The clopping of hooves along Dade City's streets is music to the ears of downtown merchants, who want the city to approve a proposed horse-and-carriage enterprise in the business district. But as visions of romantic rides dance in some people's heads, others - such as City Manager Ben Bolan - worry about the possibility of "mangled tourists" and a burdensome liability that could cost a bundle.
During a Dade City Commission meeting Tuesday, Bolan said he has not approved an occupational license for Main Street Carriage Co. because he wants assurances from the state and the city's insurance carriers that the proposal will not become a costly headache.
"I think we're asking for trouble to allow this, for a number of
reasons," agreed City Attorney William Brewton during the meeting.
Brewton said he fears that the slow-moving carriages will interfere with traffic flow and that horses will rear when an emergency vehicle whizzes past.
"There's not a day that goes by in Dade City that some sort of emergency vehicle doesn't go by. I see too many red flags on this.
We're leaving ourselves open to liability if someone gets injured," he said.
Bolan said that even if the Florida Department of Transportation says the plan is allowable and insurance problems are assuaged, the routes should be restricted to less heavily traveled streets.
Carl Littlefield, president of the Dade City Chamber of Commerce, told the commission the proposal is a solid one that fits well into the effort to revitalize the business district.
"The retail merchants are looking for ways to attract people to the downtown area," he said. "I'd very strongly like to see you grant this request."
One of the six people who want to start the business, Vicki Lester, called the idea "a good draw" for downtown businesses.
Basically, the group plans to rent out three carriages owned by Ed and Susie Allen to wedding parties, to groups seeking to advertise their business and to people just looking for fun.
The Allens, the business' main operators, would drive the carriages. They were out of town and could not be reached for comment.
A permit engineer for the state Department of Transportation said Wednesday that he would have to judge each case individually, but generally speaking, if the proposal would interfere with traffic on a state-maintained road - such as U.S. 301 - he would not permit it.
Tim Hyde, the engineer, said he had not been contacted by city officials.