COVINGTON - The City Council approved an ordinance to allow golf carts on city streets Monday night.
But don't jump in your cart and start zooming around just yet.
Motorized carts will only be allowed on streets with signs authorizing operation as required by state law.
The council has set initial parameters as being east of Ga. Highway 81 at Clark Street; east of Ga. Highway 36; north and west of the Covington ByPass; and south of U.S. Highway 278.
That area encompasses about a quarter of the city, and was selected due to requests from residents in that area, City Manager Steve Horton said.
City staff will begin putting up signs this week, he said.
Carts will not be allowed on any state roads, or roads where the speed limit exceeds 35 mph or that are deemed unsafe.
Carts will not be allowed around the Square because the majority of the road is a state highway, Horton said. Ga. Highway 81, Ga. Highway 36 and U.S. Highway 278 are major state highways where carts are not allowed.
Carts also cannot cross state highways without permission of the Georgia Department of Transportation. The city will present the DOT with a map of designated crossing points for approval, Horton said.
Additional roadways will be approved for golf carts on a case-by-case basis when requested by a resident and approved by the City Council.
All cart owners must register their vehicles with the Covington Police Department, which will provide decals that must be affixed to the vehicle's front windshield and rear fender.
A state-mandated $15 registration fee will be charged.
The CPD will also maintain records of the ID number and name and address of the owner.
Only people with valid driver's licenses or instruction permits can operate the vehicles. Registrations must be renewed every five years or with change of ownership.
Maps and lists of allowed and prohibited streets, along with a copy of the ordinance, will be provided to registered cart owners.
Motorized carts allowed by the ordinance are defined as "an electric or gas powered motor vehicle, having no less than three wheels and an unladen weight of 1,300 pounds or less, commonly called a golf cart, which is not designed for speeds in excess of 20 miles per hour."
Councilman Keith Dalton suggested several months ago that the city look into developing a golf cart ordinance. The idea was first broached by Councilman Mike Whatley several years ago, but nothing ever came of it.
"I think it's one of the best improvements just to the quality of life that I've seen in Covington for a long time," Dalton said. "Everybody drives by in their cars with the windows up and the radio blaring ... this will slow the pace down so neighbors will go back to speaking to one another."
Dalton predicts giving motorists another travel option will save on gas costs and help with traffic congestion and pollution.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.