Resident asks council to revise horse-drawn holiday tradition
Months have passed since horse-drawn carriages rolled through Highland Park filled with Christmas revelers making merry.
But for some, annoyance at the noise and traffic lingers.
“With each passing year, I feel like Highland Park is becoming a holiday sideshow,” said Tomima Edmark, who lives at Euclid Avenue and Highland Drive.
Edmark, an author, entrepreneur, and inventor of the 1990s cult hair styling tool Topsy Tail, took her complaints to the Town Council earlier this year and continues to correspond with Chief Paul Sandman, director of public safety.
“In the evening hours, I hear lots of noise and see lots of unsafe driving,” she said. “I don’t think [carriage riders] understand they are within earshot of the neighbors.”
Edmark has urged council members to reevaluate the hours allowed for carriage rides and speak to more residents about them.
The number of carriages is too high, the allowed hours are too long, and the lighting on them is insufficient to make them safely visible during rush hour traffic, she said.
The council hasn’t acted on her suggestions but heard from Sandman on the issue at its only study session in March.
“Carriage tours are enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, adding to the community’s festive spirit during the Christmas Season,” the chief reported.
With each passing year, I feel like Highland Park is becoming a holiday sideshow.Tomina Edmark
Highland Park has regulated the carriages since 2008. The council amended the code in 2015 to levy a franchise fee of 5% of gross sales for commercial use in the town limits, hike the license fee to $100, up from $50; and limit hours of operation to 11 p.m., instead of 12:30 a.m., from Sunday through Thursday while Highland Park ISD schools are in session.
The town also charges $40 to cover driver background checks.
The town doesn’t regulate carriage size. “What limits them right now is the weight two horses can pull,” Sandman said.
“We get three to five complaints per year,” Sandman said. “Last year, we had three complaints related to the carriages, but no reported mishaps between carriages and motorists.”
During the 2021 season, four vendors employed 70 drivers and 55 carriages in town, collecting more than $942,000 in gross revenues and paying the town more than $52,000 in fees.
Councilman Marc Myers wondered about the merits of increasing the franchise fee to 5.5%.
“The carriage is a legal vehicle on the street,” Mayor Margo Goodwin noted while encouraging Sandman to continue discussing the matter with Edmark and others who may have concerns. “If she has any good suggestions, we are open.”