More than 150 residents from around the county turned out to a Glynn County town hall meeting on Tuesday to hear about and share their concerns with a variety of St. Simons Island issues.
At the top of a lot of island residents’ lists was a new golf cart regulation ordinance — details of which can be found at tinyurl.com/golfcartlawdetails — that will go into effect on Oct. 18.
Golf carts are separated into two categories by Georgia state law: a personal transportation vehicle, or PTV, has a top speed of 19 mph or less and can transport no more than eight people, while a low-speed vehicle, or LSV, has a top speed between 20 and 25 mph. Counties can regulate PTVs, but state law governs LSVs.
Once the law goes into effect, LSVs will be relegated to roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less as stipulated by state law, while PTVs will be restricted to streets with speed limits of 25 mph or less.
Before Oct. 18, LSV owners need to get a tag and title on their carts from the Glynn County Tax Commissioner to be allowed to drive on public streets, while PTV owners must go to the Glynn County Community Development Department to register for a decal.
Multiple residents expressed their confusion with how gas-powered vehicles fit into the equation. A gas-lowered PTV is regulated by the county, no question, but according to Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy — backed up by Senior Assistant County Attorney Will Worley — gas-powered LSVs are difficult to pin down.
State law doesn’t include gas-powered vehicles in its definition of LSV, Worley said. Only an electric vehicle can be classified as a low-speed vehicle, he explained.
County resident Gilbert Hurst said he went to the Glynn County Tax Commissioner’s office to get a tag for his LSV but was told his vehicle did not qualify for one because it was manufactured as a PTV and modified after-market. Its top speed is too fast for it to be classified as a PTV, however.
Worley explained that, according to the state Department of Revenue, gas-powered LSVs may be able to get a regular car tag and title if they are of a certain make and model. Gas-powered LSVs that “start life” as a PTV may not qualify at all, he said.
“I won’t tell you the state law makes sense here, I’m just telling you what it does say,” Worley said.
Murphy encouraged anyone in a similar situation to contact their state representative to advocate for new rules.
Gerald Goldstein said he didn’t live on St. Simons Island, but he did own a business there. Other local governments in Georgia do regulate both electric and gas-powered LSVs, he said, and asked why Glynn County couldn’t.
Worley addressed the question, saying he was aware of some, such as Peachtree City. In those places, the government provides dedicated paths for golf carts, he explained, which circumvented state law as the law only applies to LSVs on public roads.
Once again, Murphy suggested the public should put pressure on the state legislature to change the rules on LSVs.
Further complicating the issue is an upcoming rework of the speed limits on St. Simons Island.
The county changed the speed limits on multiple roads sometime in the past without following Georgia Department of Transportation protocol, Murphy said. It is currently looking into which roads may need to have their speed limits reverted to what they were before the change.
A resident of a neighborhood on Skylane Road on St. Simons Island said the road’s speed limit is 35 mph, meaning she won’t be able to drive her PTV from her house to a neighborhood just down the street anymore.
Given that speed limits may change soon, possibly on Skylane Road, she asked if the county would give people who live on one such road a grace period before cracking down.
Murphy said the county would not.
Other issues addressed during the town hall included Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax 2016 projects, proposed projects for SPLOST 2020 including possible Glynn County Courthouse expansion, new pickleball courts and an ongoing overhaul of the county’s zoning ordinance.
St. Simons Island resident Hugh Borque encouraged everyone in the room to stay informed on SPLOST 2020 and the zoning overhaul, and to contact their county commissioners to attempt to influence the outcomes of both before complaining publicly.