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East Lyme - After eight months of discussion and several meetings spent drafting a regulation to allow golf carts to be used on town roads, the Board of Selectmen voted 4-2 Wednesday not to approve the ordinance.
The regulation would have allowed licensed drivers to use golf carts in beach communities. State law currently prohibits their use unless a town adopts its own ordinance or regulation.
Selectman Jack Hogan, who took the initiative to draft the regulation, reviewed the state law and compiled information on what other towns, such as Old Saybrook, were doing. The East Lyme Police Department and residents who attended the public information sessions also provided input.
Selectmen said they were ready to vote in favor of the regulation but were caught by surprise with a legal opinion rendered by town attorney Edward O'Connell saying it was possible the town would be held liable for accidents involving golf carts on town roads with approval of the new regulation.
"This is a complete U-turn," said Selectwoman Rose Ann Hardy. "I think it's a difficult decision, but it's very rare that we don't follow the town counsel's advice."
First Selectman Paul Formica agreed.
"Based on the opinion of the town counsel, I'm not comfortable moving forward."
Formica, Deputy First Selectman Mark Nickerson, Hardy and Selectman John Birmingham opposed the motion to approve the golf-cart ordinance, while Selectmen Richard Wilson and Hogan voted in favor.
Nickerson said he was opposed because the regulation would allow golf carts to be used in the Giants Neck neighborhood. He said he was concerned with the steep hills and called it a dangerous place for golf carts.
"It's a lawsuit waiting to happen," Nickerson said.
Hogan and other residents stressed that since the board opted not to approve the regulation, the town should seriously enforce the state law, which prohibits them.