Golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation in retirement communities like Polk County's Solivita, shown here.
Golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation in retirement communities like Polk County's Solivita, shown here. (ED SACKETT/ORLANDO SENTINEL)

Osceola County’s master-planned Harmony golf community will be one of the first neighborhoods in the county to allow of golf cart traffic on public streets.

The Board of County Commissioners voted Monday to approve an ordinance that permits golf carts on designated county streets. Florida law prohibits golf carts on public streets unless they are designated safe by the county.

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“Earlier this year we got requests from several communities that wanted to be golf cart-friendly,” Transportation Planner Kathy Lee told GrowthSpotter. The vote follows moves by cities, such as Sanford and Tavares, to create Golf Cart Zones that encourage multiple modes of transportation in their downtown areas.

While the ordinance only applies to two communities -- Harmony and Pine Grove -- it opens the door for more neighborhoods to apply for the designation as a transportation option and lifestyle amenity. Lee said she expects to get more requests -- especially from other golf communities -- after the ordinance goes into effect, so the commissioners also adopted a process for evaluating the roads.

“I believe this will bring attention to the fact that golf carts are not permitted on public streets now,” Lee said.

Celebration allows and encourages Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV), which are actually street-legal vehicles.

She said the new policy would only accept applications from homeowners’ associations or property owners, and they must be accompanied by a petition with at least 51-percent of owners supporting the request.

The county would then conduct a warrant study, based on the average speed, crash data and road alignments, to determine if the neighborhood qualifies for golf cart usage.

“Obviously, we wouldn’t want to do it on collector roads,” Lee said. "We prefer to have it in self-contained communities. "

The ordinance would restrict usage to daylight hours, and the driver must have a valid driver’s license. The applicant would have to reimburse the county for the warrant study and signage.

“The active adult space is really where it’s most advantageous,” said Richard Jerman, principal of Sun Terra Communities, which bought Harmony in 2017. He told GrowthSpotter he doesn’t anticipate a demand for golf cart access in Harmony West, which is actually 2 miles from the community’s town center, or in Harmony Central, which is geared toward first-time buyers. But in the active adult Harmony Lakes section, it will be a big draw.

“I would definitely want it in the active adult communities, because that’s what they’re doing over in the Villages,” Jerman said.

K. Hovnanian's Four Seasons Orlando community allows golf carts on its private roads.
K. Hovnanian's Four Seasons Orlando community allows golf carts on its private roads. (John Unrue/K. Hovnanian Homes)

A number of local retirement communities, including K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons Orlando and Taylor Morrison’s Solivita, already allow golf carts. But they have private roads.

“We have a golf cart paths that are maintained by the CDD, and we have a special way for them to get to the clubhouse without having to go through the gates,” KHov Division President Kyle Upper said.

Upper said he doesn’t anticipate a demand from KHov’s other residential communities, because they’re too small. “But in a larger, master-planned community -- like (D.R. Horton’s) Kindred -- that has a central amenity center, I could see there being demand,” he said.

At this time, Lee said the county policy would only apply to existing residential communities because the designation is based on historical data.

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“If a developer wanted to promote themselves as being golf cart-friendly, I guess they would have to have a conversation with the county,” she said.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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