Golf Cart Laws Detailed at CDD Meeting

The Feb. 4 meeting of the Westchase CDD saw supervisors hear a detailed explanation of the laws regarding the use of golf carts in the community.

Attending the meeting at the request of Westchase Community Development District (CDD) staff, Deputy David Owen of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office traffic enforcement detailed county laws governing golf carts.

Owen stated that the use of golf carts on roads and sidewalks in Westchase was illegal and citable with traffic tickets. “Your neighborhood is not designated as a golf cart community,” he stated.

Owen identified only two communities in Hillsborough County that were. He added, however, that even if Westchase won a golf cart community designation from Hillsborough County, other laws would prevent their legal use without significant community changes, such as additional signage. “Sidewalks would need to be eight-feet wide,” he stated, allowing two carts to pass. Going further, he added, “If you are under 14-years-old, you cannot drive a golf cart.”

He added that if Westchase were declared a golf cart community, all road speeds, including Linebaugh Avenue, would have to have maximum speed limits lowered to no greater than 35 mph. Linebaugh’s use as a vital thoroughfare, he stated, would likely cause the county to balk at naming Westchase a golf cart community.

Owen stated that for golf carts to be made street legal, they would have to be designated low speed vehicles (LSV) and be capable of top speeds of 20-25 miles per hour, which he stated most golf carts are unable to reach. In addition, street legal golf cart LSVs have to have headlights and taillights, mirrors, turn signals, a windshield, seatbelts, a license tag and a vehicle identification number, among other things. It also must be insured. Before use, the vehicle must be towed to the Department of Motor Vehicles, where it would need to be approved as a legal LSV. Only afterwards could it be used on streets but only by licensed or permitted drivers. While LSVs may cross Linebaugh Avenue, their use on any road with speed limits above 35 mph would be illegal, Owen added.

When asked by Supervisor Forrest Baumhover if enforcement was different within gated communities, Owen stated that deputies cannot enforce traffic laws inside gated communities without a special agreement with the street’s owners. Supervisor Greg Chesney observed that while the CDD’s enforcement agreement with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) for traffic enforcement in gated communities had lapsed (The district’s previous engineer refused to certify the gated community roads as compliant with the Department of Transportation’s rules on signage.), the district was working with the new engineer with the intent of getting the enforcement agreements renewed.

When WOW’s reporter asked if it was illegal for the CDD staff or maintenance crews to drive their vehicles on sidewalks, Owen stated that Florida Statute 316.2126 carved out exceptions for such maintenance vehicles, making their use legal. When asked if the sheriff’s department would be focusing on enforcing traffic laws regarding golf carts, Owen stated that while the department had no special enforcement action planned, deputies respond to complaints. He added his goal in attending the meeting was to educate residents first about the law before engaging in enforcement.

Attending the meeting, Radcliffe Voting Member (VM) Eric Holt asked of golf cart users, “The moment they drive off their driveway in a non-gated community, they are breaking traffic laws?”

“Yes,” Owen responded.

Rick Goldstein, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Westchase Community Association, then stood and detailed work in creating a Westchase Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to develop post-disaster plans. Explaining the committee would have to put together a plan for each of Westchase’s 31 neighborhoods before folding them into a Westchase-wide plan, Goldstein added, “We’d like you guys to participate with us as well.”

“We have a disaster steering committee,” he said, “We would like the CDD to be part of the committee as well.”

Chairing the meeting in Chair Jim Mills’ absence, Supervisor Greg Chesney addressed Office Manager Sonny Whyte. “Sonny,” he said. “You are on the Steering Committee.”

Making his report, CDD Engineer Bob Dvorak stated he had finished engineering plans for the replacement of a collapsed drainage structure in a CDD easement behind two Stamford homes. He pointed out that simply replacing the existing inlet and pipe would likely leave four to six inches of water in the lowest point of the yards unless they are regraded. Dvorak said the district could request a bigger easement from homeowners to lengthen the drainage pipe to address this, but it would likely add $8,000-10,000 to the project. Supervisors voted to replace the existing structure as is without a bigger easement and asked staff to work with homeowners to coordinate any regrading, at homeowners’ cost, to address the matter.

CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated she had shared with supervisors her finished draft of a Landscape Architect RFQ for Westchase entrance signs and asked that they respond with any changes that night to enable its publication in the coming week.

McCormick stated she was also working with Hillsborough County staff on preparations for a public meeting on the proposed Glencliff Park cell tower. That meeting, previously scheduled for the library, will be held at the Westchase Community Association Swim and Tennis Center on Countryway Boulevard on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. McCormick detailed changes to the cell tower lease agreement that Vertex, the tower construction company, had requested, including extending the lease from 20 to 25 years. Supervisors, however, declined to give right of first refusal to Vertex on other park leases, pointing out it could affect the district’s usage agreements with local sports organizations. Supervisor Brian Ross also asked McCormick to set clearly defined timeframes for the completion of all tower construction, once initiated.

Ross also expressed concerns about proper maintenance of the cell tower site, including a proposed U.S. flag for the top of the tower. WOW’s reporter inquired about which entity would purchase the large flags used for the pole, which another supervisor pointed out had to be replaced frequently due to tattering. The reporter also inquired whether nighttime lighting of the pole, required under the flag code, would bother nearby neighbors. With Ross pointing out that having a large flag and illuminating the tower would make it more obvious rather than less, supervisors agreed to present the tower to the community without a flag.

Citing missing panels on a cell tower on Waters Avenue, Westchase Community Association (WCA) Director Dale Sells, attending the meeting, also encouraged supervisors to incorporate language into the lease requiring Vertex to quickly replace any panels blown off the tower during storms.

Turning to other matters, supervisors unanimously approved a motion authorizing Field Manager Doug Mays to spend $7,000 on materials for staff to replace the Village Green footbridge. Supervisors also gave Mays approval to erect lighted bollards at the bridge entrances to prevent residents and the district’s landscaping company from driving golf carts and maintenance vehicles over the new bridge.

Addressing its upcoming bid, Field Supervisor Mays encouraged supervisors to pull out of the landscaping contract the replacement of annuals at Westchase intersections and entrances. Mays stated that other companies would now do this for the same money but would replace dead flowers at no additional charge while potentially widening beds and providing weeding. As part of this change, Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated that staff would welcome suggested improvements from any landscape architects living in Westchase.

Citing the suggestion, Supervisor Ross stated that it underscored both the quality of the district’s staff but the reason for having them.

Greensprings resident Tom Klein then spoke to supervisors. Klein expressed concerns about the street light lamps TECO is using to replace the old sodium street lights, which cast a more muted, yellow light. Calling the new white lights too bright and stating they contributed to light pollution, Klein asked if the district could ask TECO to use a different lamp. While Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated it was unlikely TECO would agree to use different lamps and potentially contribute to an inconsistent look, supervisors asked her to have a TECO representative attend the meeting to address the matter with supervisors.

WCA Director Sells briefly addressed a WCA survey of Westchase residents and stated that some responses on community improvements were more appropriate for the CDD. He cited requests for a community garden, improvements to landscaping at intersections and entrances and a ban on golf carts using the Village Green pedestrian bridge. Supervisor Baumhover stated that it reflected well on staff that they were already working on the three recommendations.

In other actions:

Field Supervisor Doug Mays stated one nanobubbler had been installed in the large lake adjacent to Sturbridge, Stonebridge and Westlake Townhomes and was already helping to reduce algae blooms. He added a second would be installed within the week. Mays mentioned that staff had treated the lake three additional times with larvicide to control midge flies, which have prompted complaints and a threat of legal action from the townhomes HOA, but the midge flies were still collecting in landscaping along the lake and the larvicide appeared to be having no effect.

Supervisors directed staff to move forward with an access easement request over TECO property that would allow district staff and potentially residents to access the CDD-owned parcel that lies between Stonebridge and The Vineyards and behind the large lake adjacent to Westchase Elementary. Supervisors eventually hope to develop the land for resident use for such things as a community garden yet access is currently impossible.

Supervisors adjourned at 5:58 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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