Questions Raised Concerning Culver Golf Cart Ordinance

What’s the difference between a golf cart and a Utility Terrain Vehicle? There isn’t much of one, but enough of a difference for UTVs to be prohibited on town roads, says Grant Munroe, owner of Culver Lodging Realty and CGM Photography. Munroe appeared before the town council and requested a revision to the Golf Cart Ordinance to allow for the use of UTVs on Culver roads.

A UTV is similar in size and appearance to a golf cart, but is significantly more durable and has many more uses. While golf carts usually run on electricity, UTVs use gasoline or diesel fuel. Golf carts are generally used for transportation; UTVs are more commonly used for hauling equipment or other services. City businesses could use UTVs to haul equipment to and from the lake, plow snow from driveways, or even tow boats and other watercraft.

A county ordinance was passed in 2007 that allowed the use of UTVs and other vehicles on county roads, but that ordinance does not apply to the streets of Culver. Therefore, UTVs and similar vehicles are prohibited from driving on roads in the town, causing inconvenience and confusion for many residents and business owners. When the county commissioners passed Ordinance 2007-08 which regulated the use of off-road vehicles, they received strong support with very little opposition.

“They’re just an economical alternative to a vehicle. I mean, you could plow, you could pull a boat, they have flat beds, generally, and with gas at $4 I don’t know about anyone else but I notice when I fill up at the tank. They’re just a third the price of a pickup truck and take up the same amount of space as a golf cart,” Munroe said.

UTVs have a number of advantages over golf carts, such as numerous safety features, more power, and the ability to use trailer hitches, winches, plows, and cargo beds. They also use less gas, and at roughly one-third of the cost of a new pickup truck, UTVs could be a valuable and useful asset for any business. In addition, there is currently no legal form of transportation except mopeds, cars, and GEM cars that citizens can use to travel to Culver Academy or the Culver Marina.

However, Police Chief Wayne Bean feels revising the ordinance would open up a can of worms. Allowing residents to operate UTVs on town roads would incite other residents to attempt obtaining plates for other similar vehicles, such as four-wheelers or other sport vehicles.

“I think it’s just gonna open up to any kind of an off-road vehicle to be coming into the community,” said Bean.

Councilman Ralph Winters said he supports the idea and he feels revising the ordinance would not affect or add to any safety concerns the town already has. Unfortunately, Town Attorney James Clevenger told the council that a legal issue may exist because a state statute is in place that allows counties to pass ordinances to allow UTVs and ATVs on the roadways, but may not allow cities and towns to pass an ordinance for the same thing. Clevenger is expected to look into the different classifications of vehicles and come back with an answer on whether or not legalizing UTVs on Culver roads is even a possibility at the next town council meeting.