Author Topic: City of Savannah considers new rules to curb tours  (Read 2686 times)

Offline Christine

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City of Savannah considers new rules to curb tours
« on: May 28, 2011, 12:26:02 PM »
City of Savannah considers new rules to curb tours
City will study, discuss before making changes
Posted: May 26, 2011 -

 By Lesley Conn Copyright 2011 . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. 

The alarm spread quickly in recent days through Savannah’s tour industry.

Walking tour guides, trolley operators and ghost tour companies shared concerns about city of Savannah discussions that included cutting off late-night walking tours and expanding restrictions on access to some of the city’s most popular — and crowded — squares, including Madison and Chippewa. Why, tour operators wondered, was the city poised to further restrict small businesses and the city’s largest single industry with more regulation in a down economy?

City officials Thursday offered their strongest reassurances yet to tour operators.

In a meeting with walking tours operators at the Civic Center, Acting Assistant City Manager Marty Johnston stressed that the city was in the early stages of looking at a number of issues, including the proliferation of motor coaches — 1,900 permitted last year — and that months of study is needed before anything happens.

Before that, tour operators had reason to wonder.

City officials had been meeting with residents and tour operators to discuss two avenues. One, proposed changes to the city’s ordinance on tour services, would go before the City Council for approval. The other — changes to “hot spots,” the most popular tourist attractions on the squares — didn’t need council approval because the ordinance grants that regulation to the city manager.

City staff had hoped new hot spots would be under final review next month. But by Thursday, a map that had detailed proposed changes to the hot spots had been removed from the city’s website.

Those proposed restrictions had worried some the most.


A growing problem

Despite concerns about the process, there is shared agreement that the city, the tour industry and residents need to develop an updated, comprehensive plan for handling the growing business.

Forty-five walking tours operate in the city, adding to the 25 trolley tours a day Savannah averages. Carriage horses, Segway tours, pedicabs and motor coaches add to the mix.

That is at the heart of the city’s effort to evaluate the tour growth.

“All of that is trying to co-exist in a mile and a half where people also live and work, and that’s the balance” said Sean Brandon, the city’s director of Mobility and Parking Services, which oversees tour groups. “We have this wonderful residential downtown. We have to share it and preserve it at the same time.”

Balance is needed, agrees Michelle Freenor, owner of Savannah Belle Walking Tours and a member of the city’s tourism advisory committee.

“We want to preserve the quality of life for residents in the Historic District, but we want to make sure our tourists feel welcome and that they can enjoy the whole expanse of Savannah, and we want our small businesses to continue to grow.”

Freenor and Jean Soderlind, owner of Ghost Talk, Ghost Walk, want to see the city develop a master plan. They also want to see tougher enforcement and higher fines for offenses such as allowing more than 30 people on a walking tour or motor coaches idling in squares.


‘Not Disneyland’

It’s not just the volume of tours in question.

As the popularity of tours has increased, so has the variety. Some of the newer tours, which operate more as pub crawls or shock entertainment, are drawing criticism from residents who live on popular squares and from tour operators more intent on accurately sharing the city’s history.

For 35 years, Susan Myers has lived off Pulaski Square. The square is residential, but in the last few years tour buses, trolley and, recently, a 16-passenger “slow ride” quadricycle that lets passengers drink, regularly make the rounds. The city is reviewing whether the quadricycle will legally let the passenger drinking continue.

“There has to be a balance, and it’s gotten out of balance,” Myers said. “I know tourists are our lifeblood, but they have to realize this is a living neighborhood and not Disneyland.”

Some residents have complained to city officials about tours running after midnight and of finding people peering through windows from front porches. Calhoun Square has become a popular stop for “ghost hunters and paranormal investigators,” because one house is supposed to be especially haunted.

There are downtown residents who say anyone living in the Historic District has to expect to share the city’s public squares with a curious — and sometimes noisy — public.

Evan Warren, a local graphic artist, lives next to Colonial Park Cemetery.

“I won’t lie to you, there are times when I come home from work and all I want is a beer and some quiet,” he said. “And there are times you hear 70-some-odd kids shrieking at night on a ghost tour. It kind of sucks, but it’s kind of fun, too.

“We’re at the heart of it all,” he said of downtown living. “There’s nothing cooler than waking up to a horse-drawn carriage in the morning and going to sleep to a hearse tour. People need to embrace what we have.”

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.
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Offline Georgous Granny

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Re: City of Savannah considers new rules to curb tours
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2011, 01:43:23 PM »
better shut down all the shops that trade late night then
"Always be yourself... because the people that matter, don't mind and the people that do mind, don't matter".

Offline nick61

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Re: City of Savannah considers new rules to curb tours
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2011, 04:32:19 PM »
This is why most people believe that the paranormal belongs in a circus rather than being an excepted science. Spiritual experiences of any kind are a personal thing, to label something as 'paranormal' simply to profit from the spoon feeding of the masses of nothing more than sensational fairy stories is obscene. I strongly believe spiritual experiences of any kind happen as they may and to 'chase' them is unnatural. 'Stupidity, the soundtrack of life', David Gilmore.


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