A divided Flagler Beach City Commission agreed Thursday evening to change the frequency of required inspections of golf carts used as street vehicles from every year to every two years. Some commissioners and the mayor wanted only one inspection, and none after that. The city has a few hundred residents using golf carts as street vehicles.
With a 3-2 split among commissioners, Mayor Suzie Johnston attempted to veto the every-two-year proposal, but failed, because the charter does not provide for vetoes of policy decision–only resolutions and ordinances. The city attorney interpreted golf cart inspection method as a commission policy.
That appears to be a misinterpretation of the charter by the attorney (who was sitting in for Drew Smith, the usual city attorney): unlike internal office or commission policies, the golf cart inspection method, which applies to residents, is in fact codified in the city’s Code of Ordinances. It currently spells out the annual requirement for inspections under Section 19-63.
While the commission has directed City Manager William Whitson to bring back formal documents showing the commission’s new direction, the code will have to be amended to reflect the every-other-year approach. That can only be codified through an amended ordinance–without which authorities have no enforcement mechanism–and the ordinance put to a vote, after two public hearings, thus enabling the mayor to exercise her veto. So that may yet be ahead.
On the other hand, if the mayor does exercise he veto, as she attempted to do today, all she would be accomplishing is leaving the current annual inspection requirement in place. The three commissioners who want it changed to every other year–Ken Bryan, Jane Mealy, Deborah Phillips–are willing to go that route as a compromise, because they have no intention of scrapping inspections altogether, after the initial inspection. That’s what Mayor Suzie Johnston and Commissioners Eric Cooley and James Sherman would prefer: eliminating inspections altogether, after an initial inspection.
Thursday’s discussion and decision, however, pointed to a deep divide on the commission on that score, with all but one of the members of the public addressing the item supporting an every-other-year approach. The others favored the mayor’s approach.
Phillips was the swing vote on this one. “I personally would like to just do it one time, but I think I have to respect what chief says, and doing it every two years to me is not that big of a deal if he can open up his hours to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and potential Saturdays.”
Police Chief Matt Doughney had swung her vote. “As one of your two safety officers I’m not recommending getting rid of inspections. I think inspections are important for us,” Doughney said. He had no objections to going from an annual inspection to every two years.
The item was brought forth by Cooley. “The system is unfriendly and cumbersome for citizens to even try to get through,” Cooley said, citing limited hours. “There’s been a lot of frustration around the whole process of getting through this.” He also objected to the police doing the inspections, as opposed to civilian staff. The cart-registration system generated “tons of complains” last year. The city, he said, committed to residents that it would change the system. “We had an agreement to change it that we didn’t honor.”
In Florida, Cooley said, a golf cart may be converted to a street-ready vehicle. That requires a one-time state compliance inspection. “Once you’re done with that, you’re done,” Cooley said. Regular vehicles–cars, pick-up trucks–no longer require inspections, but may be pulled over when they appear out of compliance, as when they have a light out or illegally tinted windows. “Then it’s up to the owner to be an adult and do their job and maintain the vehicle just like any other vehicle,” Cooley said. “The argument is why would we deviate from that?”
To Johnston, who got a golf cart 10 years ago, the process is too difficult, too resident-unfriendly, and not in small part driven by the revenue it’s generating. A first-time inspection costs $40. An annual renewal costs $20. Bryan disputed that the revenue was a driving force behind the inspections. Safety is, he said.
Inspections are relatively recent. Larry Newsom, the late city manager, had arranged with the police three or four ago to conduct golf cart inspections after observing unsafe carts on city streets. When inspections began, two-thirds of carts did not pass inspection. Three this week alone did not pass for lack of brake lights.
Doughney said he has not gotten any emails, texts or phone calls from residents complaining about the process, and that numerous cities do the same. Someone in the audience complained, as others later did during public comment.
As of Thursday, the city police department had issued 158 golf cart inspection stickers. That means the 800 to 1,000-pound vehicles have headlights, brake lights, turn signals and a windshield, safe tires, a rearview mirror, reliable steering, reflective warning devices front and back.
