Carova residents ask commissioners to help deal with wild horse tour issues

Published 11:37 am Sunday, October 3, 2021

Four Corolla and Carova residents spoke to commissioners Monday at the regular monthly meeting about the damage and nuisance they say is caused by the wild horse tours, followed by a statement from attorney Nick Ellis representing those gathered.

Homeowners expressed concern about the increased traffic on the sand roads beyond the dune line. “Horse tours 12 hours a day is a nuisance,” said the first speaker. “Many residents will see up to 100 passes by their houses every day, compared to the three or four without tours.” A shared complaint is the wear and tear on roads in poor condition that have standing water after a heavy rain, exacerbated by large trucks and Hummers carrying up to a dozen passengers. Holes in the road can reportedly be four feet deep and residents worry about emergency vehicle access.

Ellis and the speakers agreed that wild horse tour companies have a right to operate a business and suggested a number of compromises. First, they requested limiting the hours of tour operations, perhaps from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. instead of the current 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. operation. Next, they suggested changing the tour routes daily to give rest to the roads. Beyond that, residents requested only essential travel on roads that are flooded and increased consideration for property owners, who experience unlawful turnarounds in their driveways and invasion of privacy.

Though commissioners are not required to respond to public comment at meetings, chairman Mike Payment did assure those gathered that commissioners will be discussing concerns at the scheduled work session retreat planned for the first of the year. “Yes, you’ve been heard, and it’s going to be a topic of discussion at our work session,” he said.

Vice Chairman Paul Beaumont clarified that there are only 10 tour companies allowed to conduct tours, and each license allows a maximum of five vehicles. “This board is not interested in increasing that number. We still need to talk about issues, but we aren’t adding licenses and we aren’t adding businesses.”

Moving on to commissioners’ reports, Owen Etheridge reminded the public that it is harvest season and combines and big trucks are on the road especially for the next six weeks and to exercise caution.

Moving on to new business, commissioners approved a bid award recommendation for the Historic Jail Stabilization Project to Midwest Maintenance, Inc. for $177,000. Two other bidders came in at over double the price, causing county staff to double check with the architect of the project to make sure the scope of the project was fully understood. Midwest Maintenance comes with a strong recommendation and county commissioners and staff moved ahead with the bid award. According to town attorney and interim town manager Ike McRee, the next step is to prepare the contracts, whereby more information about the start date of the project will be decided.

In the final item of new business, commissioners approved a recommendation to the tourism advisory board and approved the consent agenda.

The meeting concluded and moved on to a closed session with the town attorney regarding undisclosed matters.

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