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No go for golf carts

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By Larry Clifton

Efforts by County Commissioner Richard Hoffman to grant unrestricted golf cart access to businesses along four-lane Buenos Aires in The Villages backfired recently when commissioners voted to rescind golf cart access in the area altogether.
The resolution initially championed by Hoffman and approved last October allowing restricted golf cart access to businesses along the four-lane collector road was rescinded by commissioners last week in a 1-4 vote.
That October resolution did not go far enough for Hoffman who said gas-powered golf cart operators should be allowed to travel further east on four-lane Buenos Aires to access a gas station at Highway 27/441.
However after four meetings where the issue was discussed, Hoffman lost all support for allowing any access for golf cart operators to cross four-lane El Camino Real and intermingle with car and truck traffic on Buenos Aires.
Hoffman’s initial resolution got the votes of Commisssioners Don Burgess and Randy Mask, however Hoffman was not satified with that resolution so commissioners agreed to further discuss the issue during two subsequent meetings before voting on revised options.
County staff and a traffic engineering firm hired by the county recommended against allowing golfcart access before the initial resolution was passed in October based on liability and public safety concerns.
Potential TORT liability for the county, public safety, costs associated with over 20 decorative sign posts and preventing golfcart access to “non-Villages” businesses were listed as reasons why administrative staff did not support golf cart access on Buenos Aries, according to a county report.
Decorative posts for signage instructing golf cart operators where and how to manuever along the two roads would have cost taxpayers over $21,000, according to the report.
In voting against golf cart access each time, Commissioner Doug Gilpin stressed that businesses outside of The Villages DRI should not be accessible by golf cart and said he would follow the safety recommendations of traffic engineers and county staff.
Commissioner Garry Breeden, who also consistantly voted against golf cart access, stressed public safety concerns and potential liability for the county.
Mask and Burgess voted for the original resolution but voted to rescind that resolution during the Jan. 25 meeting.
Burgess said by telephone he voted against the revised option because motorists turning onto Buenos Aires from Hwy. 27/441 would not expect to see a golf cart in their path and signage and landscaping partially blocks motorists’ view.
Mask said removing signage and allowing golf cart access beyond the restrictions outlined in the October resolution was unacceptable to him for reasons of “liability and public safety.”
During a County Commission meeting, Hoffman, who lives in the area, said his desire to allow unrestricted golf cart access to businesses along Buenos Aires was both “personal” and on behalf of constituents he represented.
By reintroducing the golf cart issue in an attempt to gain unfettered access for golf cart operators along Buenos Aires east to the Shell gas station at Hwy. 27/441, Hoffman inadvertantly accomplished the opposite result.
During the Jan. 25 commission meeting, instead of expanding golf cart access along Buenos Aires to as Hoffman desired, commissioners voted 4-1 to rescind the October resolution, effectively blocking all access for golf carts.