Hurricane resident Steve Garcia in his golf cart, Hurricane, Utah, June 16, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Steve Garcia, St. George News
HURRICANE — Residents from Sky Mountain Golf Estates made their presence known in Hurricane’s last city council. Taking every seat and standing in the back of the council chambers, residents read themselves for the battle on the agenda: defending their ability to use recreational golf carts on public roads.
Hurricane’s city council proposed two options for regulating golf cart use. Option A would prohibit golf carts on city roads, except for large events like July 4. Golf carts would be allowed to drive to and from events. A driver’s license would be required to operate a golf cart, and no driving would be allowed at night.
Option B would allow golf cart use only on roads under 35 mph. This option would not require golf cart drivers to have official driver’s licenses, but the golf cart drivers would have to be 18 years or older.
Option B passed without amendment, three councilmen for and two against, allowing Hurricane residents over 18 years old to drive golf carts on public roads. However, two hours of arguing preceded the motion.
Beginning with a line of citizens voicing their opinions, the council chamber quickly became a full-room, non-facilitated discussion, with impatient audience members yelling over council members’ conversations. Mayor Nanette Billings began answering audience members who raised their hands.
Carolyn Mills, a golf cart owner and resident of Hurricane, voiced her opinions directly into the microphone.
“We’re not only golf cart owners,” she said, “we’re a golf cart family!”
Mills didn’t like either of the options given by the council, especially how they had age limitations.
“I have never once seen a golf cart put anybody in jeopardy in our subdivision,” she said. “ATVs? I’ve almost been run over by those. But never a golf cart. We are a family, not a community. We are a family, and that’s how we go around to take care of each other.”
Mills described how a 13-year-old boy in her neighborhood safely drives his grandfather to therapy across the street. Mills said with this ordinance in place, this kind of family behavior won’t be able to happen.
Steve Garcia, a retired LAPD officer, spoke from the perspective of law enforcement, saying Option A would be unenforceable and would require citizens to report one another. He said Option A would draw on an already thin police force and be “a colossal waste of police resources.”
Some citizens were less touchful in sharing their opinions.
“This is crap!” one woman yelled from the back of the chamber.
Another Hurricane resident compared to council members putting rules on golf cart use to be like “the Jews who kept restricting their people with more and more laws.”
Mayor Nanette Billings said golf cart use helps Hurricane residents survive the high gas prices and that Hurricane has smart enough parents not to let their kids drive golf carts indiscriminately.
Councilman David Sanders supported Option A. He said how catastrophe struck the city of Nephi after they legalized golf carts for young people to drive, and he doesn’t want to see that in Hurricane.
Councilman Joseph Prete supported Option A, too. He said he’s there to represent all the city, not just golf cart owners. He said he’s open to widening option A to include other communities and roads, but the driver’s license is a must.
“If we were a resort community that had 12 connected golf courses, this would be different,” he said, “but I don’t think that’s who we are as a city.”
After the motion passed for Option B, Penny James-Garcia, the first speaker of the public hearing, spoke to St. George News about the meeting.
“I appreciate the council people who did listen to their constituents,” she said. “We voted. We elected them to represent our best interests. There was a reasonable number of people here tonight expressing their opinions. And why two (councilmen) felt like their opinions were more important than their constituents, I find, but it’s happened before and it’ll happen again.”
James-Garcia said she was grateful Mayor Billings was there to hear the people of Hurricane.
“Thank goodness for our mayor, who is in tune with her people. She listened to her people. She reached out to her residents in golf course communities, and the council needs their voices.”
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