Couple drop plans for carriage tours in Bluffton

A couple who got permission from Bluffton officials for a horse-drawn carriage tour say they have dropped plans to bring a buggy to old town.

Bad publicity and a fear that opponents of tours might harm them or their horses prompted the decision, Alan and Kay Ulmer of Buckingham Plantation Stables said in a written statement Friday.

Town Council members spent months weighing residents' comments to finalize a horse-drawn carriage tour ordinance prepared by Bluffton Police Chief David McAllister. The ordinance gave McAllister authority to approve a route and pick-up and drop-off locations for passengers, which hadn't occurred before the Ulmers decided to hold off on the tour.

Council gave final approval to a provisional license for the carriage tour last month.

But the Ulmers have decided the Old Town Carriage Co. will now operate only on their family farm by appointment for activities such as a guided trail ride.

"We find this to be too much of a financial and safety gamble that we are not willing to take in order to pass along the history that our family has been so much a part of here in Bluffton/Beaufort County," the statement says.

McAllister, who has been writing the ordinance governing carriages since October, said he is disappointed by the decision.

Nonetheless, the ordinance governing horse-carriage operations is now part of town code. A chapter of the ordinance governing motorized tours, such as golf cart or bus rides, and another chapter for non-motorized tours, such as bikes and pedicabs, are scheduled to be introduced to Town Council on Tuesday.

Mayor Lisa Sulka wrote in an e-mail that it was time for town council to tackle touring rules, anyway.

"We are looking at the entire area of touring businesses and will continue on with the next chapter of this ordinance," she said.