Sheriff AJ Smith is cracking down on golf cart and ATV use and the rules are unlikely to change.
The use of golf carts and ATVs on St. George Island and Alligator Point was discussed at length during the March 7 county meeting.
Commissioner Cheryl Sanders opened the conversation by stating she had received numerous emails about the use of golf carts and ATVs at Alligator Point. County Coordinator Michael Morón said he had also received much correspondence on golf cart use in both areas.
County Attorney Michael Shuler said Alligator Point residents had presented him with a proposed ordinance for use of golf carts in their community that was basically a rewrite of the existing Eastpoint ordinance.
Former County Planner Alan Pierce said the situation on Alligator Point is different from other areas of the county because it only has one through road and dead-end side streets. In a telephone interview after the meeting he said he had no forewarning of the ordinance proposal.
“We don’t allow golf carts on Gulf Beach Drive or on US 98. The speed limit on Alligator Drive is 35 mph and golf carts have no protection (at that speed),” Pierce told commissioners. “We would either have to lower the speed limit or limit their use to side roads, which is useless (on Alligator Point) because the side roads (don’t lead anywhere). It’s a liability waiting to happen.”
Shuler told commissioners that in order to pass an ordinance, the county would have to provide the state with a determination saying it would be safe to operate the off road vehicles on the roadway. “I don’t recommend you make that statement,” he said.
There is no ordinance allowing use of off-road vehicles on Alligator Drive, and it is illegal for golf carts to operate on Alligator Drive. But some Alligator Point residents argued that golf cart use is the status quo there.
Bonnie Stellzenmuller, owner of the Tiki Hut bar and restaurant at Alligator Point Marina, said she had a petition with 120 signatures asking that golf cart use be allowed on Alligator Point Drive.
“We have no restaurants and stores. We don’t get the traffic they do on St. George Island or in Eastpoint for that matter,” she said.
“We have driven (golf carts) on Alligator Point forever. We want our golf carts. It’s a tough situation for the sheriff,” Ray Pierce said.
“We’re not asking for change,” Jerry Metz said. “We’re just asking you to approve what’s been going on for 20 years. I found no record of any accidents. The water department uses an ATV to check the meters, and Bald Point State Park and the turtle patrol both use them on the county road. Banning them would affect our Fourth of July and Christmas parades.”
He said he counted more than 70 golf carts and ATVs on Alligator Point, and that Alligator Point was one of the fastest developing areas of the county contributing to the tax base.
Shuler said county planning and zoning staff had deemed the off road vehicles unsafe for Alligator Point Drive.
Sanders said the only solution would be to lower the speed limit for the entire road.
Former Alligator Point Fire Chief Steve Fling said ATV’s have played a role in rescue operations on Alligator Point. He said he didn’t believe residents would object to lowering the speed limit.
“That’s a long stretch of road to expect people to drive slowly,” Shuler said.
“You would have to drop the speed limit (to below 35 mph) for the whole road and the county will enforce that,” Parrish said. “When you are driving home from work, you will have to (adhere to) the speed limit. It won’t just be for the golf carts.”
He said ATV use would have to be considered separately from golf carts.
Shuler said ATVs are illegal on county roads everywhere, with the sole exception being the sea turtle permit holder at Alligator Point.
At the St. George Island Chili Cook-off on Saturday, some ATV owners on St. George Island got a preview of stricter adherence to rules about golf carts and ATVs promised by newly elected Sheriff A. J. Smith. The sheriff said no tickets were issued but people operating ATVs on the roadway received warnings.
“AJ enforced the ATV ordinance on the island, and that angered mainly visitors from Tallahassee, who are used to bringing down their ATVs and running them over the weekend,” said Grayson Shepard, a meber of the chili cook-off board.
“It’s never been enforced before,” he said. “As a general rule that ordinance has kind of been ignored by law enforcement, and it’s kind of been a norm. AJ put a stop to it.”