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Golf carts join cars on Coupeville roads

Coupeville resident Mike Czarnick sits at the wheel of his 1995 Yamaha golf cart, complete with flames on the front. He will be able to drive the cart on Coupeville roads starting in February.   - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Coupeville resident Mike Czarnick sits at the wheel of his 1995 Yamaha golf cart, complete with flames on the front. He will be able to drive the cart on Coupeville roads starting in February.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

For the Czarnicks of Coupeville, getting around town will soon be cheaper at the pump. They have a street-legal golf cart ready to zip along the roads of the historic town.

Tuesday night, the Coupeville Town Council approved an ordinance allowing the electric vehicles to travel alongside larger vehicles on the roads through the town’s one-square-mile of territory.

“We thought it would be a great idea to run around town,” Czarnick said.

His wife, Paula, plans to drive their golf cart from their home near the Island County campus a few blocks to her job at a law firm on Front Street.

The public hearing process concerning the ordinance started in December, but it was continued until January. Island County Sheriff Mark Brown came forward to voice safety concerns about slower and smaller vehicles on the roads. He urged the town to include language requiring headlights and blinkers on golf carts.

The Town Council agreed and tabled the proposal for a month to make alterations to the regulations. People wishing to use the small electric vehicle inside town limits must pay a $25 registration fee in addition to meeting other rules of the ordinance.

It’s no problem for Czarnick, who made alterations to his golf cart months ago that make it more visible to drivers.

“If you’re out playing with the cars, it just seemed like the sensible thing to do,” Czarnick said.

He purchased a 1995 Yamaha golf cart, which already had painted flames on the font, in the fall of 2011. He installed blinkers, seatbelts and a voltage meter. He said he spent $1,500 for the cart and another $300 to $400 on the lights and gauges for his vehicle.

The Coupeville Town Council unanimously approved the new ordinance during its Tuesday evening meeting.

Coupeville isn’t the only community on Whidbey Island where residents want to drive golf carts on public roads. Beverly Beach, located near Freeland, wants the Board of Island County Commissioners to establish a golf cart zone in the waterfront community.

Transportation Planner Donna Keeler said the proposal is currently going through legal review and it is scheduled to be presented to the commissioners Jan. 23 at 2:15 p.m.

Golf carts are a growing trend on public roads. In addition to Whidbey Island, Orting, Liberty Lake and Douglas County are a few of the jurisdictions in Washington state that have golf cart zones.

Even though Coupeville’s ordinance was approved, it will be several weeks before it can take effect. Golf carts officially become legal Wednesday, Feb. 1. Mayor Nancy Conard said the time is needed to produce and place signs throughout town informing motorists about the ordinance. In addition, decals have to be made available and a registration system has to be developed.

 

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