Madison City Council Tuesday night heard the first reading of an ordinance that would open up more city streets to golf cart traffic while also attaching some safety standards in the number of passengers allowed to ride in carts and mandating that children requiring child seats in cars be adequately restrained in golf carts.
Madison has allowed golf cart use on most city streets since 2009 but getting from the hilltop to downtown or vice versa has always been a roadblock for users following the letter of the city law.
In the wake of Jefferson County’s decision last August to open its County Roads to golf cart and ATV traffic, the city held the first reading of an amendment to its cart ordinances that would finally allow carts to make once forbidden highway crossings connecting the north side of Clifty Drive to the south side and the hilltop to downtown.
Golf carts would still not be allowed on State Road 56 from Main Street to the top of Hanover Hill or State Roads 62 and 7. US 421 or any federal highway would also continue to be off limits, but carts would continue to be allowed to cross Main Street at intersections with traffic signals downtown and at the traffic lights where Wilson Avenue and Cragmont Street intersect with Clifty Drive on the hilltop.
In addition, crossing of US 421 would be allowed at the right angle intersections of Walnut Street and Aulenback Avenue downtown and the Orchard Street and Green Road intersection on State Road 7 on the hilltop. The route connecting the hilltop and downtown would be via Hatcher Hill.
Under the proposed guidelines, a person with a golf cart and enough patience and street knowledge should be able to navigate their way throughout the city limits and even into the county based on the ordinance.
However, the ordinance also adds language limiting the number of passengers allowed to the recommended number of passengers based on the cart’s factory seating. Also, children who ride in child seats in other vehicles, would have to be restrained in golf carts.
“The intent of this amendment is to bring some safety to the ever-growing population who are using that as their mode of transportation throughout our community and it’s really an opportunity to connect the county to the north of Clifty Drive with the City of Madison by allowing them to cross Clifty Drive at designated areas and safely get downtown to partake in any of our festivals or events, shopping, restaurants and any of the that kind of thing,” said the amendment’s sponsor Councilman Curtis Chatham. “Really, the intent was to bring some safety aspects into this. That’s where we address the passengers and kids ... hopefully we don’t see any more parents holding their kids while they’re driving their golf cart.”
The amendment would still need a second and third reading before it can be voted on so there will be opportunities for additional input or questions.
In fact, the council already posed the question of whether the amendment should also address ATVs since side-by-sides are allowed on county roads and allowing golf carts from the county onto city streets but not ATVs could cause confusion. In addition, Hanover Town Council is apparently considering its own golf cart ordinances so there could be reason to get all three governments together for a more comprehensive and consistent policy on usage.
In other business, the council:
• Heard a report by Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff Mindy McGee that the city stands to receive about $2.5 million over the next two years from the federal American Rescue Act approved recently. She said the staff will be looking at ways to leverage those funds to do the most good for the community.
In addition to Madison, Jefferson County stands to receive about $6 million and Hanover about $750,000 out of the overall $3 billion awarded to Indiana.
Courtney said the key will be to target infrastructure needs that will serve the community well into the future because the allocation is “a once in a lifetime opportunity” to make a difference.
• Approved issuing letters of support to two applications for three-way liquor licenses — Rivertown Grill, 321 Jefferson Street and Crafted Coffee Madison, 329 West Main Street — that will now be sent on for state consideration. The businesses, both relatively new, must commit to generating $66,600 in food sales in the first year, $100,000 the second year and $125,000 the third in order to keep the license if awarded.
• Heard a presentation by the Future Problem Solvers at Madison Junior High School after their class identified an important issue in the community — Pollution Awareness Week — and considered cost effective solutions. The group noted that eliminating pollution like trash and debris in Madison is something that essentially costs nothing but effort and awareness but can have a huge impact on the community.
• Heard the second reading of an ordinance to vacate two alleys on the west end of downtown Madison adjoining the Heritage Trail Park but delayed a third reading and passage to allow time for additional consideration. Rick Grote attended the meeting and spoke in favor of closing the alleys but retaining easements to maintain the option of using that space for additional parking at the new Riverside Tower Lofts should the need be identified.