AFTON – Under a city ordinance that took effect July 1 golf carts, ATVs and UTVs are legal to drive on the streets of Afton for residents who obtain a permit. The ordinance was prompted by Afton resident Hannah Jackson taking her concerns to the city council.
“I was looking at buying a golf cart, and my dad wanted to use it as well to take things up to the farmer’s market on Tuesday night. And so that’s kind of what got the ball rolling. And the more I got into it, I realized that the city doesn’t have an ordinance for it,” Jackson said. “And so that’s kind of what got the ball rolling.”
Jackson was worried about driving a golf cart on the street illegally. So her father, Gary Clear Sr., suggested she go to other cities and find out what ordinances they had.
“I just called all the surrounding small towns: Mount Ayr, Lenox, Villisca, Osceola, and Greenfield. Just all the smaller ones around, and everyone else had ordinances,” she said. “I got copies of each one, put them together, and then I approached the city council with it.”
She said she explained to the council there were many residents, particularly seniors, who had golf carts and were already driving them.
“I just kind of approached them with that saying it could really benefit the community passing an ordinance because the maintenance on them is cheap. And the gas is cheap for them,” Jackson said. “I brought it to their attention that there’s a dealership in Afton, T & T Golf Cars. So it would bring revenue to them as well as the city charging for the permits.”
Afton City Clerk Toni Landers said this prompted city officials to recognize some rules would be beneficial.
“There was a lot of abuse of ATVs, UTVs and golf carts anyway,” she said. “So we decided we might as well get it under control and get it permitted.”
There are some roads ATVs and carts are not allowed, including East Filmore and East Grand Streets.
“If they’re going to someone’s house who lives on that street, they have to take an alternate route,” she said. “They’re obviously going to have to be on it at some point to get there, so the most direct route is what they’re supposed to take.”
She said U.S. Highway 169 is regulated by the Iowa Department of Transportation, which refused to provide the city a waiver to allow golf carts.
“You can cross over the highway, but you can’t travel down the highway,” she said.
She said the bridge that goes to the north side of Afton is part of Highway 169, which complicated the creation of the ordinance.
“We took a few golf carts through the sidewalk on the bridge, and they did fit so we are allowing them to take the golf carts through the sidewalk area on that section of the bridge. Otherwise, streets only,” Landers said. “So that was our big hurdle, how to get over to the north side of town.”
The ordinance states in part, “The operation of golf carts, ATVs and UTVs is allowed on city streets by persons over the age of 18 and possessing a valid driver’s license. The golf cart, ATV or UTV shall be equipped with a slow moving vehicle sign, a bicycle safety flag and with adequate brakes.”
She said there are penalties for violating the ordinance.
“That first violation is $100. And after the first $100 fine, you also get your permit revoked for two months,” she said. “If it happens, again, within a 12 month period, the fine is $200 and your registration is revoked for two years. And the third time is $300 and permanent revocation.”
She said all vehicles must pass inspection for a permit to be issued, and that more than a dozen permits have already been issued.
“Our police officer will go out and inspect it to make sure it’s in good working order and has good brakes. Then we’ll issue a colored sticker so each year, just like when you license your vehicle, you get a different color sticker to put on your vehicle,” Landers said. “Proof of insurance is definitely required just like any other vehicle on the road.”
Clear said the liability insurance on their golf cart is very affordable.
“It costs $100 a year,” he said. “Less than $10 per month is a pretty good deal.”
Troy Chapman owns T & T Golf Cars with his wife Tracy. He said the pandemic slowed production last year and producers still haven’t caught up with demand.
“We basically had tons of carts at the beginning of the year, sold out in the middle of May and are stuck waiting on our distributor to get us more,” Tracy said. “So our inventory is out but we get calls daily.”
Chapman said she contacted the distributor.
“They still don’t have a date for when they’re getting the new ones or the used ones,” she said.