Visitors to Peaks Island drive around in a golf cart June 7. A proposed ordinance update coming before the Portland City Council may cap the number of carts available on the island and mandate better identification of cart owners. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — The way commercial golf carts are allowed to operate on Peaks Island may change before the end of the summer.

Last week, the City Council Sustainability and Transportation Committee passed on for full council review a series of recommendations from the Peaks Island Council that include setting a cap on the number of rental carts on the island.

Another recommendation, for a minimum rental period, did not get the panel’s endorsement. Privately owned carts would not be regulated under the proposed ordinance.

Over the last few years, residents of the island community have become more and more concerned about the number of commercial golf carts available for island visitors. Last year, the Peaks Island Council looked into the issue, surveyed property owners and came up with a series of recommendations that asked the council to cap the number of commercial golf carts at 44 (the current number), extend the minimum rental period to at least four hours, require all carts to be labeled with the company’s name and phone number, require commercial golf carts be electric by the end of 2020, increase police enforcement, and require renters of island properties to sign a use and safety agreement.

At a June 19 meeting of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, Steve Anderson, chairman of the Peaks Island Council Transportation Committee, said 81 percent of the survey respondents found the proliferation of commercial golf carts to be impacting their quality of life. During the summer, he said, there are 400 commercial golf carts traveling around the island daily, producing upwards of 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

“Put that in perspective of where you live and it being in your front yards,” said Steve Clayman, of Seashore Avenue.

The proposed ordinance, unanimously supported by committee members, would set a cap on the number of golf carts on the island and  require commercial golf carts to be electric or battery-powered by May 2021. It would also prohibit them from being stored in the city’s right of way when they are not in use.

The ordinance would impose a $75 registration fee for electric golf carts and $150 fee for those that are non-electric powered,and subject them to an annual inspection.

Joanne MacIsaac, of Island Avenue, said she has seen a lot of change in the 60 years she has lived on Peaks Island. She said the environmental impact and noise pollution impact associated with the carts is “not sustainable for us.”

She said the cap is really important, but “the push to electric is the major focus for us.”

One item the committee felt needed to be reworked at the council level is how large a rental company’s name and phone number must be on each cart.

The proposed ordinance states the information must be at least 1.5 inches tall, but committee member Councilor Belinda Ray said she would like to see it much bigger, perhaps a 5-inch minimum. Mike Murray, assistant to the city manager, said the 1.5-inch minimum comes from the ordinance that regulates taxi cabs in the city.

One of the items Sustainability and Transportation Committee members would like to see in a new ordinance is a provision that would require a cart company’s name and phone number be displayed large enough to be seen. File

Judy Walsh, a year-round resident of the island, said larger identification is needed because it is difficult to see which of the island’s two cart companies a cart belongs to when they are traveling down the road.

Both of the commercial golf cart operators, meanwhile, said they have begun transition plans to electric vehicles and are make changes to their operation.

Natasha Markov, owner of Peaks Island Golf Carts, said she is “committed to capping our number of golf carts at its current 20 and buying only electric golf carts from now on.” Markov said she is also exploring the use of solar panels on her electric carts.

Mike Sylvester, co-owner of Mike’s Carts, said in an email to councilors that because of the cost and logistics, he intends to convert one-third of his carts to electric each year, completing the transition by 2024.

Committee members expressed concern that would be much later than what they wanted, but Sylvester in his correspondence said he will keep the panel aware of his progress on an annual basis.

He said his company has already stopped taking one-hour reservations “to cut down on island congestion.”

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @mkelleynews.

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