Tisbury selectmen consider alcohol question in 2006
The Tisbury selectmen tied up some loose ends from 2005 at a meeting Tuesday and began the new year by approving plans for new fuel storage tanks, appointing a beer and wine sales committee, and considering possible warrant articles for the spring town meeting.
After two postponements last year of the construction of a new Lagoon Pond boat launching facility, town administrator John Bugbee announced that the state public access board has scheduled the project to start in March, with completion in May.
Although winter-spring construction is usually prohibited to protect flounder spawning and juvenile development, the public access board recently received permission from the Army Corps of Engineers, Mr. Bugbee said.
In a public hearing portion of the meeting, Ralph Packer, owner of the R. M. Packer Company, presented plans to the selectmen for the installation of four new underground fuel storage tanks on the east side of his facility to replace three underground tanks on the west side that will be removed. Mr. Packer said he also hopes to later replace another aboveground tank containing bio-diesel fuel with an underground tank, as well.
By putting the new tanks in a different location, Mr. Packer explained, fuel delivery will be safer, without hoses exposed or delivery trucks blocking traffic on Beach Road. The new steel tanks, guaranteed for 30 years, contain a secondary fiberglass layer that offers added protection against groundwater pressure. Since the tanks are located in close proximity to the harbor, Mr. Packer also will present his plans for approval by the town's conservation commission.
Asked by selectman Tristan Israel for his opinion of the plans, Fire Chief John Schilling said he had no objections, but could not sign off on the project until the construction and certified testing were complete. Mr. Israel and his fellow selectman Tom Pachico voted to approve Mr. Packer's application.
In some carryover business from 2005, the selectmen interviewed five of six candidates who volunteered to serve on a new beer and wine committee in response to an advertisement several weeks ago.
The selectmen had agreed to appoint the committee to examine the question of permitting alcohol sales in Vineyard Haven restaurants, in response to business owners and community members. "The main issue I hear is, is this going to change the town character of Tisbury?" Mr. Israel told the potential committee members.
Remarking on the number of people who volunteered for the committee, Mr. Israel said, "The depth of feeling on this issue is shown by the amount of people here tonight." He said his concern was to make sure the committee was balanced in terms of opinion.
Each committee candidate then made a brief statement about themselves and their stance on alcohol sales. Jilana Abrams, owner of The Doctor's House B & B, spoke in favor. "With the few restaurants we have, being able to serve beer and wine would be great for business and to bring life back into the town," she said.
Although Nancy Hall told the selectmen, "No one likes a glass of wine more than I do," she said she was concerned about the impact of alcohol sales on the town in terms of added law enforcement and legal costs. "I'm leaning to no, but I am willing to be swayed," said Ms. Hall, who is a member of the town's historic commission.
Gretchen Snyder, a resident of Vineyard Haven for 25 years, said she thinks beer and wine sales would change the town a great deal and would impact adversely on teens, who now have the option of hanging out in an alcohol-free town. "If it's what we're going to have to live with, then I want to be a part of the process," she said.
John Coskie, who works at the Bank of Martha's Vineyard, said he was neutral on the subject, as did James (Jim) Morse, a Vineyard Haven resident and Oak Bluffs Police Department sergeant. Mr. Morse said he wanted to serve his town, and offered his experience as a liquor license compliance officer. Bud Raymond, the sixth volunteer, was not at the meeting.
Mr. Pachico told the committee candidates, "I don't have a problem with the Black Dog serving beer or wine with dinner." However, he said, he does want to know what control the town has over alcohol sales versus the state, what kind of income Tisbury might expect from licensing fees, and what impact alcohol sales will have on law enforcement needs and the quality of life in the town.
The selectmen voted to appoint all six volunteers to the committee until June 30, 2006, and to leave it open to any other interested volunteers.
In departmental reports, town administrator John Bugbee reviewed possible warrant articles for the spring town meeting (due yesterday), including procurement of an architect and plans for a new emergency services facility, and funds for town hall repairs. The selectmen agreed to consider Mr. Bugbee's suggestions for revamping the formula for allocating ferry passenger embarkation fees, and to come up with a process for accessing the money.
In an update on projects from 2005, Mr. Bugbee said he sent a Request for Proposals (RFP) to 10 design firms for the Water Street parking lot project and hopes to have one picked by February. He also is drafting an RFP for a structural assessment of the Spring Building, approved by voters at the fall town meeting, as requested by the building preservation committee.
Another project, upgrading the Owen Park dock, remains in limbo, Mr. Bugbee said. The state has not yet received Federal funding for the grant, although the town already has agreed to put up its 25 percent.
Mr. Bugbee asked Chief Schilling to give an update on the proposed plans for a new emergency services facility (ESF). Chief Schilling said the ESF committee has met with the project architect and the Tisbury Water Department to resolve some of the High Point Lane site issues, such as grading and location of water pipes. "It still is a workable site. We don't anticipate a long delay," the chief said.
Regarding efforts to work with the Steamship Authority in reducing Vineyard Haven's traffic congestion, Mr. Bugbee said he received an e-mail this week from Wayne Lamson, general manager of the Steamship Authority (SSA). Mr. Lamson wrote that he met with the Cecil Group design firm a month ago "to see what modifications could be made to the traffic circulation patterns at the Vineyard Haven terminal to improve the flow of vehicles and pedestrians."
Mr. Bugbee said he was encouraged to hear the SSA was working on traffic arrangements. "We all agree many of the problems at Five Corners occur from traffic backup at the Steamship Authority's check-in booth," he said. The selectmen tentatively set a meeting date to discuss the plans with the SSA on January 12 at 2 pm.
In the meantime, Mr. Bugbee said he and the town's traffic review committee, including Mark London from the Martha's Vineyard Commission and Fred LaPiana, director of the department of public works, have been brainstorming ideas for reducing Vineyard Haven's traffic congestion. They plan to meet again with SSA officials and Tisbury's fire chief and police chief on January 19 at 2 pm. "I think by this summer, we will be able to try some changes that will help alleviate traffic congestion in Vineyard Haven," Mr. Bugbee said.
In other discussion, Doug Johnson, owner of the Kennedy Studios, asked the selectmen to change the town's parking regulations, which allow all-day parking on Main Street on Sundays and holidays. The problem is that store employees from other businesses refuse to use the Park and Ride Lot, he said, and tie up all of the parking spaces in front of his shop.
Mr. Johnson told the selectmen the Sunday all-day parking "can't go on through the winter. I'll be forced to close on Sundays because I have zero customers."
The selectmen agreed to hold a long overdue hearing on parking regulations on January 17 at 5:30 pm, at which time they also will meet with the DPW board of commissioners. Their regular meeting will follow.