Golf cart owners in Orange Beach, Alabama, will have to register vehicles, make other changes.

By John Mullen

October 3, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL – (OBA®) – Orange Beach doesn’t want to cause trouble for golf cart owners in the city, Mayor Tony Kennon says.

“Right now, it’s live and let live,” Kennon said at an Oct. 1 town hall meeting at the Orange Beach Event Center.

That’s about to change. Kennon told the crowd of about 700 the city has no choice but to craft an ordinance to address how and where golf carts can be used to be in line with state law. A 2016 amendment to the law now prohibits golf carts from operating on sidewalks, sidewalk areas, or public streets of a municipality.

Tony Kennon, mayor of the city of Orange Beach, Alabama.But quite reluctantly.

“We don’t want to do it,” Kennon said. “I don’t want you not to be able to ride on the sidewalk on Marina Road.”

Golf carts were likely the most lively topic of discussion of nearly three-hour meeting that started with a council work session and regular session before Kennon gave a Powerpoint demonstration. It detailed several city projects and also touched on road projects around town and an update on Orange Beach High School and Middle school.

Another somewhat surprising revelation was not only are golf carts not allowed on sidewalks but neither are bicycles.

“Do you know bicycles are illegal on sidewalks, too?” Kennon asked a man who suggested people should switch from golf carts to two-wheelers. “Federal grant sidewalks the width is not sufficient. That’s why you can’t have a bike on it. It’s four foot, not six-foot, eight-foot or 10 foot.”

Back to the golf carts, Kennon told the crowd the city is going to look for ways to increase accessibility for golf carts around town.

“My point is everywhere we see an opportunity to create a golf cart path, Marina Road may be one because it’s a city street,” Kennon said. “That may be something we can do. We may be able to come in and widen that to 10 feet and declare it a golf cart path then that’s what we’re going to do. I promise you we are going to attack in every way we can to create arteries for golf carts to go anywhere they want to go.”

Kennon also said that Canal Road was another possibility from Doc’s Seafood Shack all the way to Bear Point because the city recently took over maintenance of that portion of what used to be Alabama 180. It’s still under state control from Doc’s west as is all of Alabama 161.

“We will have to have the state’s permission to create a golf cart path on 161 north and south because that’s all state right of way,” Kennon said.

The new ordinance, once crafted, however, will have some new rules golf cart owners will have to abide by.

“Our goal is an ordinance that will be minimal in nature, to accomplish what state law requires us to do,” Kennon said. “What we think will happen is you will have to retrofit the lights and all that stuff. It’s about $650, average, to retrofit golf cart to make it so-called street legal which is not really a correct term. That is probably going to have to happen. We’ll have a phase-in period, a grace period. But eventually, every golf cart will have to meet those standards, be inspected and permitted.”

Also, drivers must have licenses meaning no one under age 16 can drive them. Golf carts would also be limited to streets that have a speed limit of 25 mph or less. City officials would also like to see golf carts crossing main roads at intersections with traffic signals.

“I don’t see an issue with golf carts except for the kids,” Kennon said.

According to Kennon’s presentation, police interactions with juveniles on golf carts went from 20 in 2017 to 63 in 2019. Total police interactions with golf carts went from 41 in 2017 to 117 in 2019.

“It’s not pleasant at all but it is something we have to do and I hope that y’all understand and work with us, make suggestions and help us craft an ordinance that will solve all our problems and continue to allow us to be a golf cart community,” Kennon said.

The main reason for the coming changes, Kennon said, is the liability the city could face by turning a blind eye to enforcement of the current regulations.

“A willful disregard for the enforcement of a law creates a liability situation for the city,” Kennon said. “It’s a tough position to be in for all of us. We’re going to look into it. Until then … I can’t say that.

“People are now calling and saying can I take my golf cart from Bear Point to the Tiki? And they want me to say yes, it’s what they want to hear. But if I say yes and they get a ticket or an accident ‘but the mayor said yes.’ I can’t tell you it’s OK to break the law. Be careful about asking questions you don’t want the real answer to.”