Leave the car behind: Fairfield residents want to be able to take golf carts to the beach
FAIRFIELD — Golf carts aren’t just for the golf course, or retirement communities anymore. In 2009, state legislation was enacted that allows towns to set the rules for golf carts on municipal roadways.
The carts can only be used on roads where the speed limit is 25 mph or less, and two Representative Town Meeting members have started an online petition supporting golf carts in the Fairfield Beach Road area.
Other shore towns, like Old Saybrook and East Lyme, allow golf carts in designated neighborhoods. Use of the carts is restricted by state law to people over 18, who must have a driver’s license.
In their petition posted on change.org, Farnen and McDermott say the use of golf carts will cut down on vehicular traffic to the beaches, ease parking issues, and build a sense of community. Only electric carts would be allowed, and there would be registration requirements. The carts would be allowed from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and could only be operated by those who are over 18 and have a driver’s license. Hours would also be restricted.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 257 people had signed the petition.
First Selectman Mike Tetreau said with the beach area as one of the fastest growing, with people living in close proximity, it’s always good to look at creative ways to address issues.
“I am not clear on what problems we currently have that the golf carts would resolve,” Tetreau said. “Certainly riding in golf carts on golf courses and in private communities is enjoyable.” He said it’s something the Police Commission will have to carefully review.
The state legislation gives the authority to allow golf carts, and draft the regulations, to a municipality’s traffic authority. In Fairfield’s case, that is the Police Commission, which just last year considered and rejected golf cart use in town.
According to Tetreau, he’s heard from several residents concerned about public safety when golf carts are added to cars, bikes and pedestrians already on the roads, and the added burden on limited parking spaces.
“I am sure the Police Commission will evaluate all these issues and get input from our police chief before implementing something this impactful,” Tetreau said.
In the petition posted by Farnen at https://bit.ly/2IZ42al says golf carts would have a calming effect and slow traffic speed “which poses danger to our children who often play in the street due to having small yards.”
Farnen also writes that golf carts provide easier access to “many of town beaches and marina,” and allow residents who live more than two or three blocks from the beach a way to transport umbrellas, chairs and coolers. Although it says it would reduce parking issues, the proposed ordinance states” golf carts may only be parked in the same manner and at the same places designated for parking of motor vehicles.”
Lt. Robert Kalamaras, spokesman for the Police Department, said the chief and deputy chief met recently with Farnen and several other RTM members about the proposal, and what the regulations would be if the Police Commission were to approve the idea.
“We have to consider all of the people in the town of Fairfield, not just those who have the opportunity to live at the beach when adopting an ordinance of this type,” Kalamaras said. He said towns that do allow golf carts limit the use to certain areas of the town.
“A golf cart reinforces that we are a beach community, and suggests that we are caring residents who can be patient and mindful of traffic safety,” according to College Place resident Ilse Martin, who has lived at the beach since 1985.
Neither the petition nor the proposed ordinance delineates the areas where golf carts would be allowed, and whether it would include all beach neighborhoods, such as South Pine Creek or Sasco Hill.
The minimum state requirements for golf cart operation include a valid operator’s license, limit operation to daylight hours only, and require that carts have an operable horn, and be equipped with a flag. Farnen’s proposal further requires a three-year permit, inspection, and a sticker from Parks & Recreation, and fees paid to the town.