Franklin considers golf cart ordinance

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published April 1, 2024

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FRANKLIN — The Franklin Village Council voted 4-2 to direct the Planning Commission to develop a golf cart ordinance March 11.

In June 2023, the Village Council referred the item to the Planning Commission for review. Council member David Sahli said he brought the topic back up to the council because he wanted to understand why the Planning Commission decided not to recommend it to the Village Council.

According to Michigan law, villages with fewer than 30,000 people can approve a resolution to allow golf carts on the streets without registration of the golf cart. However, there is a list of restrictions that this law is subject to.

Planning and design company McKenna provided an outline of the topic, which was included in the meeting packet. McKenna identified other cities with golf cart ordinances as the city of Albion, village of Milford, city of Owosso, city of Ludington and city of North Muskegon.

“In the communities that I am aware of that have these ordinances, they love this freedom to have these golf carts,” Council member Mark Hanke said.  “This is not a big deal, but they’re very supportive, very positive about it. They would never go backwards.”

The council discussed the possibility of excluding certain roads from the ordinance, which would limit certain residents from driving a golf cart from their home.

“We want to be solution-oriented, and so to say, oh, you know, there’s certain aspects of the community that wouldn’t benefit from this, to rule it out, I think, is not where I would want to go,” Sahli said. “The whole design of this was to increase the connectivity, to make downtown more of a nerve center, to increase the access.”

Franklin-Bingham Farms Police Chief Daniel Roberts pointed out that all of the cities that were discussed as references have sidewalks.

“I would just urge you all to consider the fact that this adds another layer of potential danger, I guess, for our pedestrians that are walking on our streets in Franklin because they don’t have sidewalks,” Roberts said.

Hanke said he knows of communities that allow the carts and don’t have sidewalks, and he said he does not think it is an issue for them.

However, Roberts responded that “that’s not my experience with the police chiefs that have them.”

Beth Dillon is a Franklin resident who spoke on this topic during the meeting.

“As a resident who is out walking with your dog all the time, I don’t find golf carts on the street safe at all,” Dillon said.

Dillon said she agreed with Roberts about his safety concerns for pedestrians.

“I find it a frivolous ordinance. I think the majority of people in Franklin don’t have golf carts. I don’t have one. I don’t care to drive around in one. It’s going to look like Disneyland with people driving around golf carts in Franklin,” Dillon said.

Dilllon said other residents who go out walking are going to feel the same safety concerns that she does.

“I will say that the reason that this was brought is because the residents have reached out in favor of it,” Sahli said.

Council President Bill Lamott said he is not comfortable with the idea.

“The safety aspect really bothers me,” he said.

Council member Pam Hansen said she wonders how close they are to being able to provide a safe route for golf carts to downtown, whether it’s through a golf course-dedicated lane, allowing them on sidewalks or another solution.

“I think it’s a great idea, but I’m just not seeing how it would work,” Hansen said.

Hansen ultimately voted no on the motion, alongside Lamott.

Franklin resident Tracy Stein shared that they have a second home in South Haven, where golf carts are allowed — with strict rules in place.

“It seems a little odd I think at first but once people get used to it, it’s not really all that different from a car driving down the street without a sidewalk. And if anything, you can stop a whole lot faster, and you’re typically not going as fast as a lot of cars drive around here, which is another issue as well,” Stein said.

When it came time to vote, Council member Kathy Erlich said, “I want to say no. However, I see benefits to discussing it and going through it and evaluating it again.”

The next step is for the Planning Commission to write up an ordinance, make a proposal for golf cart regulations in the village and then bring it forth to council after a public hearing.