Peachtree City golf cart owner wants refund of ‘illegal’ permit fee

18
6283

A Peachtree City resident, John Dufresne, is requesting a refund of $30 from the city government, contending it overcharged him for registration of his golf cart. He cites state law in support of his position.

And he has some support from other residents, to the extent that the city Monday issued a news release, “Get the facts on golf cart registration fees.”

First, below is the city’s rebuttal position:

“The City’s legal counsel does not agree with the legal analysis provided by others on this issue, and has prepared the following statement to provide clarification as to the City’s compliance with Georgia law:

“The city has received inquiries concerning the fees charged for golf carts that use the City’s path system.

“The fees charged by the City were established in accordance with Georgia law. O.C.G.A. 40-6-331(b) provides that a local authority may, by ordinance, require local registration and licensing of PTVs operated within its boundaries AT LEAST once every five years for a fee not to exceed $15. That statute, by its terms, does not limit the City to charging one fee every five years. Rather, the statute allows the city to charge the relevant fees AT LEAST once every five years. To that end, the City can charge a fee for every year.

“The City can also charge user fees for persons who use golf carts on the City’s path system. Under Georgia law, those fees are to approximate the cost of incurred by the City to provide the service or amenity. The City spends in excess of $3 million per year to maintain the path system. To that end, the fees charged for golf carts using the path system cover only a fraction of the overall cost of maintaining the paths. User fees can be appropriated between city residents and non-residents, given that a portion of taxes paid by city residents are allocated by the City for path maintenance.”

Now below is Dufresne’s argument that the city owes a lot of people refunds:

SUBJECT: Claim for Refund of Excess Golf Cart Registration Fee Illegally Collected

Dear Mayor and Council Members:

I request a $30.00 refund of the $45 golf cart registration and licensing fee paid for the 2023-2025 registration period, decal number XXXXX.

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), §40-6-331(b) was amended in 2014 to specify a registration period. It states, “…a local authority may, by ordinance, require the local registration and licensing of PTVs operated within its boundaries at least once every five years for a fee not to exceed $15.00.”

Five years is the maximum time period allowed between registrations. Shorter registration periods are authorized such as once every four, three, or two years, or every year (annually).

Regardless of the registration period chosen, the maximum fee collected cannot exceed $15.

The City Council approved a three-year registration period at their January 17, 2016, council meeting. The record of meeting minutes includes these statements, “She [Betsy Tyler] pointed out that state law on golf cart registration had changed in 2014 to allow annual registration for golf carts. The maximum registration fee remained $15.”, “The City fees would increase from $12 … to $15 (per year, paid every three years).” and “…City residents would register every three years for $45.”

The city ordinance Section 78-92 (a)(3)a.1. was amended to read, “Registration year: $45.00 (for the subsequent three-calendar year period).” The ordinance section doesn’t comply with state law.

The 2022 golf cart registration renewal notice sent to residents owning golf carts clearly states in three locations that the renewal period is 2023-2025, a three-year period. It also states the “Fee Amount” is $45.

The $45 fee the city collects is illegal because it exceeds, by $30, the maximum $15 fee allowed by state law.

O.C.G.A. §48-5-380 provides for a taxpayer to claim a refund for a license fee they allege was collected illegally or erroneously. This written claim meets the statutory requirement, Dufresne concluded.

18 COMMENTS

  1. It reads that a city can charge AT LEAST (AT THE BARE MINIMUM) $15 for 5 years. It does not in any way say that a city can’t charge annually. It only states that it can only charge $15 per year, per 2 years, per 3 years, etc…. Peachtree City has chosen to charge $15 a year. Period. It doesn’t matter that you have to pay for 3 years. That’s the cities right to decide that. You people decipher things to fit whatever grievance you want to complain about. It’s $15 a year to use hundreds of miles of golf cart paths that the city keeps maintained relentlessly and are used nearly as much as our roads are used. Some people just can’t help themselves and need to keep stuff stirred up constantly. Just think, if these nuisance things stopped, they might be able to focus solely on things that actually matter!

  2. My read of “require local registration and licensing of PTVs operated within its boundaries AT LEAST once every five years for a fee not to exceed $15” is that the city can require local registration and licensing of PTVs operated within its boundaries at least once every five years.

    If a PTV is used on city paths less than that, they are not required to be registered or licensed.

    And the city can charge up to $15 for the license/registration fee.

    It doesn’t specify the length of time that a registration or license lasts, so if the city wants it to be an annual license, it has that authority.

