It's about to get a little more crowded on Crow Wing County roads in Breezy Point.
The Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners approved the resort community's request to allow golf carts on stretches of county highways 4, 11 and 39 within the city limits.
"If somebody is riding their golf cart and they cross out of Breezy Point and they're on a county road, they are breaking the law," Commissioner Paul Koering said.
Board approval of Breezy Point's request was immediately preceded at the Tuesday, May 14, board meeting by the adoption of a county ordinance regulating golf cart use on county roads.
"The ordinance is a framework that we are saying we will consider granting jurisdiction for any municipality-a city or a township-anywhere in Crow Wing County to have golf carts on county roads," County Administrator Tim Houle said. "It doesn't say that we are allowing it."
The county ordinance requires cities or townships to first adopt an ordinance permitting the use of golf carts within their jurisdiction. Breezy Point has allowed the use of golf carts on city streets for more than three decades.
"In this particular case, we have a request from the city of Breezy Point. If the board action is passed, it will allow then the county roads within the city of Breezy Point to also be used for golf carts," Houle explained.
Breezy Point Mayor Tom Lillehei said there are more than 400 licensed golf carts in his city and 80% of the residents want an ordinance allowing golf carts on county roads within the city.
Because golf carts were not allowed on county roads in Breezy Point before Tuesday's board meeting, ruts were created off the sides of county highways 4 and 11 because of high golf cart traffic.
"The fact that we are a resort community-we rely heavily on golf carts as an alternate mode of transportation," Lillehei said during the public hearing part of the board meeting.
A draft by the county land services department of the golf cart ordinance was discussed at the Jan. 9, April 3 and May 7 meetings of the Natural Resource Advisory Committee.
As a result of a 30-day public comment period ending May 3, there were 36 comments received-25 comments in favor, four against and seven indifferent to the county ordinance.
"I do have concerns about golf carts on other county roads where you have 55 mph speed limits, you don't have berms, you don't have curbs, you have bicycles, you have children, you have adults (and) pedestrians," Crosslake council member John Andrews said at the board meeting.
Andrews said the Crosslake City Council recently decided not to allow golf carts on city streets.
"I don't want to get in the way of what Breezy Point would like, but I think to make it countywide we've got all sorts of different roads, all sorts of different berms on them, and I would be against having golf carts countywide," Andrews said.
The public comments were discussed May 7 at the Natural Resources Advisory Committee meeting. Although there was not a quorum at the meeting, there was a consensus among members present to recommend approval of the draft ordinance as written by land services.
"Back in April of 2018, the county board passed an ATV ordinance regulating the use of ATVs on county roads, and throughout that public comment process, we received an inquiry from the city of Breezy Point to look at a golf cart ordinance, also," Environmental Services Supervisor Ryan Simonson told the board Tuesday.
When the county board passed Ordinance 601 to allow all-terrain vehicles on county roads, Lillehei and the city of Breezy Point opposed the measure, primarily based on its exclusion of golf carts.
"Being that Ordinance 601 was passed as written without our request for golf carts, all objections we previously expressed are moot, and we fully accept Ordinance 601," Lillehei wrote to Simonson in a memo presented before the natural resources committee meeting on April 3.
"However," the memo read, "we still desire to have the ability to drive a low speed golf cart on the county road shoulder like the ATVs and are making this appeal to you."
Commissioner Steve Barrows made the motion to adopt the county ordinance regulating the use of golf carts on county roads. Bill Brekken seconded Barrows' motion, and it was unanimously approved. Commissioner Doug Houge was absent from Tuesday's board meeting.
"Not all county roads are created equal," County Engineer Tim Bray said. "As you can imagine, all the shoulder widths throughout the county differ."
Breezy Point requires golf carts to be licensed and insured, display "slow moving vehicle" signage, and be equipped with headlights and taillights if operating between sunset and sunrise. Drivers must be 15 years old or older, and golf carts are not permitted to be driven during inclement weather or during times of limited visibility.
"In general, I'm kind of opposed to multiple uses of the shoulder," Bray told the board.
County highways 11 and 4 in Breezy Point have 9- to 10-foot shoulders that can accommodate a golf cart, according to Bray, while County Highway 39 in the city has shorter 6-foot shoulders.
"My job is to make sure that the decision-makers know the risks and know exactly what you're dealing with before a decision has been made," Bray said.
Lillehei said the city would put up signage if the Breezy Point-related ordinance was passed, notifying drivers of the possibility of golf carts on the shoulder.
Koering then made the motion to approve Breezy Point's request to allow golf carts on those portions of county highways 4, 11 and 39 within the Breezy Point city limits. Brekken seconded Koering's motion, and it was approved unanimously.
"If you ever go down to Florida, there are communities down there ... with thousands of golf carts. This is the mode of transportation for people, and it just makes total sense to me for Breezy Point," Koering said.