Apr. 12—NORTH MANKATO — North Mankato council members are split on whether to move to a public hearing phase on the question of whether to allow golf carts on many city streets, but they are postponing the idea while more information is gathered.
Council member Diane Norland said North Mankato, like others cities, has been moving toward allowing more modes of transportation, including more trails and things like electric scooters. During a work session Monday, she said getting more public input about allowing motorized golf carts on streets would be a good idea.
But Mayor Mark Dehen listed several concerns. "I see this as more hassle, for the few people that want to take advantage of it, than it's worth."
Councilwoman Sandra Oachs said she'd lean toward at least getting more input at a public hearing, while council member Billy Steiner saw too many traffic and safety issues to warrant pursuing the idea.
Councilman Jim Whitlock was not at the meeting.
Last October, a resident approached the council about changing city ordinance to allow for motorized golf carts on streets. The traffic and safety committee, however, recommended against the idea. But some council members asked staff and the committee to do more research and bring back alternatives.
Matthew Lassonde, city planner, said he reviewed ordinances in 12 other Minnesota communities. After several discussions the traffic and safety committee drew up a draft ordinance that the council could approve if it chose to move ahead with the idea.
The draft ordinance would allow golf carts but not ATVs, side-by-sides or similar recreational vehicles on streets. A golf cart owner would have to apply for a one-year permit to drive on streets, must be a licensed driver and have proof of insurance, and their golf cart would only be allowed to operate from sunrise to sunset April through October.
The vehicles would be prohibited from city park property and biking/hiking trails.
Police Chief Ross Gullickson, who serves on the traffic and safety committee, said that after reaching out to law enforcement in cities that allow golf carts on streets, he didn't think it would be a major hassle for police here if they were allowed.
"I'm not that concerned." He said other agencies said they have a few problems with unauthorized golf carts or illegal use, but not a lot.
If eventually passed the golf carts would only be allowed on most city streets, not on higher traffic roads such as Lookout Drive and Lor Ray Drive. They could, however cross those and other higher-speed roads, just not drive on them. They would not be allowed to cross anywhere on Highway 14.
Dehen noted that if Lookout and Lor Ray were off limits there would be no way for those on golf carts to get to and from lower North Mankato to upper North Mankato.
Dehen said if the ordinance were changed he feared people would go on Lor Ray and Lookout illegally — roads all agreed would be unsafe for carts because of their higher speeds and current designs.
He said that while motorized carts may work in cities with mostly flat land, the steep bluffs in North Mankato make is more challenging here.
The mayor suggested the only possible route for golf carts linking upper and lower would be the newer, paved trail that runs inside a fenced area along Highway 14 and comes out near Culver's in upper North Mankato. The trail is wide, has relatively gradual incline and has a good sight line.
But Dehen said the city would first need to find out if MnDOT, which has jurisdiction over the trail, would allow motorized golf carts on the trail.
In the end, Norland agreed that waiting for an answer from MnDOT would help the council to decide if they want to move ahead with a public hearing at some point.