Breckenridge kills horse-and-carriage industry after $25,000 buyout of private business
August 11, 2017
Breckenridge put its horse-drawn carriage out to pasture on Tuesday.
Discussions regarding the hot-to-trot enterprise emerged at a July 11 town council meeting.
Councilman Mark Burke had mentioned he carriage drivers were "wasting so many parking spaces" on often-congested Main Street, and he asked town staff about striping lines to direct a more efficient use of the space.
They have considered it, they replied, but snow-covered lines would do little good during the busiest times of year. Mayor Eric Mamula floated the idea of marking curbs instead, which some thought might be worth a try. However, that wasn't the end of the mayor's bright ideas.
"I have one thing," he said. "I have heard that the horse and carriage is for sale. I don't know if this is something we can just buy and get rid of — let the horses go."
A well-timed pause suggested Mamula might be joking, at least about the last part, and a chuckle rolled over council chambers. But the mayor pressed forward.
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"No, I'm not joking," he said. "You're all laughing, but I'm not joking. We can get rid of this thing. I'm sure somebody takes horses that are, you know — we donate the horses somewhere and burn the carriage."
Joking aside about the carriage, Mamula was serious — he didn't feel like the operation belonged on Main Street.
"And it's also recently, I've seen a whole lot of crap on the road," said Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron.
Councilwoman Elisabeth Lawrence asked town staff if they knew when the business's permit would expire and have to be renewed. They said they would have to look.
In a moment of clarity, Burke put things in context: "I think Eric's point is, do we want to be the ones putting people out of business or just end it nicely?"
"I'm good with ending it," Councilwoman Erin Gigliello sided after inquiring about the price. At $36,000, another council member called it "peanuts."
Bergeron remained firm: "I don't want to kill the horses."
"Put the carriage in Historic Park or something," Gigliello said.
"I'll sell you guys my business," Councilman Mike Dudick chimed in, "if you want to stop time shares."
"We'll get some information and come back to you," town manager Rick Holman finally told council members before they moved to adjourn the meeting.
In the coming weeks, town staff would negotiate a deal to buy the business, High Country Carriage LLC.
A month and two council meetings after Mamula openly suggested buying the horse-drawn carriage, an emergency town ordinance appeared on the council's agenda with language specifically killing any hopes someone might have of operating a pedal bus, pedicab or horse-drawn carriage in town.
At this time, there are no applications for permits, nor is anyone currently operating a permit, town staff told council before its members, all in attendance, voted unanimously in support of the measure. In the ordinance exists a provision to allow special permits for those activities, but only for one-time events. Passed as an emergency ordinance, the new law required only one vote and took effect immediately.
There were brief mentions of the town's purchase of the business at Tuesday's council meeting, but no details of the agreement were discussed and the new law passed with little fanfare.
Responding to a request for details of the sale, Holman said the town agreed to pay $25,000 for the rights to the business only.
Calls to High Country Carriage LLC on Friday were not returned by press time.
According to documents on file with the Colorado Secretary of State, Jon Maxwell of Breckenridge filed an articles of organization for High Country Carriage on Aug. 3, 2016. A website for the business is no longer operational.
At the very least, the town recouped two prime, Main Street parking spaces out of the deal, where the horse-drawn carriage had been loading and unloading its passengers. Meanwhile, the owners got to keep the horse and buggy, rendering any proposals for a bonfire moot.
Framing the measure as an issue of public safety and traffic control, Holman conceded the town could have simply passed the law without buying the rights to the business, but that would have effectively pulled the rug out from under the owners who were trying to sell, he said, adding that the town's decision should not be interpreted as a knock against the owners in any way.
If fact, the town manager said the business had been "a nice amenity for the town for a lot of years … but we think it had come to the end of its useful life in town based on how much we can handle on our streets."