The ordinance is modeled using language from House Bill 1548, which was passed into state law by the Texas Legislature in 2019 and allows cities to regulate golf cart usage within their limits. Residents could already drive golf carts for certain reasons under that law, including for trips within 2 miles to and from the Jersey Meadow Golf Course. The new city ordinance expands where golf carts can be driven to all public roads within the city for which the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or lower, according to a copy of the ordinance in the June 15 agenda packet.
Mayor Andrew Mitcham, who wrote the ordinance, said he believes golf carts will provide residents with another means of travel that may be more convenient in certain situations.
"Jersey Village, in my opinion, has a great layout for golf cart usage," Mitcham said at the June 15 meeting. "There are some distances that are very difficult in the heat of summer to take a bike ride to or walk. For a person with physical handicap, golf carts can be very convenient ... to go to the park, golf course or swimming pool without being impacted."
The city's ordinance does not allow golf carts to be driven on sidewalks or trails, requires anyone operating a golf cart to have a driver's license or permit, and does not allow golf carts to exceed 25 miles per hour. Golf cart use on Jones Road, West Road and North Eldridge Parkway is explicitly prohibited by the ordinance.
The ordinance requires golf carts to have mirrors, headlights, reflectors and parking brakes—features also required by state law—as well as "slow-moving vehicle" signage. However, city officials decided to leave it up to individual owners on whether to install other features, such as seat belts and turn signals. Owners are also required to limit occupancy to the number of people the cart is designed to carry, meaning no one is allowed to sit on the laps of drivers or passengers. No children under the age of 5 are allowed as passengers in golf carts while on public roads except during school zone hours, per the ordinance.
Per state law, all golf carts used on public roads must be insured and must have a license plate displayed.
Council members debated several facets of the ordinance during the meeting, including whether residents should be required to get a permit to use a golf cart and whether they should have to be registered with the city.
Mitcham provided council members with two ordinances to choose from—one that required permitting and one that did not. Council members ultimately voted 5-0 to adopt the ordinance that did not require permitting, but only after Council Member Greg Holden made a case for why it should be required for educational purposes.
"My focus is safety," Holden said. "To be honest with you, I don’t trust the average person to make sure their golf cart is equipped with all the safety equipment that is required or necessary to operate on the street. ... The inspection prompts an educational process."
Council Member Bobby Warren was among the majority of council members to oppose permitting requirements. He drew comparisons to bicycles and mopeds, both of which he said do not require permits to operate on public roads.
"I hesitate to jump right to the registration and permitting process without a really compelling reason, and maybe even try it without it first, see if we run into problems, and then if we do, tackle it when it’s a problem," Warren said.
Mitcham said he agreed on the importance of educating the public, suggesting the city could include a bullet list of the rules in the ordinance in city water bills for the next three months. City police officers can also educate residents while out on patrol, he said.
Kirk Riggs, the chief of the Jersey Village Police Department, said he did not foresee any issues with enforcement of the ordinance. Police would write citations, and courts would issue fines, similar to other Class C misdemeanors for traffic violations, he said.
Moving forward, Mitcham said the council should start thinking about how other city ordinances can be tweaked, including the creation of special parking spots for golf carts at city parks and changing zoning rules that dictate how many parking spaces a business must have based on its occupancy. Riggs also raised concerns about allowing golf carts on some of the city's busier streets, such as Lakeview and Jersey drives. During the public comment period, Jersey Village resident Mark Malloy also raised concerns about the ordinance creating traffic hazards. Mitcham said that was another issue officials should pay close attention to for possible adjustments.
The council can also come back and add a registration requirement to the ordinance in the future as well, Mitcham said.
"Ordinances are not written in stone," he said. "They can be changed down the road once we see how this ordinance impacts our city."