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Golf Cart Regulations on Road to Resolution

The long-running saga of whether and how to regulate use of golf carts in Ave Maria appears headed for final resolution through a new county ordinance. But the exact wording of that proposed ordinance still is not clear following a discussion at the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District meeting Tuesday.

Proposed wording considered at the meeting generally reflected past discussions, stipulating that golf cart operators must be at least 15 years old and have a driver's license or learner's permit and that golf carts be insured and have appropriate equipment. The main unresolved question is where operation on sidewalks is permitted.


The ordinance as currently drafted stipulates that golf carts must be driven on roads within the town core and may not be operated on any sidewalks that are smaller than eight feet wide. A map drawn up by the district board shows where carts may be driven, but resident Robb Klucik told the meeting that the maps still don't address residents' concerns about operating golf carts on the sidewalk on the east side of Ave Maria Blvd. between Milano St. and Avila Ave., abutting residential property. He proposed wording that would make it clear that golf carts may not be driven on that stretch of sidewalk. 

District consultant Norman Trebilcock said he would consider Mr. Klucik's suggestions in submitting the proposal to county commissioners. The exact wording of the proposed ordinance will not be known until it is published in the Board of County Commissioners agenda before the meeting, which is currently slated for Jan. 26, because regardless of what Mr. Trebilcock submits, the county staff could still revise it.

Members of the public will be able to speak at the county commissioners' meeting and District Manager Todd Wodraska said notice would be given to residents as soon as the meeting date was confirmed.

The board also approved a resolution Tuesday that restricts recreational use of lakes owned by the district to catch-and-release fishing in the lakes immediately to the north and west of the town center. The regulations do not affect lakes that are owned by individual homeowners' associations and Mr. Wodraska said that any resident whose property is on a lake would always be able to fish from that property.

The meeting also discussed the process for directly electing one of the members of the five-member board. Seats currently are determined by voting based on land ownership which, effectively, means that developers control all the seats on the board. The special act that created Ave Maria spells out a process by which residents may begin to vote directly for seats, and the threshold appears to have been met to begin that process to directly elect at least one member of the board.

The first step is that a petition would need to be signed by at least ten percent of the registered voters in Ave Maria requesting a referendum on whether to have direct elections for any seats. If the referendum passed, then the developers would prepare maps that would determine how many seats residents can elect and once approved, an election would be held.

Since the procedure is relatively rare in Florida, and has never occurred before in Collier County, some questions still remain. The special act is silent, for example, on which seat or seats would be directly elected.

Mr. Klucik is spearheading the effort to collect signatures and the board endorsed the format of the petition he presented Tuesday.

The full meeting book, which includes maps illustrating golf cart usage and lakes where fishing can be viewed on the district website.

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