Revised Carriage Ordinance Hurts Buggy Business in Shipshewana

By DENISE FEDOROW Correspondent; Goshen News; Feb 10, 2017

SHIPSHEWANA — The 20-plus people who showed up at Thursday night’s Shipshewana Town Council meeting — most who have a stake in a proposed carriage ordinance — were denied a chance to speak.

Town Council President C. Arlene Lazzaro started the meeting noting that all the carriage owners in town were present and said they all had a copy of the ordinance up for first reading. She then announced the council would not be taking any comments.

A couple of people expressed displeasure at the news, including Bill Miller of Buggy Line Tours who asked, “You mean I’m not going to be able to have a voice in this?”

Miller was told the council took comments at the last meeting. Miller said he’d be unable to attend the next meeting where the ordinance is expected to be passed on final reading. Lazzaro said he could call council members or write to them. When Miller asked for phone numbers, he was told to instead give his number and someone would call him.

The council quickly passed the revised ordinance and said it would be up for second and final reading Feb. 23 at 5 p.m. Most of the ordinance remained the same — the biggest cause for concern among the carriage operators — the horse “diapers” or “poop bags,” was removed from the ordinance, but some of the other areas of concern remained intact.

One issue was an age requirement of 18 (and no physical impairments). After the meeting, council members were asked why, especially in the case of a pedicab driver, they felt it necessary to have that requirement.

Councilman Elmer Mast said even though a person can get a driver’s license at 16 they can’t haul passengers until they are 18, so that was their reasoning.

Council members were also asked why there was no allowance for public comment of any kind. The council responded that they’ve never have had public comment at their meetings, unless they were holding a public hearing.

Town attorney Kurt Bachman said allowing the public to comment is not a requirement by state statute and is up to the discretion of the council president. Mast said residents with concerns can always call ahead and ask to be on the agenda or call council members individually.

Carriage owners not happy

Bill Miller, speaking after the meeting, said everyone was shocked they didn’t get a chance to speak. According to Miller, the only reason he saw the ordinance was because he called up to the Chamber and asked for it. So, not only would they not have had a chance to speak, they wouldn’t have seen the revised ordinance.

Miller said after the buggy owners left the meeting they all got together. “Every one of us is in unison among ourselves about the issues.”

Miller cited the designated routes, age limitations and the annual fees as some things they still are unhappy about and also the fact that they are limiting the amount of buggies they can operate.

“Every business wants to grow and they’re stopping us from growing,” Miller said. “The way we do our business, if we have to comply with this, we can’t be in business.”

Miller said just about every one of the buggy owners has been in business close to 20 years. “Now all of a sudden they’re putting all these regulations on us? They’re requiring us to have a registration fee — why not every business in town? Why are they just targeting us?”

Miller said if someone were to call the Shipshewana Visitor’s Center, Buggy Line Tours would be listed as one of the top attractions in Shipshewana. He said no place within 200 miles has carriage rides and said people come to Shipshewana to see the Amish.

“Right now this town board is ruining tourism in Shipshewana,” he said.

Ryan Riegsecker, president of Blue Gate, including Riegsecker Carriage, confirmed what Miller said by phone after the meeting.

“There are still a lot of issues to be resolved. As came out at the last round, I’m disappointed with the whole thing,” Riegsecker said.

He mentioned the workshop was a closed-door meeting and they didn’t reach out to the carriage operators. They had to ask for copies of the ordinance again or they wouldn’t know what was in it. Both men also said council members wouldn’t give them their phone numbers.

Riegsecker said route approval is an issue and the number of buggies is a tough one. He said his business has nine trolleys or buggies and with the ordinance they’d only be allowed five licenses per operator.

Riegsecker said the rubber horse shoes required is also a big problem. Riegsecker said the shoes work pretty well if the horse is walking, but not if they are trotting or running. He said normal shoes have a bit of a give but with the rubber shoes, “horses tend to fall or stumble. It’s hard on their ankles. We tried it years ago.”

Riegsecker said it wasn’t right for the council to require rubber horse shoes without a trial period. Riegsecker repeated a comment he made at the last meeting, stating these requirements might make sense for big cities like Chicago where the carriage operators are the only horses, but not in Shipshewana.

Both Riegsecker and Miller said they had no problem with some aspects of the ordinance: having to have liability insurance, registering with the town and a one-time registration fee. “But the rest is unnecessary regulations this council doesn’t know anything about,” Riegsecker said.

He stated the carriage owners pulled out the top four to five issues and will list them along with their reasons and submit it in writing to the council before the next meeting.

Miller said this was going to be their 20th year in business and they were going to make big plans to commemorate that.

“If this goes through we’ll probably be out of business. We were planning on doing some big things for our 20th anniversary — now, it’s become a nightmare.”

Read the original article here.

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