Sightseeing tour proposal sparks strong opposition in Edgartown

Residents opposed to sightseeing tours operating in Edgartown packed a public hearing, convened during the selectmen’s regular meeting Monday, to voice their objections.

Bailey Norton, who lives on North Water Street, cited the recently completed renovation of the picturesque shoreline route.

“We’ve worked seven years to complete this job, at a cost of nearly $3 million, most of this contributed by the residents of the street,” Mr. Norton said. “We’ve made some progress. Now these buses want to get involved. It’s just crazy to even think of this. This is all for the bus company, for their profit, to make a profit out of our street.”

“We walk where we go,” said Robert Hughes of Edgartown. “Send a message, we’re proud of this village, we’re welcoming. But we do that by walking.”

In December of last year, Ron Minkin of Martha’s Vineyard Transport applied for a street license to operate five 15-passenger tour vehicles. He appeared again before selectmen in June. At that time, the board took no action. Tour operators are regulated and licensed under state law, but a street license from individual towns is usually required.

Mr. Minkin did not appear at Monday’s public hearing. In a phone conversation with The Times Wednesday, he said after the required 60-day waiting period, he appealed to the Department of Public Utilities for a tour operator’s license. Mr. Minkin, selectman Michael Donaroma, and former police Chief Paul Condlin attended a hearing before state regulators on July 20. Mr. Minkin expects a decision in early August.

Mr. Minkin said if the state grants him a license, it would be too late to operate this summer.

“They threw me for the season,” Mr. Minkin said. “I had a license from five towns, I was ready to be a tour operator in April.” Mr. Minkin stressed he intends to operate tours in vans, the same size as many taxi vans now operating in Edgartown, not buses.

Mr. Donaroma said at Monday’s hearing before selectmen that objections to sightseeing tours must focus on safety and traffic issues, not a distaste for tourists peering over fences.

“This company or another company will be back,” Mr. Donaroma said. “They have the right, there are laws that guide us, we can’t just say no. We’ll do the best we can, but I have a feeling they’ll be back, and they have laws to protect them.”