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July 25, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Las Vegas City Council votes to allow horse-drawn carriages downtown

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Frank Franklin II / AP

Passengers enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride near Central Park on New Year’s Eve day, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in New York.

Click to enlarge photo

This map outlines downtown horse carriage approved and prohibited routes.

Though they argued it would lead to more congested streets downtown, the mayor and two Las Vegas City Council members were outvoted: horse-drawn carriages are on their way.

Despite concerns voiced by some residents, Mayor Carolyn Goodman and council members Lois Tarkanian and Stavros Anthony, four other council members supported the measure: Ricki Barlow, Bob Coffin, Bob Beers and Steve Ross.

Ross said horse-drawn carriages would be “kind of neat.”

Coffin said the city years ago approved an ordinance allowing carriage rides, so he felt his hands were tied as long as business operators meet all of the city’s requirements.

Barlow argued that the carriages would help downtown’s tourist trade. “It will allow us to keep tourists in downtown a little bit longer,” he said. “I think it’s something we need to at least allow to take place for 12 months.”

The city’s map of allowable routes includes almost every street north to south from Stewart Avenue to Bonneville Avenue and east to west from Maryland Parkway to Main Street.

Maryland and Main are not included, nor is Fremont Street. Four blocks of Casino Center, from Carson Avenue to Bonneville, also are not included.

The approved roads cross busy Las Vegas Boulevard at six different intersections.

Several operating restrictions apply, including that the horses cannot be used when the temperature reaches 90 degrees.

A few residents noted that the city’s restrictions seemed to be lacking. One person pointed out that the city’s regulations take up seven pages, while New York City’s covers 38 pages.

Karen Lane, president of the Las Vegas Humane Society, said horse-drawn carriages could be a public relations problem for Las Vegas.

“You can treat the animals wonderfully but to tourists whose perception is the animals are not being treated well, you are creating a problems for yourself,” she said.

Gina Greisen, head of Nevada Voters for Animals, said the city’s ordinance, approved in 2007, is outdated. She said she didn’t think the carriages were a good fit for downtown

“There’s so many great things going on downtown...To bring so much negativity, it’s just wrong,” she said.

The city approved rules for horse-drawn carriages in 2007, when downtown wasn’t close to where it is today in terms of economic redevelopment, Tarkanian said.

“I do not feel that we are doing something progressive for the city and adding another problem for the city,” she said.

Anthony said it was not a good idea.

“I don’t think it’s good for the horses going up and down the street in this heat. I don’t think it’s going to be good for traffic,” he said.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown; he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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