“To have somebody on social media in a diatribe bash the police department for being safe,” Doughney said, “all you got to do is call me. All you got to do is come two blocks to come see me. That never happened. That’s disappointing.” He disputed that the inspection hours are limited. They’re done every weekday, and on certain Saturdays, he said, and cautioned that a citation of $116 is a lot more cumbersome than inspections. He was not opposed to every-other-year inspections.
Whitson in a memo prepared with Doughney said the city could go to an evert-other-year inspection, with subsequent inspections done by any golf cart repair shop in the community. “Right now, with all the issues pressing on us, we don’t have time to get all that together this year,” Whitson said. It would take place in 2024-25. “But there is a pathway forward and that’s what I’ve laid out in this memo. And that would cut down on the number of inspections without jeopardizing public safety.” The city attorney said the proposal would be legal.
The alternative, he said, was not to have any inspections, and to leave it to police officers to pull over people driving carts that are out of compliance. But that would burden officers. The mayor argued that that simpler process could be started today, without waiting until 2024 or 2025.
A half dozen people spoke, all but one in favor of the inspection system. The exception was Bruno O’Connor, a candidate for the commission in the March election, who said the city has “bigger things to worry about” than golf cart inspections, which he described–from personal experience–as simple and convenient, with waits of a few minutes, if that.
One resident, more caustic, challenged the police chief to tell him how many traffic have been issued to cart drivers in violation and disputed the whole system, listing contradictions (as with the different standards applying to electric bikes), including the fee collection.
Another man said it was an “unneeded process.” Paul Ike, a former candidate for the commission, recalled the time when all he had to do was sign an affidavit certifying that his cart was safe, “until somebody decided that we needed to have them inspected.” He did not see the need. “I resent the city of Flagler Beach telling me that I have to do something with my golf cart that I as well as I believe the vast majority of people that own and use them, drive them safely.”
“We’re not inspecting every bicycle, We’re not inspecting every other type of motor vehicle on the road that’s not a car. So I’d be okay with a one-time inspection and then an affidavit every year and just call it a day,” Sherman said.
But the Bryan-Mealy-Phillips majority carried the night before the commission, which was in the midst of a seven-hour meeting, moved on to its next item, on converting tennis courts to pickle ball courts. That prompted Cooley to say, wryly: “I think all pickleball players need inspected every year.”
Thomas Kaspar says
That would have never happened in the old days . Flagler is infected with horrible whining pink flamingo Karens from the north .
Robert Stanier says
So sick of hearing about the old days. Back when flagler county was even more racist then today. Back when flagler county was the last to desegregate, and burn down the high school?
Thomas Kaspar says
Everything on earth doesn’t have a correlation to your hardwired racial delusions . A majority of us respect and like each other regardless who or what we are . The old days in Flagler respected and cared about the natural vegetation and wildlife more than pavement and Airbnb .
TV Trey says
Yeah they be charging black golf carts twice the fee for inspect.
Robert S.: And so the northerners saved it, right? Watch it grow into someplace else.
Thomas K.: I hate the term “Karens,” it’s just another offensive label.
Thomas Kaspar says
Very applicable . My family was in Flagler 40s- 80s these whiny snowbirds are insufferable .
James Mejuto says
Well, folks, we knew it was coming. Inspecting golf carts. A lot of accidents, are there? How much is this going to cost you
However, don’t work on the dunes predicament or why the farmer’s market was removed ? However, golf carts apparently
cause a lot of accidents and how you’re going to cope with your beach that has completely left you?
This is the sign of a dis-functional town gov’t heading nowhere!
The Villa Beach Walker says
The inspection requirement is the same for any motor vehicle operating anywhere on a road in Florida. When I restored a Mustang convertible and wanted to register it as a motor vehicle I called the FBPD and an officer came by my home and did the exact same inspection they do for golf carts. It’s a State of Florida motor vehicle law that’s being locally enforced. Would you rather the Flagler County Sherriff inspect your cart? The rest of your message (walking on the dunes and the fate of a privately owned property where the Farmers market used to be) is just more of the old bitching about things completely unrelated to the City of Flagler Beach government. The only dis-function is your lack of understanding the role of local government.
