Selectmen deny plan for van tours of Edgartown

Residents of downtown Edgartown turned out in force at the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday, for a public hearing on a plan to operate tours through the historic town.

Ron Minkin, who operates a charter company, applied for a street license, to operate tours using 14-passenger vans.

Mr. Minkin said he already operates tours in similar vehicles, but as a charter company, he cannot advertise, solicit, or combine groups in one vehicle.

Margaret Serpa, chairman of the board of selectmen, noted that numerous residents sent letters and emails, all in opposition. At the hearing, five residents spoke in opposition, none in favor.

“Something like this is appropriate for Los Angeles,” Stuart Lollis of Plantingfield Way said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate here.”

Several residents feared additional traffic on the narrow downtown streets. Others objected to the size of the vehicles, calling them tour buses.

“It’s called a van,” Mr. Minkin replied, “the same size as your SUV, as 82 taxicabs on Martha’s Vineyard. You’re trying to stop something that won’t change your life one iota.”

The board of selectmen voted 2 to 0 to deny the application. Ms. Serpa and Art Smadbeck voted no. Selectman Michael Donaroma did not attend.

“There really has been no need expressed to have this service in Edgartown,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “Driving into Edgartown, into the teeth of the traffic, just doesn’t make any sense.”

Mr. Minkin can appeal the selectmen’s decision to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT). After a public hearing, DOT could issue a tour operator’s license even without a street license from selectmen.

After selectmen denied a similar request last year, Mr. Minkin appealed to state authorities, but the state dismissed his appeal because he did not file it in time.