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Tourism Commission – subcommittee meeting August 12

Consultant’s report on carriage horses to be discussed at Tourism Commission meeting
Council member insists that problems to be addressed

Warwick Jones

We thought we were going hear a discussion of the critical report by Dr Amy Hayek on the condition of carriage horses in the City. But we were disappointed. The report was simply brought to the attention of the Quality of Life/Parking and Touring Rules Sub Committee of the City.

Council member Alexander concerned
At least we were not alone in our disappointment. Council member Alexander also expected the report to be discussed. Speaking at the end of the meeting, he said the agenda was misleading. Referring to the issue of the treatment of carriage horses, he said “something is going on, something is not right”. The problems “need to be addressed”. He also referred to the numerous e-mails and comments he had received from citizens on the issue. The ordinance “needs to be tweaked”!

Members of the subcommittee were told that the report of the Dr Amy Hayek would be discussed at a meeting of the Tourism Commission on the 26th of this month. The meeting will be held at City Hall and begin at 5 pm. Dr Hayek is also expected to speak at this meeting.

Who is investigating the death of 5 carriage horses?
Although we were disappointed that Dr Hayek’s report was not discussed, the meeting was made worthwhile by the attendance of Nancy Lane. Ms. Lane was the citizen who reported the deaths of carriage horses employed by the Polo Company. She asked the sub committee what was happening in relation to the investigation of the deaths. The City had told her that it was a County matter but the County subsequently said that the deaths were caused by conditions in the City and that it was therefore a City matter. Unfortunately, she did not receive a satisfactory answer. Members of the sub committee had no idea, and one member suggested that the people in the City who would normally address the issue were away last week.

We spoke to Ms. Lane at the conclusion of the meeting. She has been shaken by her experience and at the end of our discussion, she broke into tears. Her reports were dictated by conscience, she said. The hostility that her comments unleashed, unnerved her. She fears that an investigation into the deaths of the horses will be shuffled into obscurity.

City supervision is inadequate
Ms. Lane also had a number of things to say about the treatment of carriage horses, at least by one operator in particular and pointed to the inadequacy of supervision of horses and the failure of the City to enforce its ordinance. She also said that she has lost her farm where she looked after carriage horse during their spells. Because of her revelations about the carriage horse deaths, customers deserted her.

Ms Lane intends to attend and speak at the Tourism Commission meeting later this month.

New regulations for tour buses probable
The subcommittee was also told that some preparation was necessary in relation to the future regulation of small tour buses. At the moment, a maximum of 36 buses could be licensed, though only 32 licenses had been issued. It was possible that new operators will seek licenses and that the demand will exceed the 36 limit. Should the limit be raised, should the City maintain a lottery system or move to a medallion basis, as employed for horse carriages? Under the latter system, a maximum of 20 carriages are allowed onto the streets of Charleston at any time. The limitation related to the conduct of tours. There is no limit for straight transportation.

The discussion was an education for us. The tour buses depart from the Convention and Visitors Center. And according to speakers, probably only 6 to 7 buses are ever touring the City at any time. Also of the total 32 licensed buses, about 4 at any time may be utilized for tours of plantations.

The City requires the operators to determine the path of their tours and to cover all of the 6 districts on the Peninsula defined by the Tourism Commission. The buses have different departures times, and to ensure that there is no “wagon train of coaches”, the City ensures that each operator begins tours of the historic districts at different points.

The subcommittee directed staff to study the issue and come back to it with a recommendation for discussion

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