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Scooters will roll in New Port Richey

NEW PORT RICHEY –- Motorized scooter rentals are coming to downtown New Port Richey, but they’ll be running on city streets later than first proposed by the City Council.

New Port City Council members voted 4-1 Tuesday to allow scooter rentals and sales from a store called Get Outside, at 5780 Main St., that also sells and rents kayaks and bicycles. Get Outside owner Jordan Frishkorn told the council he has partnered with eCarve, a company owned by Scott Carbone, that will rent and sell the scooters from the store.

The problem the pair had in launching the enterprise downtown is that nothing in the city’s code allowed motorized scooter rentals and sales, so Carbone needed the conditional-use ordinance which he received Tuesday.

Carbone’s business model is different from many of the ride-sharing scooter rental programs that have popped up around the country, including in Tampa, drawing scrutiny over the vehicles being abandoned randomly on city streets and people getting into accidents on them.

Instead, eCarve will rent the scooters and provide test drives and safety demonstrations. And renters will be required to return the scooters to the Get Outside store, as opposed to leaving them for pickup on city streets. Frishkorn said it is not a “scooter dump” like other programs, but a way for people to see more of the downtown than they would on foot.

“It gives somebody the chance to experience something, whether it’s bike rentals or scooter rentals. It’s just see the city for what it is, don’t hide it,” Frishkorn said.

A couple of other concerns about the rentals popped Tuesday night, as well. The council initially wanted to mandate that the scooters cannot operate 30 minutes after sunset. Carbone initially agreed to that, but told council members Tuesday that when he pitched his idea in October, he did not consider the turning back of clocks for the end daylight saving time. So, with sunset being before 6 p.m., Carbone asked for a later cutoff time.

“I am not able to actually open and run a business with those time constraints,” Carbone said.

The council agreed to set a cutoff time of 8:30 p.m., with an eye toward making it later if the program proves to be successful and safe.

Additionally, a review by the police department on where motorized vehicles can be driven may be needed, due to traffic or safety concerns. That review and any ensuing restrictions would govern all use of motorized vehicles in the city.

City Attorney Tim Driscoll has urged Carbone to consider that even with his conditional use, under state law the city has the right to establish restrictions on motorized vehicles that operate at less than 25 mph, and those restrictions could affect where his customers can take the scooters.

Council member Chopper Davis voted against the measure, saying he already sees people abusing traffic laws on motorized scooters downtown, so he welcomed the police department looking into safety concerns. He said the city’s outdoor cafes are booming, and he envisions that adding rental scooter riders to the mix will be a problem.

“So you have inexperienced people going down the sidewalks with these cafes. I have a problem with that,” Davis said.

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