MARSHALL - The question of whether the city of Marshall should allow vehicles like golf carts on city streets is headed back to committee, following discussion and public feedback at a special meeting of the Marshall City Council on Monday night. City officials, local residents and Marshall businesspeople weighed in on the issue.
Discussion about the kinds of vehicles permitted on city streets has been ongoing among council members since May, when a Marshall resident applied for a special vehicle permit for a golf cart to be driven around town. The city's past policy has been to allow golf carts to drive only between a residence and the Marshall golf course, and members of the council Legislative and Ordinance Committee were divided on how to proceed on the issue.
Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig presented council members with some possible amendments to the city code on special vehicles. The proposed amendments clarify some definitions of special vehicles like golf carts and mini-trucks, but still do not allow such vehicles on city streets. Exceptions were allowed for city staff using mini-trucks or for a golf cart or all-terrain-vehicle towing a trailer for elderly or disabled people at special events.
Martig said Minnesota statutes allow cities to regulate the use of golf carts, ATVs and mini-trucks. He also compared Marshall's policy on those vehicles with policies in other cities. Rochester allows golf carts on the streets during daylight hours and with other conditions. Mankato allows special vehicles for business or commercial uses, and Alexandria limits the streets on which special vehicles are allowed, Martig said.
Marshall could consider similar policies to any of those cities, or pursue a "mixed-bag" approach, Martig said. The floor was opened for questions and comments from the audience.
Marshall City Attorney Dennis Simpson said he had concerns about unlicensed or inexperienced drivers using vehicles like golf carts. If the carts were allowed on city streets, Simpson and Martig said, it would also require the city to adopt ordinances governing them and create an appeals board to deal with violations. Jim Marshall of the Marshall Police said enforcement issues are also a major concern for public safety, especially if unlicensed drivers or drivers who have had their licenses taken away are using the vehicles.
If unauthorized drivers were a safety issue, asked Marshall business owner Tom Pearcy, why not issue special vehicle permits to only one person per vehicle? "I don't understand why it's so complicated," he said.
Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce Director Cal Brink said he had received feedback on the issue from local businesses. Manufacturers of utility vehicles are taking steps to make them street legal, he said, and more and more people are going be selling and buying them.
"I would urge the council to think longer-term" in setting city ordinances, Brink said. "People who are buying (these vehicles) aren't buying them to get around the law."
In the end, the issue was referred back to the Legislative and Ordinance Committee, with the information from Monday's meeting.