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Residents in Oldsmar mobile home park win backing to keep golf carts

OLDSMAR — If Victoria Mills and her husband had to give up their golf cart, their lives at Gull Aire Village mobile home park would be much harder.

He wouldn't be able to pick up aluminum cans each Wednesday for charity. They wouldn't be able to deliver community newsletters anymore. And one of them might have to give up being a volunteer at the polls on election day.

That's what Mills told city leaders at Tuesday night's City Council meeting. She was among several residents who asked Oldsmar officials to allow golf carts on streets in their community of 607 mobile homes.

For years, about 100 residents have used 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.

Janice Scimone told officials her husband was able to cut his medications in half because he's out and about on his golf cart.

"It has done wonders for Louis, who has a heart condition," Scimone said. "And we have a dog who loves it."

Tuesday, council members unanimously directed the city attorney to draft an ordinance to permit the carts. The vote was greeted by hearty applause from about 35 Gull Aire residents.

"I would vote today to let y'all have your golf carts," council member Jerry Beverland told residents.

But some city leaders said they want to make sure the community's board votes to support the carts before they vote to approve an ordinance.

Vice Mayor Doug Bevis said he was confident that the people who showed up want the carts, but he added, "I don't know that the whole community wants it."

The issue apparently came to light in late April after one resident complained, said Bob Lyttle, vice president of the community association's board of directors.

That complaint, originally made to city officials, made its way to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, said sheriff's Sgt. Tom Nestor. And the Sheriff's Office informed residents that indeed the carts were not permitted without a change in local regulations.

Nestor said the agency isn't aware of complaints by anyone else.

City Manager Bruce Haddock had suggested the city convey the streets to the Gull Aire community. Then residents could decide for themselves about the golf carts. That would also mean they'd be responsible for maintaining the streets. Residents balked at that proposal, saying it would be cost-prohibitive.

"We would have to, conservatively, up our maintenance fee 100 percent," Lyttle told officials.

City leaders decided against that option after hearing from residents.

Mills said she was encouraged by city leaders' decision Tuesday.

"I think they heard us. I think they understand what we're all about," Mills said.

The community, which has a posted speed limit of 15 mph, has a self-contained network of streets that lead to Curlew Road. Residents want permission to drive carts within their community.

Other communities have asked for more extensive regulations to allow golf carts on public roads.

In 2005, the Pinellas County Commission okayed golf cart traffic in Ozona and Crystal Beach, making them the first communities in Pinellas to have a special golf cart designation.

Since then, officials in other Tampa Bay communities, including Highland Lakes in Palm Harbor, passed similar regulations.

And in April, Dunedin's City Commission approved an ordinance that allows golf carts on designated city streets.

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

>>Fast facts

City tax rate increase rejected

In other action on Tuesday, city leaders voted not to raise the property tax rate next year. They set the maximum rate at $4.05 per $1,000 of taxable property value. At that rate, the city expects to bring in about $3.8 million in general fund revenue, which is approximately 5 percent less than this fiscal year. With that rate the owner of a home valued at $100,000, after exemptions, would pay $405 in city property taxes. The tax rate can be lowered, but not raised, between now and final city budget approval in September.

Residents in Oldsmar mobile home park win backing to keep golf carts 07/21/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 21, 2011 11:13pm]
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