Support mixed for golf carts in Golden Beach
New law allowing them there goes into effect Oct. 1
Golf carts on St. Mary’s County roads will be legal starting Oct. 1 in the Golden Beach/Patuxent Knolls neighborhoods, and the county commissioners are in the process of complying with the new law.
At Tuesday’s commissioner public hearing, two residents of the neighborhood spoke in support of golf carts being legalized on the roads there, while one woman was skeptical and cited speeding issues. Another person asked why the law doesn’t apply to the entire county.
The law, which was introduced at this year’s session of the Maryland General Assembly by Del. Matt Morgan (R-St. Mary’s), whose district includes the northern part of the county, authorizes golf carts “equipped with approved lighting in the community of Golden Beach, Patuxent Knolls in St. Mary’s County between dawn and dusk” on county roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. The golf cart operator must have a valid driver’s license, although the golf carts are exempt from motor vehicle registration.
Elsewhere in the state, there are also registration exemptions on snowmobiles in Garrett County and certain golf carts in Allegany County, on Smith Island and in the city of Crisfield in Somerset County.
Bernie Owens, a resident of Golden Beach, said, “I think it’s going to be a good thing,” as long as people abide by the rules and regulations.
Dale Antosh, president of the Golden Beach, Patuxent Knolls Civic Association, said he supports golf cart use in the neighborhoods.
“We hope that it will be better for our community and not a detriment if it’s done right,” he said.
If the new law is abused, “it could be taken away, I would think. We hope to be a good pilot program,” he said.
But Kathy Harris, another resident of the community, said she was worried about underage drivers, driving golf carts at night, stop signs not being followed and the enforcement of the golf cart rules.
Speeding is already an ongoing issue in Golden Beach, she said, and “90 percent of the intersections are unsafe because of overgrown vegetation.” She wanted to know if golf cart drivers would be insured. Golf cart use “is just escalating in the community. If you add higher risk to an area, your personal insurance rates go up. I don’t know if you’re aware of that,” she said.
The speed limit on a section of Golden Beach Road would have to be reduced from 40 mph to 35 mph in order to comply with the new law.
Harris said, “No one obeys those. I obey the speed limit. I am tailgated. I have people riding my bumper. I have people blowing their horns at me because I’m going 30 mph in the 30 mph zone. By reducing the speed limit and putting new signs out is not going to address the issue.”
John Groeger, deputy director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation, said a speeding study was recently done in the neighborhood and the average speed driven is between 35 and 40 mph in the 30 mph zone.
“That is an issue for speeding,” he said.
Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R) asked if the sheriff’s office could be asked to enforce the speed limit. That enforcement tends to only temporarily slow down drivers, Groeger said. Once the enforcement leaves, speeding resumes, he said.
“That’s a concern if you got speeders and can’t slow them down,” Hewitt said.
Speed humps are $4,000 each, Groeger said, if the commissioners wanted to put those in, but the speed limit would have to reduced to 25 mph and the total cost would be $28,000.
Asphalt shoulders could be built on lower Golden Beach Road, but that would cost between $200,000 and $250,000 on a mile of road. “That’s not real cheap,” Groeger said.
Keith Harless of Lexington Park said he sees golf carts used in the Esperanza Farms neighborhood, on Pegg Road and in Piney Point. He wanted to know why the law didn’t apply to all of St. Mary’s County instead of just Golden Beach and Patuxent Knolls.
There was “no stomach in Annapolis” to legalize it for the entire county, said Commissioner John O’Connor (R), who made the suggestion to legalize golf carts on county roads two years ago.
If golf cart use is successful in Golden Beach, perhaps it could be expanded to the rest of St. Mary’s, he said.
“It’s small baby steps. We were fortunate to get this done,” he said. Lawmakers in Annapolis “didn’t even want to do it for Golden Beach, because they’re not fans of golf cart ordinances in big massive amounts,” he said.
O’Connor said when he first brought up the idea in 2015, it was met with “quite a bunch of laughter,” but “golf carts are used down there in Golden Beach a lot. It took a little bit of time but we eventually got there,” working with the civic association and Morgan.