    So, if you don’t want to have to pay $15 to drive your cart on the cart path, just make sure your trips are spaced out at least five years and one day apart.

    That’s not so difficult.

    • How are you reading that it states, in any way at all, that if you don’t want to pay the $15, than space your trips out 5 years and one day apart? In no way does it state any thing of the sort. It literally says $15 a year for the use of the paths within the cities boundaries. If you own a cart and it will be used on the paths of our city than the $15 must be paid to register it to be used on our paths.
      And it reads that a city can charge AT LEAST (AT THE BARE MINIMUM) $15 for 5 years. It does not in any way say that a city can’t charge annually. It only states that it can only charge $15 per year, per 2 years, per 3 years, etc…. Peachtree City has chosen to charge $15 a year. Period. It doesn’t matter that you have to pay for 3 years. That’s the cities right to decide that. You people decipher things to fit whatever grievance you want to complain about. It’s $15 a year to use hundreds of miles of golf cart paths that the city keeps maintained relentlessly and are used nearly as much as our roads are used. Some people just can’t help themselves and need to keep stuff stirred up constantly. Just think, if these nuisance things stopped, they might be able to focus solely on things that actually matter!

  3. Much ado about nothing if you ask me. I think the overwhelming majority of citizens would agree that the registration fee is more than reasonable and I’m happy to help support the maintenance of the paths with my fee. I have no interest in bilking the city on a bargain $45 fee that helps support the amenities I enjoy.

    I do however take issue with the council using our money for pet projects and underhanded deals that we the citizens do not support and had no say in. Its one thing to say update signage or replace garbage bins as a matter of course without the need for public input, its entirely different to install unwanted speed bumps among other council pet projects.

    We need more accountability, but this matter is just silly and serves to distract from actually important issues. It also helps make Learnard’s argument that citizens wanting input at council meetings are nothing more than rabble-rousers looking to disrupt normal city business. Lets focus on the important stuff people.

    • I agree with all of this! I think our residents handled the speed bump issue with an immediate and effective response, lol. Although, I think there should be legal and civil charges brought upon the “certain council woman” that chose to do those things and anyone else that was knowingly complicit in it. Our tax dollars that were wasted because of it, should be returned in whole.

    • Spyglass, if you recall the person who requests a refund is also the person who filed a lawsuit over an alledged slander a few years back. I think he was also on the WASA board with the expectations WASA can automously expand municipal sewer service beyond our borders. Is this guy just a detractor, acting like a little kid with a chip on his shoulder?

  4. I understand that we must follow the law. It seems there is some disagreement on how to interpret the law – shocking.

    I would just like to say, as a cart owner, that the fee is more than reasonable and likely too low. If we eliminate the fee, or reduce it, then we will either have to raise taxes on all to support the use of some OR suffer poor maintenance (which we already do too much).

    I am not requesting a refund.

    • I agree it’s too low. Absurdly low on my opinion. It should be between $25-$50 a year and a 25-40% discount given to those that elect to pay 5 years or more at a time. Just my opinion. But I think this frivolous lawsuit is going to bring higher fees and will absolutely backfire on the habitual bringer of frivolous lawsuits! 😁

    • Gman, I also agree that $15 per year is very reasonable. In addition, if the city is forced to send out annual notices, the administrative cost of managing this process will also go up. Tell me that seems unnecessary.

  5. I will happily pay $15 a year for access to the largest and best cartpath system that I know of. It seems to me that if we go back to assessing fees on an annual basis, we add unnecessary layers of administrative cost. I appreciate, avoiding all of the additional mailings, and whatever it costs to produce annual stickers as opposed to stickers that run for a full three years. if council or our legal needs to revamp the wording, then so be it, but let’s not be penny wise and pound foolish here As the old saying goes.

  6. Thanks for the post, Cal.

    Just wanted to get your take on related subject regarding the City Council and our beloved golf cart paths… are the “speed bumps” back?! Has this issue reared its ugly head again?! Should we be dusting off our “Save Our Paths” yard signs once again?!

    In case you missed it, there are ~15-20 NEWLY yellow spray painted markings on the cart path located in the front of Caola’s former home to the beginning of Lake PTC spillway to entrance into Drake Field to behind church towards 54 crossover bridge and everywhere in between (even on path behind bowling alley near Northlake Dr and also path along Flat Creek Rd).

    Looking back on your July posts, didn’t the PTC City Council decide that “There will be no more cart path speed bumps installed.” in their infamous July 12th closed-to-the-public executive session?

    What are the recent “take-backs” on this issue?