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New Port Richey considers scooter ordinance

City staff members recommend a vote for scooter sales, but against scooter rentals.
A Bird electric scooter is seen along the Tampa Riverwalk in May in Tampa. The New Port Richey City Council is considering allowing scooter sales and rentals. [CHRIS URSO  |  Tampa Bay Times]
A Bird electric scooter is seen along the Tampa Riverwalk in May in Tampa. The New Port Richey City Council is considering allowing scooter sales and rentals. [CHRIS URSO | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Oct. 21, 2019

NEW PORT RICHEY — Motorized scooters could become a presence in downtown New Port Richey with city leaders eyeing a proposal from a company to rent them for tours.

Motorized scooters have made national headlines recently with some cities, including Tampa, allowing the launch of scooter ride-sharing services. Some have led to problems with people abandoning the vehicles around town or getting into accidents with them on busy streets.

New Port Richey is considering allowing motorized scooters downtown, but under a different business model.

Scott Carbone, owner of a company called eCarve, wants to sell and rent motorized scooters from Get Outside, a store at 5780 Main St. that also sells and rents kayaks and bicycles. He says it is boomtime in downtown New Port Richey, and the city is ready for his proposal.

Unlike other ride-sharing models, his would require people to return scooters to his store rather than leaving them on streets and sidewalks for someone else to pick up.

“If you approve this, you are going to see a good influx of tourism,” Carbone told the New Port Richey City Council during an Oct. 1 meeting.

The problem for Carbone is that the city’s downtown zoning ordinance doesn’t include a designated use for motorized scooters, so the proposal would require the Council to approve a conditional use.

City staff members recommended that the council allow the sales of motorized scooters, but not rentals, tours or test drives on city streets. They cite safety concerns in the high pedestrian and traffic area.

The council voted 4-1 to take up the matter in a second hearing scheduled for Nov. 5.

State law allows motorized scooters to be used up to 20 mph, but the law gives local jurisdictions the ultimate power to regulate them, City Attorney Tim Driscoll told councilmembers.

The council discussed possible restrictions, including banning motorized scooter use after sunset, requiring anyone under 18 to be with an adult and requiring the company to hold liability and property insurance.

Not all councilmembers favored the motorized scooter idea.

New Port Richey’s downtown is growing, said Councilmember Chopper Davis, but it doesn’t need scooters yet. He fears the city would face the same problems as other areas with controlling them.

“I see total abuse of it downtown,” Davis said.

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