Edgartown selectmen air concerns over seaplane landings

Edgartown Great Pond presents a tranquil scene in all seasons. — File photo by Carter Fleming

At the Edgartown selectmen’s meeting on Monday, town administrator Pam Dolby raised an issue that was not listed on the meeting agenda. On recent weekends, a seaplane has landed in Edgartown Great Pond, generating complaints from pond abutters.

Ms. Dolby said neighbors have asked town officials if existing regulations would prohibit landing a seaplane.

“Unless there is a regulation, and it is written that you cannot land a seaplane in Great Pond, then he has all the right to land his plane there,” Jane Varkonda, conservation agent, said.

Ms. Varkonda said town zoning regulations prohibit the operation of a boat on the pond powered by an engine greater than ten horsepower. Although a plane’s engine is clearly larger than the limitation, Ms. Dolby said, the interpretation of a plane’s status as a “vessel” — or even a “boat,” once the plane lands on water — remains unclear.

Ms. Varkonda added that a parks department regulation prohibits any commercial activity on the great pond, such as a ferry service or kayak rentals. She said that the police report noted that the pilot was carrying two passengers. “It’s a question whether he is operating a business,” she said. “Is it a commercial enterprise? Is he just coming in to see friends? What is he doing?”

Police Chief Tony Bettencourt said it is unclear what action police could take until he consults with town counsel Ron Rappaport. He said the department would continue to document the seaplane’s landings.

According to the police report, on July 2, Officer Immelt responded to reports of a seaplane that landed off Wilson’s Landing. There, she “observed a yellow and white plane floating on the water.”

Officer Immelt spoke with the pilot, Thomas Miozzi of Rhode Island, who said he “believed he was not doing anything wrong” when he landed his 1968 Cessna 1721 Skyhawk outfitted with pontoons on the pond.

Mr. Miozzi told the officer he had flown from South Kingston, Rhode Island, with two passengers for a brief visit to the pond after which he planned to fly to Sengekontacket Pond.

The officer explained that she was responding to a call from a resident. Mr. Miozzi told the police officer there was no Massachusetts law that prohibited him from landing on a great pond, according to the report.

In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Kitty Burke, who reported the plane to police, said she had observed the plane taking off and landing on a regular basis for the past three or four weekends.

“As the season approaches, there is more use of Wilson’s Landing,” Ms. Burke told The Times. “It is going to get too dangerous with people in boats and kayaking and kids swimming.”

Reached at Miozzi Paving, his company office, on Tuesday, Mr. Miozzi said that safety was a legitimate concern.

“I have hundreds and hundreds of hours of experience,” Mr. Miozzi said, “I keep quite a distance from anyone that’s on the pond when we are landing and taking off.”

Mr. Miozzi said that he landed near Wilson’s Landing because it was a nice, safe spot and provided good visibility of the surrounding area.

Mr. Miozzi said that he had contacted Mass Aeronautics, who told him there was no regulation against landing on the pond. He said he has been flying to the Island since 1969 and regularly lands year-round at the Katama airfield.

“If it’s annoying a lot of people, I probably will not come back,” Mr. Miozzi said. “I don’t want to cause confrontation. There are other places to land. I will emphasize that if someone else wants to land there it is still perfectly legal.

“If anybody in a kayak would like to spend an hour in the seaplane with me, then I will spend an hour in the kayak with them. People need to understand that everybody has different hobbies, and we have to respect each other for that.”

Back on the ground

Last weekend, the Edgartown police department conducted a “sting” at local liquor establishments, Ms. Dolby said. A week after distributing informational flyers concerning the sale of alcohol to minors, the police sent minors into package stores and bars with minors to purchase alcohol.

Ms. Dolby said several local establishments who were tripped up in a similar sting last year passed this year. She attributed the high success rate to the fact that many of the establishments purchased new machines that distinguish between fake and authentic IDs.

Ms. Dolby noted that Sophia’s One Stop Mart, located on Upper Main Street, failed both tests. Last year, there were two violations at the store. The selectman will schedule a hearing for Sophia’s to consider what action they will take.

According to Edgartown Police, the restaurants Lure, located at South Beach and Flatbread, located at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, also failed the compliance check when they served liquor to an underage customer acting on behalf of the police.

In other business, Ms. Varkonda presented selectmen with a report on a meeting between the wireless committee and AT&T about plans to place mobile phone antennas in the FARM Institute’s silos in Katama. “All the antennas will go inside the silo,” Ms. Varkonda said, “They will be stealth technology so that you won’t see them.”

Ms. Varkonda said it was also decided not to place the backup generators and extra equipment inside the silo, in order to provide space for other carriers to add their antennas. She explained that AT&T has agreed to build a separate weather-tight building where they will place their equipment. The selectmen are still negotiating with AT&T on the price of the lease.

Additionally, the Edgartown selectmen approved a performance review for longtime shellfish constable Paul Bagnall. “I think Paul has the interest of the fisherman,” Selectman Margaret Serpa said, “He tries to look out for them, and see that they can make a living with what they are doing, and yet keep them doing what they are supposed to be doing.”