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Oldsmar letting the golf carts roll

OLDSMAR — Betty Williams' pleas against allowing golf carts in her mobile home community may have persuaded city leaders who were on the fence to side with her neighbors instead of Williams.

She accused one neighbor of lying.

She said some of them expected special treatment for poor behavior.

She said none of them were disabled enough to need golf carts.

At Tuesday's city meeting, Williams told Oldsmar leaders that she watched the previous council meeting "where a few homeowners in Gull Aire asked for special privileges to drive recreational vehicles on city streets for fun."

"I was ashamed, appalled that my peers, my neighbors, my social friends would show such bad behavior and lack of concern for the public at large," Williams said.

At the July 19 meeting, several residents of Gull Aire Village spoke about how they needed golf carts to get around, to be active in their mobile home community and to collect aluminum cans for charity.

Tuesday night, Williams told the City Council that her neighbors weren't frail and didn't need carts for those activities.

"I don't see any of these people walking around with a cane and all of them have two legs and two arms," she said.

One of Williams' neighbors, Elaine Ferruzzo, told council members she was in a bad accident last year and can't walk well.

"I say, 'Thank God for the golf carts,' " she said

Williams also told council members that Gull Aire was a busy community with lots of traffic and that the golf carts would just further congest the streets.

She was one of about 50 Gull Aire residents who crammed into the council chambers Tuesday night. Five residents spoke in favor of the golf carts. Williams was the only one to speak against them and the only one to raise her hand in opposition to them.

After most in the crowd raised their hands in support of the carts, Mayor Jim Ronecker said, "I've seen all I need to see."

The City Council had asked residents to return to City Hall on Tuesday after the Gull Aire board of directors took a vote on the issue.

Bob Lyttle, vice president of the community association's board of directors, said more than 100 people showed up at the board meeting last week, and the board voted unanimously to permit the carts.

"At that meeting, not one person complained or brought up any negative things about golf carts," he said.

For years, folks in the Gull Aire mobile home community had been riding golf carts to get to the pool and various social activities within the community off Curlew Road. But, according to state law, the golf carts aren't legally permitted unless the city passes an ordinance to allow them. The issue apparently came to light in late April after one resident complained, Lyttle said.

Shortly after that, residents asked officials to step in and permit the carts inside the community of 607 homes.

Tuesday, council members voted unanimously in favor of allowing the golf carts in Gull Aire. A second vote is necessary before the carts are legal.

The ordinance confines golf carts to the streets within the mobile home community. It also requires:

• People who operate carts to have drivers' licenses.

• That carts be registered with the city.

• That carts have proper equipment during the day and additional equipment if driven at night.

Ronecker said residents will have until Dec. 1 to come into compliance with the new regulations.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Oldsmar letting the golf carts roll 08/03/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 7:59pm]
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