Carmel City Council approves legalizing golf carts on some city streets despite attorney’s opinion

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The Carmel City Council unanimously went against the opinion of a city attorney by approving an ordinance Sept. 18 that allows golf carts to be operated on some city roads.

City attorney Ashley Ulbricht said she is concerned that Carmel’s ordinance conflicts with state law by requiring golf carts to include safety features, such as headlights, seat belts, turn signals and a rearview mirror. If a golf cart operator received a ticket under Carmel’s new law, he or she could potentially sue the city because of the conflict, Ulbricht has said.

The city council has discussed the issue for more than a year and asked state representatives Jerry Torr and Donna Schaibley to seek the opinion of Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill on the proposed ordinance. In February, Hill wrote in his official opinion that the Legislature intended to de-regulate golf carts at the state level and give local municipalities ability to regulate them as they see fit.

“In this matter, the municipality is engaged in the reasonable exercise of its police power to ensure the safe operation of golf carts on its local streets and roadways,” Hill stated in the opinion. “This does not run afoul of existing statutory provisions.”

Councilor Jeff Worrell said Hill’s opinion gave him confidence in supporting the ordinance.

“Although there might be some disagreement internally, (the opinion of the attorney general) gives me some added comfort in voting for this, something that might have been perceived as going against state law,” Worrell said.

Ulbricht did not express concerns with any other aspects of the ordinance, which include:

  • Proof that at least 65 percent of residents in an HOA-controlled neighborhood voted in favor of allowing golf carts within the neighborhood.
  • Prohibiting them on roads with a speed limit above 25 mph.
  • Requiring operators to have a valid driver’s license
  • Requiring operators to obtain an annual permit for $50 from the Carmel Police Dept.
  • Requiring inspection of the golf cart.
  • Prohibiting children weighing less than 48 pounds who require a child safety restraint from riding.
  • Prohibiting golf carts on city sidewalks or multi-use paths.
  • Requiring seat belts to be used while in operation.

A first offense can result in a fine of $100, while second offenses within a year have a fine of $250. A third offense within a year also carries a $250 fine and automatic revocation of the golf cart permit.

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