Next round in horse-drawn carriage debate Monday

When the St. Augustine City Commission meets Monday night, starting at 5:00 p.m., Historic City News will be watching as a revised horse carriage ordinance, including franchise requirements and a limit of 25 permits, is considered.

The meeting, which is held in the Alcazar Room at City Hall, will likely be crowded. When the word first got out that the City was not going to renew the existing carriage permits, the Mayor and commissioners faced a wall-to-wall horde of hostile citizens — many of whom were connected to the carriage business either as operators, permit holders, animal rights advocates, or, residents along the carriage routes.

At issue is the previous rate of $80 per-year that is paid to the city for a carriage permit. Most of the permits are used by the one, major permit holder, Murphy McDaniel — however; many of the permits are leased to individuals who are actually the ones who operate the carriage tours.

The City is concerned about the “aftermarket trading” of these permits. They have said in the past that they feel the City should be the only one in the permitting business. The City also contends that it cost more to support the wear-and-tear on the streets than the revenue they receive from the permits. Assistant City Attorney Carlos Mendoza told Historic City News “If the $3,800 a year in permit fees at $80 each covered the city’s expenses, we wouldn’t be here.”

The franchise agreement being proposed Monday, is similar to those in place for sightseeing trains and trolleys. It provides for an annual fee of $1,000 (or, 2.5% of gross annual revenue, whichever is higher).

That fee can be increased by a half percent every three years, to a maximum of five percent.

The ordinance would set a limit of 25 non-transferrable permits, with a maximum of ten to any single business.

Of 46 permits currently authorized by the city, Murphy McDaniel’s Avalon Carriage Company holds 43 after buying out former owner Stuart Gamsey during legal battles. Two others are held by Country Carriages and one by C.B. Hinson.

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