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Monday, May 20, 2024

Golf carts in North Topsail must now be registered, follow state rules

Golf carts in North Topsail must now follow North Carolina state statute, meaning they must be registered, insured and inspected. (Courtesy Pixabay/Wolfgang Eckert)

NORTH TOPSAIL BEACH — The northernmost town of Topsail Island voted to revoke its current golf cart ordinance, making it easier for law enforcement to issue citations.

READ MORE: Carolina Beach plans to make golf carts illegal on public streets

At its Wednesday meeting, the North Topsail Beach Board of Aldermen unanimously approved getting rid of its town-specific ordinance for street-legal golf carts or low-speed vehicles (LSV), instead relying solely on state regulations.

North Carolina allows low-speed vehicles, different from the run-of-the-mill golf carts, to drive on roads 35 mph or less, with proper registration, insurance, license plates and inspections. State statute allows officers to trace golf cart owners more easily and hold people accountable.

Also, individuals behind the wheel must have a valid driver’s license to operate them.

Low-speed vehicles have additional safety features from golf carts, such as seat belts, and can go up to 25 mph.

In 2015, the town issued stricter rules than those imposed by the state, prohibiting golf carts on streets designated above 25 miles per hour. It also exempted 21 specific roads, making it complicated for officers to remember which ones are allowed and which aren’t, North Topsail Beach Police Chief William Younginer said.

The town requires golf cart users to obtain a $20 permit, renewed annually. Right now, Younginer said there are only five registered with the town — with those expiring June 30 — but he sees a lot more than that on an average basis.

Alderman Tom Leonard agreed.

“I think we have a lot more golf carts operating than we have registered with the town, whether in the LSV category or not,” he said. “Hell of a lot of people got ‘em and ride them around and do what they want.”

Leonard was adamant about enforcing the age limit, as well.

“It’s a problem we’re having,” he said. I don’t see a warning going to a 12-year-old driving Nanny and Grandad’s because they’re on vacation and it’s cool. It’s not cool, it’s not legal and it’s not safe. I hope we’ll aggressively pursue all of this.”

Golf carts are allowed by state rules to cross over roadways more than 35 mph, just not travel on it. Alderman Fred Fontana asked for clarification on issuing citations to someone parked in an area designated as 35 mph or more.

“If you see a golf cart parked in a legally allowed parking area, but it’s a 45 mile per hour zone, will you issue a ticket to that?” he asked.

Younginer said, just as with other violations, an officer would have to witness someone driving in the 45-mph zone to do so.

Town manager Alice Derian clarified repealing the town’s ordinance means golf carts must all abide by paid parking rules as well.

Golf carts must park in designated paid parking lots or obtain an annual parking permit for $150.

Reverting to state rules for requiring vehicle registration for golf carts makes it easier for Otto Parking to issue citations as well. If the owner is a rental company, the business will be notified and able to settle up with the individual who rented it to cover the bill.

Derian explained violations will be written on a state citation, “which is just like receiving a citation when operating a motor vehicle.”

“We intend to educate as much as possible and issue citations when appropriate,” she added.

Previously citations would be for violating a town ordinance and issued on a state citation due to the vehicle being not registered or permitted.

“The way golf carts have grown, a lot of municipalities are doing away with their local rules and going with the state,” Younginer told the board.

Neighboring Topsail Beach and Surf City both follow North Carolina state statute.

In New Hanover County, Carolina Beach voted in March to phase out their use by 2027, only allowing registered and inspected ones on the roadways. Neighboring Kure Beach already only allows state-approved carts on its streets.

While the board’s consensus was not to allow a grace period for the new enforcement to take effect, Chief Younginer said he will issue warnings first to all violators. The repeal of the town’s golf cart ordinance is effective immediately.

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