Vehicles that are now Street Legal

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Bill Wolf sits in his 2002 Model EZ GO golf cart. Wolf has the distinctions of being the first person to receive a Special Vehicle permit to operate a cart in New Ulm.

NEW ULM — Since Labor Day, residents of New Ulm are more likely than ever to see golf carts, ATVs, UTVs and mini-trucks driving the streets. This is because Tuesday, Sept. 5 was the first day it was legal to drive these special vehicles in New Ulm.

This summer the city council approved a new ordinance that allows residence to apply for a permit to operate special vehicles within city limits. This is not the first time an ordinance of this nature was brought to the council. Efforts were made in 2009 to allow golf carts and other special vehicles, but the ordinance never made it out of committee. Public support for the issue was low and the council had several safety concerns. In February 2017, the golf cart question returned to the council, but this time public support was behind golf carts.

In both 2009 and 2017 the push for the ordinance change came from Dennis Born. On the first day it was legal to operate special vehicles in New Ulm one of the residents who secured a permit drove by on his ATV to personally thank Born.

Born has long favored the ordinance even though he does not plan to apply for a permit at this time.

“My motivation was not for myself,” Born said. He got involved to help those who were more comfortable operating these smaller vehicles.

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Gary Meinert parks his ATV in front of friends house. Meinert was one of the first to get a Special Vehicle Permit. Before the ordinance change he could only use the vehicle out of town. His first in town trip with the ATV was to put air back into his tires.

Originally, Born wanted the special vehicle ordinance to allow older citizens who were unable to get a traditional vehicle license to apply for the special permit. He argued there were people capable of operating these vehicles who could not obtain the Minnesota Driver’s permit for medical reasons. However, the city felt for safety purposes the permits should be limited to people who already have a Minnesota driver’s license. Born had hoped the ordinance would be less strict, but is glad the law was finally passed.

Born found a great deal of support for the ordinance change. In seeking support for the law he created a mailing list of 45 individuals interested in a special vehicle permit. Born estimated at least 45 permits will be issued based on this number.

His estimation is proven accurate. As of this writing, the city has issued 32 special vehicle permits, with 13 of which were issue on the first day. Finance Director Nicole Jorgensen estimated between 40 and 50 permits will be issued in this first year based on inquiries from the public.

Bill Wolf was the first person in New Ulm to receive the special permit. He applied for the permit to operate his dark green golf cart. For Wolf the golf cart is a more efficient way to get around than using his truck. He will uses his cart to make trips to grocery store, clinic visits or any quick trips around town. One of his first outings in the cart was to the Fly-in Breakfast at the airport.

Wolf became a fan of golf carts after living in Phoenix, Arizona. He lived in Arizona from 1990 to 2005. The golf cart laws in Arizona are far more relaxed than in Minnesota.

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Golf carts are relatively simple vehicles with endless customized option. Lift wheels are one of the most popular options. The taller wheels are usually for aesthetic purposes rather than performance.

“People drive everywhere in golf carts down there,” he said. The only place the carts are restricted is on the interstate.

In his 15 years living in Arizona Wolf could not recall any major problem caused by golf carts. They are not much different from any other slow moving vehicle or even bicycle traffic.

After returning to New Ulm he supported early efforts to get the ordinance changed. With the passage of the law he can once again enjoy the golf cart lifestyle.

“They are nice to ride and nice to drive,” he said.

His cart has included some custom changes to be street legal. This includes adding side mirrors to the cart. Overall, Wolf is happy with the way the law was written. He suspects New Ulm won’t have any problems if everyone is careful.

Of course the new ordinance is not just about golf carts. In fact, permit records indicate most New Ulm residents applying for the permit requested it to operate an ATV or UTV. Many people already owned an ATV or UTV for recreation use and now have the option of using in town.

“There are a lot of business in town that could use a UTV,” Born said.

Others have even suggested adding a plow shovel to the front of their ATV or UTV to remove snow in the winter. The options are wide open for anyone with these permits.


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