James Mejuto says
Beach Walker: Well, when you’re right . . . you’re right.
I have to take a second look at Flagler Beach.
Romuald Flieger says
Hi think the inspection are good and should be continued but I think that the golf carts should be registered also with insurance. I don’t think it would cost alot. Also individuals should have a valid driver’s license. I know of a few incidents that involved accidents. That involved person getting hurt and also property damage. The carts should not be driven on the sidewalk also.
Thomas Kaspar says
The point of living in Flagler Beach was for people to mind their own FN business and enjoy the beach …… really need a proper hurricane cut and paste a new vibe .
Butch Naylor says
Great article. One error. First time registration is $40 and annual re-registration is $30.
Thank you for the correction.
Never mind golf carts, how about doing cars and trucks again? A lot of crap on the roads now.
I hate those golf carts. They drive down Central in the middle of the travel lane going 25. Is it like a bike? Can I pass it whenever it’s safe? Is it a car? Do i have to stay behind it? They fly along with dogs and kids and no regard to safety. Crazy.
Diane Cline says
A sixth grader could inspect a cart ha ha why does it take an officer? And once it has been inspected let it go!
Thomas Kaspar says
Not your business how other people live . Go volunteer somewhere .
Jahson Waxton says
Really people. Grow up. I watched the meeting and an hour was spent on this topic. Go to the Police Department. Get your cart inspected and then get your sticker. Takes all of 30 minutes. When someone gets hurt because these rules weren’t followed all the nay sayers will be happy we have these rules. Then it would be on the back of those who didn’t want it. If it’s too much trouble for you don’t have a Golf Cart.
Poor Dog says
Almost hit a golf cart in Flagler beach last week. Four people and a little dog riding in it. They stopped to quickly at a light by bridge and dog fell out. Luckly I was paying extremely good attention. Sorry but golf carts belong on golf course NOT public roas.
Neal Ecker says
Insurance and a valid driver’s license are both required and need to be presented at the time of inspection
Flagler Beach is very golf cart friendly, and I think it’s great! Having an inspection every other year is just fine. I think using the police department to pull over golf carts is a waste of time, energy and money. Not to mention it just looks stupid. I have no complaints with the system as it is, but every two years would be fabulous! The commission doesn’t seem to be opposed.
We should not want to have state inspections as then we’d be required to have road vehicle insurance. That means your cart would need a license plate and go from $40 to $70 for annual insurance, to $400+ annually for vehicle insurance. Nope, things are just fine the way they are.
Thank you Flagler Beach!
These golf carts should be inspected. Why is Cooley so against it? Was his golf cart one of the ones that failed? He pontificated and huffed and puffed like he likes to do along with the local toxic facebook group and girlfriend mayor. Thanks for wasting people’s time.
Concerned Citizen says
Golf carts need to be regulated just like any other motor vehicle on the road. End of story.
Golf cart drivers also need to learn to be respectful and follow the rules of the road. Just like other drivers. You aren’t above the law. Or common decency.
I can’t understand why FBPD will inspect and let on the road. But then let them drive however they want.
With a compromising sewer system and a limited commercial tax base that puts the onus of the City budget directly on the backs of the property owners, it was most disheartening to see certain folks stirring up their social media base on such an insignificant matter. The Chief of Police, and the one responsible for the safety of the community, stood up and explained why he wanted to continue the inspections, shared other golf cart heavy counties that inspect their golf carts and agreed to not only take the continued responsibility of inspecting the golf carts, but expanded his Saturday inspection hours to cater to those who can’t take time away from pounding out negative posts Monday thru Friday. Yes, there have been multiple wrecks and one that I witnessed ended with the golf cart overturned in a yard on the side of the road. Responsible questions that should have been asked before voting against the inspections are (1) How many carts fail inspections annually; (2) What were the main reasons for not passing the safety check, and (3) what simple tweaks can be made to lesson the burden on owners. The Flagler Beach Police Department operates on a skeleton crew and the last thing we need for the officers to be doing is routinely pulling over golf carts and issuing violations – oh, my, one can imagine the keyboard warriors if that were to happen. Same old, same old reactive approach …