New rules for State Beach gatherings
Dukes County commissioners approved new rules for large gatherings, or any gathering with a commercial element such as catering, on Joseph A. Sylvia State Beach at their regular meeting last week. Also, in a divided vote, the commissioners appointed Melinda Loberg of Tisbury to fill a vacant term that expires in 2011.
Longstanding beach regulations, such as a prohibition on alcohol, vehicles, open fires, and walking on the dunes remain unchanged. But there are new procedures for groups organizing large events. The original draft of those rules was changed substantially after commissioners heard from beachgoers at a public hearing in July.
Under the new rules, any group of more than 50 for a social, recreation, or commercial purpose must get a permit from the county manager. The manager will issue permits at his discretion, based on the new guidelines, but may ask a beach committee, a sub-committee of the county commission, to review the appropriateness of a permit. An event of any size, if it has a commercial element such as catering, will require a permit.
"The intent here was that the beach remain available for the public," said county manager Russell Smith. "We have to make sure people understand you can't rent the public beach."
If the event is catered, the caterer must be licensed by the board of health. The county may require the applicant to provide handicapped accessible portable toilets for a large gathering and will be responsible for removing them within 24 hours. The county can also require that the gathering provide a sheriff's detail to manage traffic, and may be required to furnish liability insurance.
The application fee for the permit is $150. There is also a $100 cleaning deposit, to be returned if the beach is left clean. Events are allowed between 5:30 and 8:30 pm. Generators, amplified music, balloons, and fireworks are not allowed.
Any event outside of the new guidelines would have to be approved by the beach committee.
Voting in favor of the new regulations were Carlene Gatting, Tristan Israel, Les Leland, and Roger Wey. Voting against were John Alley and Lenny Jason.
Ms. Loberg was one of four candidates who applied for the seat. A respected volunteer active in health and finance issues, she will serve out the term of Paul Strauss of Oak Bluffs, who resigned on July 1. The vote was 4-3.
The field included Ms. Loberg, Jesse "Jack" Law and Stephanie Michalczyk of Oak Bluffs and Christopher Knowles of Tisbury.
County clerk of courts Joseph Sollitto Jr. participated in the Wednesday August 13 vote. State law provides for a vote by the clerk in order to eliminate the possibility that the six participating commissioners could stalemate in a tie vote.
Mr. Alley of West Tisbury, Ms. Gatting of Edgartown, Mr. Israel of Tisbury, and Mr. Jason of Chilmark voted for Ms. Loberg.
Mr. Leland of West Tisbury, the commission chairman, Mr. Wey of Oak Bluffs, and Mr. Sollitto voted for Mr. Law.
Following the first ballot the commission voted unanimously to appoint Ms. Loberg.
"I'm taking a big gulp today," Ms. Loberg said Friday, acknowledging that her busy public service schedule is about to get a lot busier. A professional therapist and school counselor, Ms. Loberg is also a Tisbury ambulance service volunteer, serves as chairman of the Lagoon Pond drawbridge committee and on the Tisbury finance committee. She has lived on the Island full-time for nine years, after summering here for her entire life.
"After I spend a little time getting up to speed, I hope that my ability to build consensus will be useful to them (the commissioners) and to the Island," said Ms. Loberg. She described her approach to challenging issues. "Reach out to different groups, gather information, call in the experts and see if we can kick projects down the road a little bit," she said.
Ms. Loberg said she would focus her efforts toward regional solutions to Island problems, including waste disposal, composting, and water quality issues.
"I think what we really need to do is to demonstrate that we can do one of these things well enough to earn the confidence of the Island communities," said Ms. Loberg.
Mr. Smith said the commission is now focusing on the recommendations of the charter study commission. After 17 months of work, the commission called for only two substantive changes in the county charter. The first was to reduce the term of election from four years to two. The second was to allow commissioners to hire a part-time county manager, who serves at the will of a majority of commissioners. Currently, the law requires a full-time manager, who serves for an indefinite term.
The charter study commission report did include 32 administrative recommendations intended to "improve the efficient and effective administration of the county."
"The issues relating to the actions of the county commissioners, their relationships among themselves, with their appointees, the approach of county managers to their positions, and poor public relations in general have in the aggregate been responsible for hindering relations with the towns, and the poor public perception of county government," wrote members of the charter study commission in its final report.
"The process varies between which recommendation you're trying to implement," said Mr. Smith. "Which one of the recommendations require legislative action, which ones can be changed by vote, and which ones can be done by policy. We're going down through the recommendations."