Council still undecided on pedicabs

WILLIAMSBURG --  City Council couldn't make up its mind Monday about pedicabs on the streets of Williamsburg, particularly in the Historic Area.

Because much of the discussion centered on the Historic Area, Vice Mayor Paul Freiling, a Colonial Williamsburg employee, abstained from discussion. Colonial Williamsburg has taken no public stance on the pedicab question. City Manager Jack Tuttle said after the meeting the foundation has had nothing to say privately either.

Bob Arditi initially wanted to start a business using pedicabs to give guided tours. He was told last month that the city's tour guide ordinance is designed for walking tours only.

And, according to a memo to Council from city attorney Christina Shelton, current city ordinances ban solicitation or selling anything from a vehicle or cart in city streets. That alone bans the operation of pedicab business for profit.

Shelton said to allow the business would require changing city code. However, she said while it's unusual in a Dillon Rule state, City Council actually has broad discretion in how to regulate pedicabs.

"The city owns its streets and can regulate their use in any way it likes," she said.

But council is unsure what it would like to do about pedicabs.

Arditi said that if he couldn't give tours, the business would operate as a transport company, with most of its revenue coming from advertising on the cabs. He said the city could certainly overrule anything it found offensive.

But the council members involved in the discussion all seemed to find advertising itself offensive.

"I think we have consensus that we don't want any advertising," said Mayor Clyde Haulman.

But Scott Foster and Doug Pons pointed out that Arditi said he wouldn't need to sell advertising if he was allowed to give tours.

"I wonder if there isn't some way we could do this under our tour guide ordinance," Pons said. "This could be something new and fresh in town. Sometimes we have to look beyond the old ways of doing things."

Foster also seemed interested in finding a way to make Arditi's business work.

Haulman and Judy Knudson seemed less so.

"I just don't know if we want to open this can of worms," Haulman said.

However, Haulman said he did see the benefit of the pedicabs in helping people get around Colonial Williamsburg, a walking intensive attraction that can be difficult for the disabled to negotiate.

Council eventually decided to ask city staff to come up with guidelines for tours using pedicabs and to bring them back at a future meeting.

Shelton, who researched more than a dozen pedicab ordinances around the country, including Norfolk's recently passed law, said she hadn't seen one that specified their use for tours.

"That doesn't mean there isn't one out there," she said. "But I didn't find it in three days of looking."

Asked by Haulman if staff was clear on what council wanted, Tuttle grinned and shook his head.

"We'll do something," he said.

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