Originally created 08/29/98

Charleston may curb tours



CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Charleston residents are butting heads with tourism officials, and the city council is poised to make some changes.

A 30-member task force, organized last September, has studied the historic city's balance between tourism and residential life and recommended limits on buses, walking tours and touring hours.

But industry officials want the city to hold off until a new traffic and parking study is complete.

"We're not asking that you abandon the prospect of implementing these, just wait for supporting evidence," a member of the Tour Guide Association said.

Bill Scarborough, head of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, called for a study to determine specifically how tour hours affect neighborhoods.

The proposed tourism law amendments would:

Shave hours off the times when bus, walking and carriage tours are allowed in residential areas.

Break walking tours into groups of no more than 20 people and ban sound-amplifying devices.

Reduce the number of large bus permits per hour.

Residents and one city councilman said the changes are less than what they sought, but they want them passed now.

"We did talk about this for six months. We did get a few little things. We ask that you pass them," said Truman Moore of the Committee to Save the City.

"We believe they represent a compromise that's been carefully worked out," another resident said. "We believe they should go further. We know some people feel they go too far. That's the nature of a compromise."

City Councilman Duke Hagerty also said he wanted to see the changes passed as recommended.

"Too many changes raises the possibility of unraveling the whole situation," he said.

After residents raised new concerns about tourism downtown, the city of Charleston and several preservation groups held an all-day forum in May 1997.

Last September, Mayor Joe Riley led the task force that re-examined the city's tourism controls and suggested changes.

The city council approved the tourism management plan in May. It then took the city attorney almost three months to convert it into proposed amendments to the city's tourism ordinances.