Does the squeaky wheel indeed get the grease?
Nearly 40 people packed the City Hall Council Chambers Monday night to advocate for a local ordinance permitting use of off-road vehicles (ORVs) or golf carts within the city limits. However, city officials are insisting that it must be clear whether the request is for golf carts or ORVs.
Amy DeShaw, a leader in the effort, said she had with her petitions with 293 signatures.
She said communities such as South Haven, Ludington, Fennville and Allegan have adopted ordinances for golf carts and they have had very few problems.
She said the main reason for allowing golf cart use is to attract more people to downtown Wayland and to businesses along West Superior Street near the expressway. She said such vehicles would be more convenient for older citizens who would do shopping.
Scott Beltman, who earlier this month won a seat on the Allegan County Board of Commissioners because of his advocacy for a county-wide ORV ordinance, said the state has had a statute since the early 2000s and there have been very few problems as a result.
Indicating the supportive citizens in the audience, he told the council, “These are the kind of people who will support your local businesses.”
County Commissioner Mark DeYoung added his support, saying, “I’m hearing these people are going into their communities and spending money.”
Shane Kellum of Allegan said he’s organized three rides in that community with great success and said he’d like to have one come into Wayland.
Local businessman and activist Anthony Winters said the only negative is increased traffic of slow vehicles and added, “I’m invested in this community and I want to see it grow.”
Matt Candle of Allegan Township suggested, “There’s a lot money to be made in the City of Wayland.”
Dan Caywood of Dorr insisted that people he knows who believed they weren’t safe have changed their opinions since gathering facts.
David Low, a longtime official with snowmobile associations and a former planning commissioner, said, “You can put regulations on them… I think thise should be considered seriously.”
One man from Valley Township pointed to the citizens in the audience and quipped, “Don’t let their clothes fool you. These people have a lot of money (to spend).”
Jameson Burchfield of Hamilton asserted, “I ride from 2,000 to 4,000 miles a year and have heard only a few complaints. We take our side-by-side almost everywhere we go.”
Josh Driscoll said many people these days have the money to buy an ORV that costs about $40,000. This generates sales that don’t currently exist.”
DeShaw wrapped up the commentary by inviting council members to “come ride with us.”
The other side of the issue was represented almost entirely by Mayor Pro Tem Joe Kramer, who has been a longtime emergency medical technician with Wayland Area Emergency Services.
Kramer said he did a lot of research and had come to the conclusion that golf carts aren’t safe, particularly for children passengers and the units are not properly designed be to used on roads and highways.
He said children have been thrown from the carts and anyone riding in the back of the vehicle is a sitting duck for serious or fatal injuries if it’s rear-ended.
Kramer said it’s not fair to compare Wayland to communities such as South Haven and Ludington, which a dominated by resort living.
He suggested that without using main thoroughfares Main and Superior streets in Wayland, golf carts have virtually no connectivity with the city, saying the issue would be, “You can’t there from here.”
He reiterated that the difference between ORVs and golf carts must be understood. If the state isn’t willing to put a license on a vehicle, it shouldn’t be on the road.
No action was taken at the meeting, particularly because two members, Norm Taylor and Tracy Bivins, were absent.
In other business at Monday’s meeting:
• Holly McPherson was introduced as the new director of the Downtown Development Authority, a seat that has been open for most of this year.
• Kramer asked local parents to remind their kids that they cannot ride their bicycles on downtown sidewalks. They must walk them instead in order to avoid potential crashes with people exiting businesses.