Edgartown selectmen reject off-season van tours

Edgartown selectmen unanimously rejected an application to operate ticketed tours through downtown streets in the less busy months of the year.

Martha’s Vineyard Transport owner Ron Minkin asked selectmen to operate on downtown streets except for the months of July and August. During July and August, he asked to pick up and drop off passengers on Church Street.

Mr. Minkin operates a charter business. As such, he cannot solicit tour customers, or advertise tours, but Mr. Minkin said he legally conducts tours through downtown streets six or seven times a day, for customers who call his charter business and request tours.

After selectmen turned town his request to operate tours last summer, Mr. Minkin appealed to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the agency that issues tour operator licenses. The DPU granted the license for nearly all Island roads, except for most of Edgartown’s downtown streets.

“They were convinced it was a public safety issue,” Mr. Minken told selectmen at the hearing. “Downtown Edgartown was portrayed as an accident waiting to happen.”

Police chief Tony Bettencourt did not support the application. “I think we’re still too congested in the off-season,” Mr. Bettencourt said. “I don’t see a sudden drop in traffic, I don’t see a sudden drop in congestion.”

A large group of residents who live on downtown streets spoke against the application. One person spoke in favor.

Also Tuesday, selectmen voted to set October 25 as the date for a special town meeting. Town administrator Pam Dolby is working to finalize warrant articles that will deal with leasing of property for cell towers, the town’s utility scale solar project, as well as relatively small appropriations for new accounting software and liability insurance. The special town meeting may also include action on the Warren House, a historic North Water Street property purchased by the town for $3.5 million as part of a library expansion. Those plans were later scrapped when private fundraising for the library fell far short of goals.