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Horse-drawn carriage owner unhappy with city

Michael Claridy is not happy with City Hall and showed his discontent today.

Claridy, who lives in Toney, owns a horse-drawn carriage company and wants to offer rides with his horses Big Annie and Daisy on holidays and special events in Madison.

Last summer, he applied for a business license in Huntsville and was approved promptly. Claridy said he applied in Madison last August but is still waiting for a firm answer from City Hall.

“Huntsville took it and ran with it,” Claridy said.

Claridy claims the Madison revenue office thought his request was no problem. When he checked back, he was told that his request had been turned over to city attorney Kelly Butler.

“On Sept. 28, 2011, I emailed the mayor and told him that we were having an issue,” Claridy said. “This rocked on a few more weeks and then I enlisted help with Madison County legislators.”

After another month, Claridy called Butler, who he claims was angry about his consulting the legislators. “We had a heated argument,” Claridy said.

“I’m a small business, and it’s costing me revenue,” Claridy said. “We’ve added another carriage and the support of the community (in Huntsville) has been overwhelming” for his rides downtown and at Big Spring Park.

On Feb. 21, Claridy and Daisy came to Madison and rode down Hughes Road to City Hall. “I asked the mayor to ride with me to the historic district,” but Finley declined, Claridy said.

For his carriage, Huntsville requires hydraulic brakes, flashing lights, slow-moving vehicle signage and horse diapers, and he has complied. Claridy charges $30 for a couple to ride for 15 minutes. Wedding prices vary.

“When it comes to public safety issues such as these, we will err on the side of caution,” Mayor Paul Finley said.

“Working through the details of an original request like this and creating an appropriate ordinance that addresses all issues for our citizens often takes longer than entrepreneurs are willing to wait, which they consider dragging your feet. I can live with that,” Finley said.

Claridy has not filled out any paperwork, Finley said. “Also, during his verbal requests, he has gone from wanting to offer rides in historic downtown only to offering rides in areas across the city at unspecified times, making governance a problem for us.”

The City of Madison is “not prepared to extend a carte blanche license for horse-drawn carriage rides anywhere, anytime throughout Madison,” Finley said. “Areas of concern including traffic congestion, public safety, proper cleanup and buggy inspections are all being discussed.”

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