HI speed limits not enforceable, according to district court judge

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Speed limits posted on some Holiday Island roads are not enforceable, according to a ruling signed Friday by Berryville District Court Judge Kent Coxsey.

The ruling came down in the case of Rosemary Helms, 50, of Holiday Island, who was ticketed on March 24 for allegedly driving 40 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone on Holiday Island Drive.

In a letter to attorneys in the case, Coxsey stated, "I have reviewed the statue (sic) on speeding, 27-51-201, and definition of public highway, 27-51-101. It is my opinion that Holiday Island Drive is a 'Public Highway' and the speed limit would be 30 mph. The 25 mph sign could only be a suggested speed."

The judge went on to find Helms guilty of speeding 10 miles over the speed limit, and levied a $30 fine and $80 in court costs. Her charge will be taken under advisement for six months on condition of no further moving violations.

Attorney Steve Vowell, Helms' attorney, stated that his client is prepared to appeal the decision.

Vowell argued that Holiday Island is not an incorporated town and its streets, though open to the public, are not public as they are not maintained by the county or state. Statute 27-51-201 is a general statute, he said, that regulates speed on state highways and county roads.

Further, he maintains that the statute provides, unless properly signed, that speed limits are 30 miles per hour in urban areas, and 60 miles an hour in other areas.

Vowell also questions the practice of golf carts and all-terrain vehicles being driven on Holiday Island roads, which are normally prohibited on public roads.

In the absence of Deputy Prosecutor JoAnna Taylor, Prosecutor Tony Rogers said the question is whether Holiday Island Suburban Improvement District is able to set speed limits. He believes the county could do so.

No records of ordinances by the quorum court were found in the county clerk's office regarding speed limits for Holiday Island.

County Judge Mike Botelho, however, said that the county court could issue an order setting speed limits, and that the HISID commissioners should have written the county judge, who also serves as the county court, with specific speed limits, after which a hearing would have been held and an order issued.

There is no record of that having happened either, he said.

Botelho believes the county court has that authority due to the similarity of suburban improvement districts to subordinate road districts. The county judge said that he believes the county does have an interest in the roads at Holiday Island, so the court would have to order the speed limits.

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