Several neighborhood groups urged Charleston City Council not to follow through on a deal with carriage companies to give them extended operating hours next April in exchange for having shut down during the Blue Angels performances and practices, but council decided a deal's a deal.
Citing public safety concerns that the Blue Angels' jet demonstration team could spook the carriage horses and mules and cause them to bolt, the city had initially ordered the carriages off the streets for a total of 13 hours during the April 15-18 flights.
A council committee reversed that order and proposed a test to see if the jets would cause the animals to act dangerously. That plan was scrapped the following day in a compromise deal, in which carriage companies agreed to stay off the streets in exchange for extra hours to operate next April.
Residents of those downtown areas, who were not part of the compromise negotiation, were none too pleased.
Representatives of the Ansonborough neighborhood and the 15-community Charleston Neighborhood Consortium said they thought shutting down during the Blue Angels should be considered a cost of doing business, just like businesses that were inconvenienced by the lengthy King Street beautification program.
"Where are the residents in this issue?" asked Jack Simmons, chairman of the Committee to Save the City. "How are we compensated for our loss of ambiance?"
Most council members took the position that, with the carriage companies having already fulfilled their part of the bargain, the city could not change its mind now.
"I want to make sure we honor the commitment we made," said Councilman Blake Hallman, who brokered the plan.
Councilmen Gary White, whose district includes the south-of-Broad-Street area, voted against the deal, as did Councilman Aubry Alexander. They said the city has nearly a year to come up with a better compromise agreement.
The remaining 10 council members and Mayor Joe Riley voted for the plan to allow carriages to operate until 7 p.m. in April 2011.
In other business, council voted to proceed with plans to buy 16 townhomes in West Ashley at 1 Rice Drive, using $500,000 in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds.