Desperate Oak Bluffs residents snub rules
Several Oak Bluffs residents, living and working in the most congested areas of town and not typical by age or habit of the usual scofflaw, use illegal methods to guarantee themselves prime parking spaces, while other residents and visitors wander about town in search of sparse legal parking.
Over a 10-day period, The Times documented several parking violations that, taken together, suggest that some Oak Bluffs residents have repeatedly used parking obstructions to block parking on public roads, while others have left notes of explanation in the windshield of illegally parked cars.
In the first case, some residents placed a hodgepodge of household items - including trash barrels, lawn chairs, orange cones and unauthorized no parking signs - on the street to enforce what they saw as their customary right to the parking spots.
"I have been trying to park my own car in front of my own house for I don't know how many years," said Evelyn Tyner, 91, of Wamsutta Avenue, in a phone interview with The Times this week. "I can hardly ever get a spot. People have the nerve to come up there and move my chairs. That gets me cussing at them."
Ms. Tyner's determination to park in front of her house is matched by other delinquent parkers in and around town.
One example of the territoriality of these parking offenders occurred several weeks ago when a pair of siblings, lifelong visitors, came to Oak Bluffs from Vineyard Haven to enjoy a weekend dinner in town. They were challenged for moving a lawn chair outside 51 Pequot Avenue. The visitors were told by the resident that they were "ruining the Island" and that if their mother had been witness to the situation "she would be ashamed."
Ms. Tyner's daughter, Leona Martin, often places four chairs in the street in front of the house, taking up enough space for up to four cars to park. Ms. Martin said she had tried to get designated parking for her elderly mother through a request to the town's board of selectmen, but to no avail.
Ms. Martin said she is unaware of what the law is concerning her blocking those spaces, but she says she has a right to reserve spaces for family and friends.
Photo by Alex Bell
"When I have relatives here, it is difficult to save spaces for them because it fills up with everyone getting dinner in town," said Ms Martin, in a phone interview with The Times this week. "I hate fighting for those spaces, and I hate putting the chairs out, but why do I need to run around town looking for parking? I don't really know what rights we have to the space outside the house. Is it against the law? It's a real problem for us."
The answer to Ms. Martin's question is yes, according to Oak Bluffs highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr.
"It is illegal to try to reserve a public parking spot with any type of obstruction," said Mr. Combra, in a phone interview this week. "All tires need to be on the property for it to be a private parking spot. The town will give a resident about a 10-foot access area outside of their property if they do not have a driveway, but not the whole length. But residents are by no means allowed to put up obstructions or signs."
Lieutenant Tim Williamson of the Oak Bluffs Police Department acknowledged that the practice of protecting parking spaces is against the law, but he said his department tries to work with residents to accommodate their parking needs.
"There is very limited space for these property owners, and they pay property taxes, so we try and get them the spaces they need near the house," said Lieutenant Williamson. "On the other hand, they have no legal rights to block off the roads. It's an accepted practice to park in front of one's house, but I don't think anyone has a right to do that."
In an email sent to The Times after he had been provided with photographs documenting several of the violations, Lieutenant Williamson said one evening this week that he had spoken with staff within the OBPD and the highway department and that they are "going to advise the violators to move their chairs/cones off of the road during [that] evening's shift."
Another parking issue that has come to the attention of Lieutenant Williamson is the common practice of residents and employees who work in town who place notes in the front windshields explaining why they have parked illegally.
One note found on a car in a four-hour parking spot on Oceanview Avenue read, "Work for Island Transport - PLEASE DON'T TICKET!!!" Another note found on a large pick-up truck parked in a no-parking zone for several hours on Healy Way pleaded, "Dear OBPD, I live at 41 Ocean Ave. Please don't ticket, thank you." It was signed by the resident.
None of the cars observed by Times reporters displaying such notes had been ticketed, but Lieutenant Williamson says his department has begun to address the issue. "That is something I have recently heard about," he said. "Some people believe that others are getting preferential treatment when it comes to employee parking in timed spots around town. They are not. We are starting to begin addressing that. We need the parking available for people who come into town to do their errands or to shop. We can't have waitresses or bartenders or whoever coming in and taking up parking for their eight-hour shifts. We have an obligation to store owners to keep spaces open for their customers."