Supporters of horse-carriage tours to Bluffton Town Council: 'Giddyap'

Supporters of horse-drawn carriage tours in old town Bluffton outnumbered opponents at Tuesday night's public workshop during the November town council meeting.

The town, which has no rules governing the tours, scheduled the workshop after some residents objected to the enterprise.

Seven supporters spoke on behalf of Alan and Kay Ulmer, the owners of Buckingham Plantation Stables who want to open the Old Town Carriage Company. More than thirty people attended the workshop.

Cathy Stangroom of the Moss Creek Equestrian Center said the proposed tours would be a asset to the town and "bring back the Bluffton state of mind."

The Ulmers got the idea for the enterprise from the late Tommy Heyward, a former council member whose retirement dream was to operate a Bluffton-based carriage company and who left the Ulmers his two draft horses. Heyward's widow Joan assured council members the Ulmers would operate their business safely and hygienically and that the horses would be well cared for.

"Tommy always said in a second life, he'd come back as an Ulmer animal," she said.

May River Road resident Scott Corkern has led the opposition to the tours and said the proposal would make old town Bluffton smell "like a horse bathroom."

He said several things were being overlooked in the ordinance currently being written to govern the tours: the cost of regulating the enterprise, the clean up required and the impact on the May River.

Bluffton Police Chief David McAllister is writing that ordinance. He presented some changes he has made based on council's concerns, including a required history class for tour guides and diapers for the horses.

All routes would have to be approved by McAllister. None could be on S.C. 46. The carriages would not be allowed to stop on public roadways so the Ulmers would have to find private landowners willing to offer land for carriage stands.

The Ulmers say they will use Odoban, a product which dilutes urine and cuts the smell.

But Corkern said the product has not worked in Savannah.

Councilman Fred Hamilton asked McAllister for an estimate of staff time needed to enforce the provisions, but the chief said he wouldn't know until the tour company actually started operation.

The Ulmers had hoped the company would be up and running by the holiday season.

The council, however, must still give the measures two readings.

The first is scheduled at the panel's next meeting on December 14.