The most recent meeting of Oak Hill Village Council lasted for more than two hours -- and almost all of the time involved a discussion between village officials and others about proposed village legislation which would regulate golf carts and perhaps other low-speed vehicles, such as Utility Task Vehicles (UTVs) and mini-trucks.

Council passed the first reading of a proposed ordinance at its July 12 meeting and the second reading was to have taken place at its most recent meeting on Tuesday evening, July 26. As it turned out, Council opted to make a couple of changes in the legislation and also heard from Jackson County Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) Deputy Registrar Seth Michael and several anxious UTV owners/operators who are concerned about the planned new regulations and the need to have them.

Following the prolonged discussion, Council, for the present time, opted to move forward with an amended ordinance which includes only golf carts. Separate legislation for other low-speed vehicles will likely come later. One of the reasons for separate ordinances is that state law allows UTVs and mini-trucks to be driven at higher maximum speeds than golf carts. Also, when reviewing proposed inspection requirements, Council voted to reduce the village’s required vehicle inspection fee from $25 to $20.

A motion to remove a local requirement for the rear license plate to be illuminated was defeated by a 3-2 vote and will remain in force if the ordinance is later approved. Councilmen Jeremy Vandine and Brian Trotter voted in support of the motion while Council President Jennifer Hughes, Terry McCain and Jody Fulk voted no. Council also discussed the option of requiring seat belts and decided to keep this as a requirement.

Since amendments were made to the initial ordinance, the required second reading was set back to Council’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 9. The third and final reading -- and decisive vote -- would then occur at Council’s Aug. 23 meeting, if the process remains on a regular track. Unless the ordinance is approved as an emergency measure, it would then not take effect until 30 days after it’s signed by Oak Hill Mayor Paul McNeal.

Council President Hughes made it clear during the July 26 meeting that Council is drafting an ordinance since state law prohibits these low-speed vehicles to be driven on public streets unless there is a local law permitting it. Oak Hill currently has no such law and/or the accompanying state-required operating regulations. The bottom line is that absent a village ordinance, it is illegal to operate these vehicles on village streets.

“We are trying to make it legal, we’re not trying to take it away,” Hughes stated during and after the meeting.

She and other village officials believe that not having an ordinance and at least the minimum state regulations would mean those operating golf carts, UTVs and mini-trucks on village streets are doing so illegally. Therefore, the consensus among village officials is that legislation and regulation are necessary.

Solicitor Joe Kirby also pointed out possible liability problems for the village if it allowed the operation of low-speed vehicles, absent a local enabling ordinance. He also suggested that insurance carriers may balk at providing coverage or awarding claims to owners of low-speed vehicles if they are operating illegally in unpermitted locales, even if they may be legal and licensed operators.

The village’s inspection plan for golf carts provides that the vehicles must have the following equipment to be legal: A taillight visible from 75 feet away, two red reflectors on the wheel, and directional signals. They must also have a license plate held by brackets that are also illuminated. Vehicles also must have two working headlights capable of illuminating objects and letters from 75 feet. They must have working lights that must be seen from 500 feet away. Additionally, vehicles must have a safety belt for each occupant. Also, the vehicles must have two working brake lights visible from 500 feet, and a windshield.

BMV Director, Operators Speak

Michael was the first to speak during the meeting and explained that his purpose was to be able to inform his BMV customers where they can legally operate their licensed under-speed vehicles, based on state and local laws.

These vehicles -- but not All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) -- require the same license plates as a regular motor vehicle. A title is required to get license tags and the title is the document which defines what type of vehicle it is for operating and licensing purposes.

Michael noted that both the cities of Jackson and Wellston have ordinances regulating under-speed vehicles. He added it was not his wish or intention to push village officials one way or the other but wanted them to know he has encountered under-speed vehicle license buyers who assume their licenses makes it legal for them to operate their vehicles wherever they want -- including in Oak Hill. For his part, he wants under-speed operators to know where they can operate their vehicles and where they can’t -- based on state and local laws.

“I just need to know what to pass on to our customers,” Michael concluded. “If you have an ordinance, I will pass it out for you. The license plate alone doesn’t allow you to ride it wherever you want. Wherever you do ride it, you have to abide by their ordinance.”

Several low-speed vehicle operators -- Greg Caulley, Jamie Fulk, Ricky Waugh and Barry Lunsford -- attended the meeting and expressed their concerns about why the village was choosing to enact legislation and related regulations after not having done so in the past.

Jamie Fulk seemed to be speaking for all of them when he pointed out that almost all of the low-speed vehicle operators are law-abiding and have caused no problems in the past. He asked, “Why in the world are you picking on us now?”

The meeting lasted so long that a guest, 2nd District Congressional candidate Samantha Meadows, left without speaking during the meeting.