Waiting in the wings

Golf carts linked up near the entrance of Monona Golf Course. The Windsor Village Board is discussing an ordinance allowing golf cart users to drive on village streets, specifically Golf Drive, to get from their homes to the course. Similar ordinances have been adopted in nearby municipalities such as Waunakee and Middleton.

Newly thorough traffic enforcement has opened up questions of how Windsor should handle golf carts on village streets and whether exceptions may open a whole can of worms in highway safety.

The village road of Golf Drive connects to County Highway CV, Birch Drive and Charlie Grimm Road to the east, and to the west, transitions seamlessly into the driveway for Lake Windsor Country Club.

For golfers living in that neighborhood it is natural to drive golf carts directly from their garages to the golf course and as the vehicle of choice for getting around the area. This had seemingly gone without question until Dane County sheriff’s deputies began a policy of more thorough patrol and enforcement in Windsor, which led to two incidents of minors being stopped and issued warnings for driving a cart on a public street.

On Feb. 18, Village Board Trustee Bruce Stravinski introduced discussion of an ordinance change to allow for “low speed vehicles,” or “neighborhood electric vehicles,” on village streets.

Village Deputy Administrator and Director of Economic Development Jamie Rybarczyk presented an overview of the situation and recommendations from the village staff of what options might be available.

As it stands, Rybarczyk explained, state law does not allow vehicles like golf carts on public roads, not to mention if driven by a minor without a driver’s license.

“The village, by ordinance, can allow golf carts on any highway that has a speed limit of of 25 miles per hour or less,” said Rybarczyk, showing a potential one-mile radius of in which the village could permit golf cart use on streets. Although the one-mile radius would also extend beyond the limits of Windsor itself.

Throughout the discussion, trustees referred to attorney William Cole for clarification of what could be done within the Windsor jurisdiction to allow carts on village streets without crossing state traffic law.

“If you want you can pass an ordinance that would permit it and you can establish the conditions that you want,” said Cole. “Right now all of them are illegal, the deputies are correct, you can draft an ordinance that would allow minors to operate a golf cart on the roadway.”

Although the discussion came by concern of allowing golfers to drive carts to and from golf course, the one-mile example map opened up addition concerns and possibilities, as Trustee Kristine Schmidt highlighted.

“When I look at the radius, I look and I’m over in Windsor Crossing and I’ve seen golf carts driven where it is 30 miles per hour on North Town Road and they are running their dogs along side of them,” said Schmidt. “If we’re going to increase the opportunities to own golf carts...for me this needs a little more consideration of the unintended consequences. I would consider getting a golf cart and hopping in my golf cart to go get coffee in the morning.”

A similar situation already exists for many who live around Windsor Lake going to the Country Club, trustee and area resident Monica Smith, explained later in an interview.

“Sometimes what people will do is they will come in with their golf cart for dinner,” said Smith. “and so instead of pulling out your car to go an eighth of a mile they’re hopping on their golf carts to go over there.”

Wrapping up discussion in the meeting, Village President Bob Wipperfurth made a point that as Dane County sheriff’s deputies patrol Windsor it is not a conditional situation.

“When we tell our officers to do enforcement, that can be all kinds of enforcement,” said Wipperfurth, “and I just wanted to make sure that officers are responding to situations that they see in their discretion.”

The golf cart question was then advanced and forwarded to Windsor’s local deputies for their input and consideration before a potential ordinance may be drafted and voted upon.

For now, Lake Windsor residents will need to be aware that when they were taking their golf carts out, depending on their routes, they may have been unwittingly getting away with something.

“I’m going to need to tell the property owners that they will have to be in compliance when they are out on the road,” said Smith, “and hopefully we can get an ordinance drawn up so they are in compliance. This is all new, and it is good that we understand that we have to come into compliance now.”

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