Here is a recap of the consideration of regulating the Horse Tours from the Daily Advance:
Currituck mulls limits on wild horse tours
By Cindy Beamon
CURRITUCK — New limits on horse tours along Currituck’s northern beaches need to strike a balance between being safe and being profitable, county officials say.
Protecting the wild horses and vacationers at the crowded resort is one aim of a new ordinance Currituck commissioners are considering.
On the other hand, commissioners say they don’t want to harm what has become an advertising trademark and a big money-maker for the county.
Earlier this week, commissioners considered a new ordinance that limits the number of tour vehicles and operators on the four-wheel drive beaches. If approved, only eight companies would be allowed to operate a maximum of four vehicles each. The new regulations would essentially cut the number of tour vehicles from 43 this year to 32.
The new limits are intended to reduce traffic on the 11-mile stretch of sand road, but some tour operators and commissioners have questioned if the new ordinance will have that effect.
Commissioner Paul O’Neal said vacationers may opt to rent four-wheel drive vehicles in Dare County rather than take the professional tours, he said. Under current regulations, Currituck businesses cannot rent four-wheel drive vehicles without a tour guide, but Dare County rentals have no such restrictions.
Tour operator Bob White said in a telephone interview that day-trippers already create more traffic problems than the guided tours.
The only real solution to the problem is to restrict traffic on the northern beaches, said Board of Commissioners Chairman Vance Aydlett. But so far, the board has not moved in that direction.
The new ordinance takes aim at tour operators only. On Monday, commissioners discussed how to make the regulations more business-friendly.
At question is how quickly the county should reduce the number of tour vehicles. For White, the new restrictions would mean cutting his fleet from 13 vehicles to four, a 60 percent reduction in business.
White said he could switch from Jeeps to larger “safari vehicles” that seat 15 passengers to offset his losses, but he will need a couple years to make he change.
He has asked for the county to phase in the new regulations to give tour operators time to pare down their fleets.
Commissioners are also examining how the county will choose what companies are granted licenses.
At present, the county has issued special permits to eight companies on the Outer Banks. Under existing regulations, the county cannot limit permits, but the new regulations would cap the number of tour operators to eight licenses that would be renewed annually.
O’Neal questioned if the same eight businesses now operating would be granted licenses or if other companies could also apply.
“Are you going to let these eight companies have the market cornered?” O’Neal asked.
County Attorney Ike McRee said the proposed ordinance grants licenses on a first-come, first-served basis, but some commissioners questioned what would happen if newcomers apply.
Commissioners discussed other options — including bids, a drawing or an auction to determine what company is given a license.
For now, the issue is unresolved. Commissioners plan to look at a revised draft of the ordinance in September.
Commissioners Butch Petrey and John Rorer also voiced concerns over how the county would enforce regulations and keep people from “gaming the system.”
Rorer suggested using GPS tracking to make sure tour operators are following specified hours and routes while others suggested the county may need to pay for additional law enforcement.
Commissioners also questioned if the county should limit hours of operation beyond the sunrise-to-sunset hours outlined in the draft ordinance.
O’Neal and Petrey said they were afraid too many regulations would be “overkill” and burden business owners.
Commissioner Paul Martin agreed.
“We do not want to make it so difficult that the service cannot operate because of government regulations,” he said.
I have certainly welcomed this move more than most, let's hope the County produces a sensible set of Rules. Below is an article from the VA Pilot's Jeff Hampton.
By Jeff Hampton
© July 24, 2011
The booming business of Corolla wild horse tours could have a little less boom next year, as county officials are set to impose more limits.
Beginning next year, Currituck County plans to require tour operators to get a license each year, and the county plans to eventually restrict the number of vehicles per tour to four, a big drop from the dozen or so Jeeps currently seen traveling in a line up the beach and through the crowds along the surf.
Commissioners could vote on the new ordinance by September.
Complaints from residents and the Corolla Wild Horse Fund prompted county officials to draft a new ordinance less than two years after the board passed an ordinance aimed at bridling the tours.
"It's all day every day," said north beach resident and Corolla Wild Horse Fund Vice President Phyllis Castelli. "There's never really a time of day when there's not a tour group going by. It's completely out of balance."
Castelli saw two wild horses on the beach last week surrounded by people from three different tours.
"If I feel this way, imagine how the horses feel," she said.
Corolla's herd of about 110 wild horses roaming freely in the four-wheel-drive area is one of the biggest attractions of the Currituck Outer Banks. During the summer, hundreds of people a day pay about $50 each to ride up the beach in hopes of seeing even one horse and getting a photo. Tours are job creators and economic engines.
"Tours are not bad things," said Ben Woody, director of the Currituck County Planning Department. "There's a lot of good in tours."
In the new license ordinance, limiting vehicles to four would likely be phased in over two or three years, Woody said.
On the positive side for operators, the number of licenses issued would be limited to eight companies that must be based in Currituck County, Woody said. That would eliminate companies from Raleigh and Charlotte that have expressed interest, he said.
Other requirements include:
- Vehicles would have to be registered with the county, with a photo included for each one.
- Each vehicle would get a number and must have a sign on the side with lettering at least 3 inches tall showing the ID number and the company name.
- All vehicles would have guides, instead of one guide leading several vehicles.
- More than one violation of the ordinance in a month could mean being shut down for a day or more.
A county law already requires people to stay 50 feet away from wild horses.
Operators could still carry a similar number of passengers by using vehicles with larger capacities, Woody said.
Officials are considering whether to limit tour times. Now they travel dawn to dusk. Residents want hours limited to something like 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"I'm in favor of this, believe or not," said Jay Bender, owner of Corolla Outback Adventures. "It's in the best interest of the horses and in the best interest of everybody over the long haul to keep some sort of control over it."
But too many restrictions could push people to rent SUVs and drive themselves or use their own vehicles, a worse scenario than taking a guided tour, said Richard Brown, owner of Wild Horse Adventure Tours.
"I think everyone would agree the guided tour is the best way," Brown said.
The county's earlier action, in 2009, involved the passage of a zoning law that required each tour operator get a special use permit, to be renewed each year. It required adequate parking at each operator's base, and a guide certified by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund to lead each tour. It also stipulated that each vehicle must have an identification sign.
But the law, which went into effect in the 2010 season, set no limit on the number of vehicles.
The county issued eight permits last year, including one to theCorolla Wild Horse Fund. Someoperators have more than one permit.