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Public Mum On Golf Cart Issue In Town Of Halifax

Members of the Halifax Planning Commission set a public hearing for their April meeting and directed Town Manager Carl Espy to develop a town ordinance on the use of golf carts in the town. That action came during the commission’s monthly meeting Wednesday night in Halifax Town Hall. The planning commission was seeking public input on the issue of golf carts at its meeting Wednesday, but no town residents spoke on the matter.

The commissioners approved a list of requirements for the operation of golf carts on town streets and highways, including anyone who operates a golf cart on the town’s streets must have a valid driver’s license and must show proof of insurance. The golf cart must be equipped with two working headlights and taillights that must be on when the golf cart is in use.

The cart must be equipped with two red reflectors, a working horn and working directional signals. The cart must display a visible permit on the driver’s side rear bumper, along with a slow moving vehicle emblem. The owner also must pay a $25 registration fee per year.

In addition, golf carts will be allowed only on streets where the speed limit is 25 mph, and they will be operated only between sunrise and sunset. Also, the carts will not be allowed on North Main Street, South Main Street or Mountain Road, except to cross the road.

Espy will have the proposed ordinance prepared in time for the planning commission’s public hearing at its April meeting. Following that hearing, the planning commission will forward its recommendation to town council for action.

The commissioners also addressed the issue of Halifax Dixie Youth Baseball. Espy updated them on the letter from the town to County Administrator George Nester relative to the town’s request that the board of supervisors not make a commitment with Halifax Dixie Youth Baseball (HDYB) for the use of the former Halifax Elementary School property beyond the upcoming 2010 season.

Nester wrote to the president of HDYB, Barry Moore, suggesting the league consider the ball field at Sydnor Jennings Elementary School in Volens as a potential alternative site.

Commissioner Phil Hammond spoke in favor of HDYB remaining at its current site until an alternate site can be found.

“These guys have been there long enough, they’re established, and they’re dedicating their time and having fun and keeping the kids off the streets,” Hammond said. “I’m all in favor of Dixie Youth Baseball in Halifax, and I’d like to see them stay there if there’s anything we can do about it.”

Commissioner Dick Moore, who also sits on town council, said 90 to 95 percent of the kids who play in the HDYB program live within five miles of the former Halifax Elementary ball field.

“I think in the back of our minds we all assumed that the place where they were going to go play was at the Bethune Complex, not Volens,” Moore said. “And I don’t think (moving to) the Bethune Complex would have bothered the league. The county owns the property; the county has got to make a decision. They need to provide a place other than Volens for these youngsters to play.”

Randy Moore, representing HDYB, said the problem at the Bethune site is it’s overrun with softball.

“We reached out to the softball program and asked if they have room for us, and the answer was ‘no,’” Moore said. “They’re already using Carter Field in South Boston for alternate sites to hold practices and games, so I don’t think that’s a possibility.”

Commissioner Tim Moore said he questions whether the county, town or whoever would be financially able to build a new ball field by next year. Commissioner Sylvia Lovelace said she agrees with Hammond.

“I think it’s kind of ridiculous to move the ball field now,” she said. “They’ve been there for a number of years, and when I read this letter, and it talked about moving to Sydnor Jennings, I really got furious because a lot of these children that play, their families really don’t have transportation to get them to Sydnor Jennings School.”

“I think Mr. Nester was saying here is a potential location,” Espy said. “I think the county was trying to wrestle to some extent with the request made by the town without having a lot of reference.”

Moore said he met with Nester Tuesday, they read through the letter together, and they came to an understanding with what the letter was saying.

“He (Nester) basically said the same thing. The county was trying to be a good neighbor to the town, and he felt like they needed to do something,” Moore explained. “Mr. Nester said this is just a suggestion. Nothing is written in stone, and this is something we’re suggesting at this moment, but you don’t have a plan for 2011.”

Planning Commission Chairman Evelyn Allocco asked what was the town’s reason for wanting the league to leave. Moore said the letter indicated concerns about safety issues, increased noise, operation of lights and congested parking and traffic.

Moore indicated he has a petition with 256 signatures supporting HDYB remaining at the current site. Dr. Charles Parker, who also was at the meeting in support of the program, said he also could get at least that many signatures.

Commissioner Dick Moore asked if the league playing at the current site is “grandfathered in.” Espy said he found the minutes from the early 1990s, and the agreement was the use of the P.A. system for opening and closing ceremonies and tournaments.

Espy said a representative of the league historically comes each year seeking a special use permit to allow the use of the P.A. on those occasions. He said the lights go off by 11 p.m., and advertising signs on the fences are removed at the end of each season.

“The use, whether you say it’s conforming or nonconforming, is grandfathered, it’s there,” Espy said. “And I think accommodations on both sides have been made.”

Parker said he was at the meeting as a resident and parent who will have three children playing ball this year. He said he has lived across the street from the ball field for 18 years, and he seldom hears the ball games.

“I can see the glow of the lights, and the only time I ever hear anything is when there’s a tournament, or it’s a really big game, and people are getting excited,” Parker said. “On any given night when there is a crowd, the traffic isn’t as bad as it used to be five days a week during school.

“I think it would be wise for town council to keep this in perspective and see how many people are hurt and how many people benefit from it,” he said. “Although the county owns the property, Dixie maintains that property. They clean it, cut the grass and clean the playground back there, and if it weren’t for that, I don’t know what it would look like.

“It’s no accident that Halifax County has World Series class ball teams,” Parker added. “They start when they’re four-years-old, and this is part of that tradition. And so I’m just here to support that tradition and try to keep baseball for children in Halifax.”

Hammond proposed and Lovelace seconded a motion to recommend to council that HDYB be allowed to stay at its present field until they find a suitable site for two ball fields. The planning commission unanimously approved the motion.