added.
“I am asking, does it make sense to allow the number of golf carts on the island to continually grow without any direction from council,” he said. “At some point, you reach a level, a number, that is no longer workable, particularly from a police resource perspective.”
Newquist said an online processing system is ready to go once council approves the new permit fee.
O’Hara “has done a great job getting us to the point where we can do everything online,” Newquist said. “The feedback we’ve gotten is it’s been easy for folks and they don’t have to take the trip here to Town Hall.”
O’Hara has even created a spreadsheet that shows him all the addresses that are within the two-mile limit.
Council Member Sarah Zimmerman first suggested raising the fee to $100 during budget talks at the Jan. 16 council meeting and made a motion for the fee to be $100 last week.
“People that come on the island via golf cart are more likely to get a parking space than a vehicle, I think, from what I’ve seen,” Zimmerman said. “I think in the future, we’re going to have more and more golf carts.”
Several members were not comfortable with $100.
“It’s a lot in one swipe,” Holliday said.
Council Member Ashley Carter thought $50 would be fine, but $100 was too much.
The town used to ban golf carts, but had to lift the restriction after a change in state law in 2012 prohibited local governments from restricting the vehicles. The law allows them to operate within four miles of the owner’s home, with a provision that allows local government to reduce that to two miles.
Pawleys Island started issuing permits in 2017 using the two-mile limit.
The town put a freeze on new permits and renewals after the Jan. 16 meeting until the matter of the fee increase is resolved. Last week’s meeting was called so council could give first reading to a new ordinance in advance of taking a final vote at its next meeting on Feb. 13.
Asking golf cart operators to be more “courteous,” including pulling over to allow cars to pass, was also discussed.
“They don’t have to,” Henry said. “But we’d like them to.”
“What happens is, that creates a situation where somebody’s in a hurry and they don’t want to go 15 miles an hour and they’ll try to pass that golf cart and if there’s a pedestrian or another car coming the other way, it’s an unsafe environment,” Council Member Guerry Green said.
Holliday asked that a discussion of limiting the number of golf carts on the island be put on the agenda for the February meeting to “take everybody’s temperature and get everybody’s opinion on it.”
The town plans to ask its attorney what it can and can’t do about golf carts under state law.