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The Long Saga of Golf Cart Regulations Continues

There was no shortage of opinions, but in the end no decisive action by the Ave Maria Stewardship Community district Tuesday on two controversial matters – the regulation of golf carts in town and whether to permit fishing in town lakes. Both matters were deferred for further study and are expected to be back on the agenda for the board's next meeting Dec. 1.

Discussion of the issues prompted about 40 residents to turn out for what is normally a sparsely-attended monthly meeting of the board.

A half-dozen spoke about proposed golf cart regulations that would, among other rules, require golf drivers to be at least 15 years old and have a driver's license or learner's permit, and prohibit carts from being driven on most sidewalks.

The question of golf carts has been before the board many times over the last six years as supervisors grappled with questions of overlapping jurisdictions in a town where each homeowners association owns the roads withing its neighborhoods, the AMSCD owns the major thoroughfares in and out of town, and the responsibility for enforcing any rules lies with the county sheriff's department.

A consultant hired by the board suggested the most effective way to establish and enforce rules would be through a county ordinance that would apply town wide. Most of the discussion at Tuesday's meeting involved whether golf carts could be driven on sidewalks running along major roads such as Ave Maria Blvd. and Pope John Paul II Blvd. The proposed ordinance can be viewed in a previous Ave Herald story here. Although the age restriction received a lot of attention at the October board meeting, the district's attorney, Jonathan Johnson, said the county was "adamant" that a minimum age of 15 was "proper."

Board member Liesa Priddy said that she thought any regulations should be driven by what town residents wanted, not what the county wanted, but it was not clear from speakers at the meeting that there was any consensus on what residents wanted. In addition to the matters covered in the ordinance, speakers and board members also spoke about trying to restrict what they saw as dangerous practices such as having leashed dogs running alongside golf carts and towing kids on skateboards.

The board wound up taking no action Tuesday to provide time to further examine some of the questions.

There was a similar outcome to proposals relating to regulating fishing in town lakes. The board considered two proposed sets of rules, one which would ban fishing entirely and the other that would permit catch-and-release fishing from "designated access points." Mr. Johnson said that some regulations were needed because fish in the lake might not be safe to eat because the lakes collect run-off from the town and there are potential liability issues.

District manager Todd Wodraska suggested tabling a decision until the district had a chance to look at aspects such as which lakes might have access points, and the cost of signage that would be needed. "We have a lot of lakes," he said

In other matters:

- The board approved the budget for the next fiscal year which keeps assessments on residential property unchanged, as it has been for years.

- The board approved a plan by Ave Maria University to build a pedestrian bridge over a district-owned lake which runs along the west side of the AMU campus. The land on the west side of the lake is currently undeveloped, but AMU Vice President Bill Kirk said there were plans to put in a prayer garden there with a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

- Mr. Wodraska informed the board of an initiative by resident Robb Klucik to begin a process that would directly elect at least one of the five members of the board, all of whom currently are appointed by the developers. Mr. Wodraska said that Mr. Klucik "has correctly pointed out that the population has reached the threshold" where such an initiative can be undertaken. The process involves a number of steps. Ten percent of the registered voters in town would need to sign a petition, the board would need to approve a referendum for town residents to vote on whether they wanted the change, the developers would need to prepare district maps showing the amount of "urban area" in town to determine the number of seats to be elected, and an election would then be held. Although the board would have little role in the process, "Personally, I think it's about time to do it," Mr. Wodraska said.

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