Originally created 06/14/05

Limits put on city bus tours



AIKEN - No more than eight commercial tours a month will be provided through Aiken's historic and horse districts, and many of the city's more alluring dirt roads and storied residential areas will be off limits.

The Aiken City Council voted unanimously for those and several other tour limitations Monday night after months of negotiations with concerned residents.

The city council agreed to allow tours between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., in most cases, and also agreed to eliminate tours on all of Aiken's dirt thoroughfares except Two Notch Road.

Some of the city's best known historic thoroughfares, such as Easy Street and Colleton Avenue, were among those struck from the tour route.

And the agreement limits tour bus lengths to 40 feet and their capacity to 30 people.

Residents complained that larger tour buses were tearing up the city's soft dirt roads, which accommodate sensitive horse hooves. They also said the tour buses robbed them of privacy.

However, the ordinance doesn't address nonprofit tours, which officials said could create problems down the road. The city and concerned residents agreed to revisit the issue in January, when additional changes could be made if necessary.

"If we don't get this going, then these big motor coaches can go wherever they want," said Dacre Stoker, one of the residents who fought for limitations.

The city will vote on the issue again July 11.

Not everyone was satisfied with the compromise.

Charles Thomas lives at the corner of Two Notch Road and Audubon Drive, an intersection tour buses frequent as they travel past the steeplechase horse track, home to the second leg of the city's Triple Crown.

"Quite honestly, it's just a field with white fencing," he said of the steeplechase track.

Still, others felt the city needed to do more to deal with tourism as a whole.

"I have a sense of this being dealt with piecemeal," said Stephen Mueller, who operates the Rose Hill estate on Greenville Street. "I really don't know what the objection is. They're public roads."

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.