July 19, 2018

A REQUEST BY A MINNETRISTA HOUSING DEVELOPER WAS RECEIVED BY THE CITY ASKING IT TO FORMALLY AUTHORIZE THE OPERATION OF GOLF CARTS WHICH WOULD REQUIRE AN ORDINANCE TO REGULATE/LICENSE THEM THROUGHOUT THE CITY. The reason for the request is potential home buyers either have golf carts or want to buy them and would feel better knowing they are legal. The developer offered to pay the city’s cost for drafting a new ordinance.

There happens to be a state law that essentially makes the operation of golf carts on city streets anywhere in Minnesota illegal unless a city has an ordinance specifically authorizing their use. Such an ordinance would require golf cart owners to register and pay for a permit to operate on Minnetrista city streets. Minnetrista currently has no such ordinance specifically authorizing golf carts and despite their widespread use has never issued a citation for their operation on city streets.

Golf carts have never really been an issue in Minnetrista since most owners are responsible and use common sense in their operation. They’re generally used without incident locally to transport things around farms or to boat launches and don’t go fast enough to hurt anything. It makes one wonder why it’s necessary to regulate golf carts at all, which are actually slower than bicycles and involved in far fewer accidents.

What one thinks of the state law is irrelevant since Minnetrista has no choice but to be governed by it. We do have a choice, however, of whether we impose permit fees on golf cart owners who have for many years been freely operating their carts in Minnetrista.

Is it a legitimate role of a city council to impose fees upon constituents for the convenience of a housing developer? This is not, and never has been, a safety concern. How many hours of staff time would be required to process new permits, renew expired ones, maintain records and enforce the new rules governing where and when they can be driven and under what circumstances? We’ve been told the revenue from the permits would cover the staff time but this revenue comes from resident’s pockets and that’s the bigger concern.

Governmental jurisdictions pass laws all the time they don’t enforce consistently and some they don’t enforce at all. I’m generally of the opinion we shouldn’t pass laws we don’t intend to enforce but in this case the state statute isn’t something we, as a city, can change.

Let’s not create more government red tape when there are no safety reasons to do so. Our current city code on this matter has served the community well over the years and there isn’t any good reason to change it. A good reason to change something requires a benefit to the community at large and my guess is most Minnetrista residents with golf carts and even those without wouldn’t see it that way.

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