Wednesday, February 20, 2008

News---Gettysburg Town Council Limits Size of Folktellers' Audience, Maybe

Gettysburg Prepares To Limit Walking Tours, Erin James, Evening Sun,02/14/2008

In time for the upcoming tourist season, Gettysburg officials are on schedule to approve an ordinance that places a 26-person limit for guided walking tours in the borough. Controversy about a potential limit - which affects the town's many ghost-tour companies - was sparked last summer, when the borough's public safety committee proposed a 15-person cap.

Objections from the owners of ghost-tour companies prompted the committee to increase that number to 26, including the tour guide. On Monday, the Borough Council gave solicitor Harry Eastman the authority to advertise the ordinance so council can vote on it in March. If the ordinance passes in March, the regulations would be law by April 1, Eastman said.

Despite a lull of several months without action on the ordinance, at least one owner of a ghost-tour company is not bothered by the timing. "We knew it was going to happen," said Mark Nesbitt, owner of the Ghosts of Gettysburg tour company. Nesbitt said he is also satisfied with the limit of 26 people. Last summer, Ghosts of Gettysburg averaged about 25 people per tour, so the tour company probably will not lose money because of the regulation, he said. Smaller tour companies could be affected, however, Nesbitt said.

That's because the ordinance, if passed, would also require company owners to hold liability insurance that includes the borough as an additional insured party - something Nesbitt said will likely pose financial issues for less-established tour companies. Discussion about regulating walking tours began when Baltimore Street residents complained in 2006 about noise, littering and property damage because of a growing number of ghost tours in the borough. At least 13 companies conducted tours in 2006.

Also on Monday, the Borough Council voted to advertise an amendment to another ordinance, which regulates horse-drawn carriages in the borough. As is, the ordinance does not specify the regulations refer specifically to carriage services doing business in the borough. For example, the borough did not mean to regulate Amish buggies, Eastman said.

The amendment designates horse-drawn carriages "for hire" as subject to the regulations. That ordinance could also be voted on in March and become effective by April 1, Eastman said.

Contact Erin James at

Photo: Ghosts of Gettysburg store

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