CHESTER - The city's ban on golf carts is slowly rolling toward becoming law, even as residents continue to lobby City Council to reconsider its decision.
Council instituted a voice-vote ban on the vehicles on Oct. 1, but is now reviewing legislation drafted by City Solicitor April Raines that would formalize the ban. Council members held a first reading on the ordinance at their Monday meeting. Two readings are required for a city ordinance to become law.
Chester's golf cart contingent was out in full force again Monday night, asking for leniency from council.
"There's only six of us," said Delores Casto, who owns a golf cart. "I would hate to see the city get sued over this golf cart situation."
Casto's daughter, former city Councilwoman Dana Picciarelli, and granddaughter, Toni Snyder, spoke in favor of regulating, but not banning, the vehicles. Opponents of the ban say the city's action singles them out unfairly and that golf carts are safe.
"We only use them four months out of the year," Picciarelli said.
When Councilman John Woodruff objected that golf carts on city streets are not safe, several residents took issue with him.
"You're just going to extremes. Just admit you're prejudiced," Casto said.
Woodruff cited accident statistics from news articles that he said prove golf carts are unsafe when driven on city streets.
"You tell me there are no accidents?" he said.
But Vince LaNeve said the ban has been a hardship on his son, Andrew, 18, who suffers from VATER syndrome and avascular necrosis of the hip.
"On behalf of my son, please reconsider the ban on golf carts," LaNeve said. "That's my son's only form of transportation around town."
"This is very important to Andrew," said his mother, Heidi LaNeve. "It's really hurting him."
The ordinance would prohibit the operation of any "motorized recreational apparatus" on any city street, alley, sidewalk, parking lot or right-of-way or any publicly owned property.
The legislation applies to go-carts, golf carts, all-terrain vehicles, off-road motorized dirt bicycles and tricycles, and snowmobiles - vehicles whose main purpose is recreation and not transportation.
The ordinance says "numerous incidents have been observed by, or otherwise reported to, municipal authorities involving" such vehicles, prompting the city to be concerned for the "safety, health and well-being" of Chester residents.
The ordinance further states the city is authorized to "prevent injury or annoyance to the public or individuals from anything dangerous, offensive or unwholesome."
West Virginia allows golf carts on city streets as a "low-speed vehicle," provided the speed limit is 25 mph or less. State law requires a title and registration, insurance, an inspection and a valid driver's license, while also incorporating the more stringent requirements of federal law.
Former city Councilman Joe Geisse asked council whether it can pass legislation that is more strict than state or federal law. Raines said the city has some discretion when it comes to public safety.
The ordinance exempts wheelchairs and electric personal assistive mobility devices. It also exempts federal, state and local officials, including first-responders, who are using a motorized apparatus for government or emergency purposes.
Violating the ban would be a misdemeanor resulting in a fine of up to $100 for the first offense and not less than $250 for subsequent offenses. Violation also could lead to the confiscation of the vehicle.