Oak Bluffs selectmen consider permit process for shark tourney

The Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament weigh-in attracted a large crowd of onlookers to the harbor. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Oak Bluffs selectmen authorized the town’s harbor advisory committee to establish a permitting procedure to regulate large events on the harbor, a development that could provide the town with more control of the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament.

Harbor advisory committee chairman John Breckenridge presented a conceptual framework for the permitting procedure, including a draft application based on permits issued by the Parks Department and other town boards.

“The harbor advisory committee could be the appropriate avenue to review large events,” Mr. Breckenridge said in his written presentation to selectmen. “The committee would review the application and discuss offers and conditions that would help mitigate the impacts of large events on the harbor, the town of Oak Bluffs, and the services offered by town departments. Upon completion of these discussions, the harbor advisory committee would vote and make a recommendation to the board of selectmen for final approval.”

Last July, Oak Bluffs played host to the 26th Annual Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament, the Portuguese-American Club feast celebration, and the usual throngs of summer weekend visitors.

The number of arrests, as well as complaints from the public, increased dramatically, according to overwhelmed police. Following the tournament, town officials met to identify issues, analyze problems, and recommend responses.

“We’re trying to create a process,” Mr. Breckenridge said. “Currently there is no process in place. “This in no way is taking a position pro or con with regards to the tournament. We have an event that requires the resources of this town.”

Mr. Breckenridge said he hopes to have the process finalized within the next few weeks, so the harbor advisory committee can begin planning the next shark tournament.

Focus on housing

Selectmen voted to apply for Community Development Block Grants again this year, in a joint application with Tisbury. Alice Boyd of Bailey Boyd Associates, which has written and administered the grants for the past 11 years, recommended the board apply for $1 million. Selectmen asked her to focus part of the grant application on creation of affordable housing.

The grant money can be used to rehabilitate existing housing into affordable-rate apartments. As an example, she cited a garage apartment that needs repairs, owned by a family that meets the income guidelines for eligibility. They could get up to $35,000 to convert the apartment to affordable housing, and earn income from rent. Ms. Boyd said the grant money has only occasionally been allocated for affordable housing, because most homeowners balk at the stringent deed restrictions attached.

New rules

The shellfish advisory committee recommended, and selectmen unanimously agreed, to change two shellfish regulations. The first change requires permit holders who harvest scallops for a senior or disabled person to fish only during commercial hours, from 7 am to 4 pm.

The new regulation allows them to take their commercial limit, or their recreational senior limit, but not both, in one day.

Shellfish warden David Grunden said a few commercial fishermen have exploited the rules, and said he has received reports of fishermen taking more than their limit after regular commercial hours, when he does not have the staff to enforce the regulations.

“What has been happening is they have been going out late,” Mr. Grunden said. “We have to go back down and check on them, to make sure they’re not taking more than the limit.”

Selectmen also adopted a change that raises the 60-year age limit for a free senior recreational permit by one year, each year until 2017.

The current limit would increase from 60 to 65 years old. The graduated fee structure would allow people who turned 60 in 2012 to continue to get a free license, until they reach the age of 65. Anyone who turns 60 in 2013 or later, would pay a fee of $5.

After a brief public hearing, the board granted permission for NSTAR to install 40 feet of underground conduit and cable under East Chop Drive, to handle utility cables for a construction project.

The board reappointed Robert Huss to the Port Council of the Steamship Authority, and they appointed Jason Lew to the harbor advisory committee.

Selectmen named Michael Achille poet laureate of Oak Bluffs, a new position created by the board last year. “If he comes up with any poems about Nantucket, he’s fired,” said Mr. Whritenour, with a laugh.