Oak Bluffs officials say a decision on the Blinker will come soon
Tuesday night's Oak Bluffs selectmen's meeting stretched on for so long, the board lost two of its members to prior commitments, and the library had turned out its lights before public comment commenced.
The meeting encompassed a second summer resident taxpayer meeting, a hearing regarding a plan proposed by the parking and traffic committee, and further discussion concerning the blinker intersection, about which the selectmen said a final decision would be made at the next meeting.
Over 60 people attended the meeting, which kicked off with a hearty round of applause for newly elected selectman Ron DiOrio.
"I'm in my honeymoon period," Mr. DiOrio said. "And like a honeymooner, I'm going to enjoy every minute of it."
To begin yet another public discussion of the blinker light intersection, chairman of selectmen Duncan Ross read an editorial from the Vineyard Gazette advocating the need of a roundabout to ease congestion and bring peace to the junction of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven and Barnes Roads. At the conclusion of the reading, the audience was shocked to hear that it was published on May 9, 1947.
Clearly an ongoing issue, the selectmen concluded Tuesday night that a decision would be made soon about what to do at the intersection. Selectman Greg Coogan said a vote should be taken at the next meeting, about whether to install a roundabout. "Vote up, vote down, and move on," he said.
Opinions on the board of selectmen, and among residents, are still split. Mr. Ross, Mr. Coogan, and selectman Roger Wey are vocally advocating for a roundabout, while selectmen Kerry Scott and Mr. DiOrio are less sure.
"If we move traffic more quickly through that intersection, we are just going to cause problems somewhere else," Ms. Scott said. "And I'm not in favor of that." She said she would support the installation of a right turn lane, to give motorists easy access to the airport.
The idea of a temporary roundabout - to let motorists test drive the structure - which was proposed at a public hearing two weeks ago, was discussed further. Steve Berlucci, the Dukes County engineer, said he researched the idea and spoke with the Barnstable Highway Department, which installed one using cones and barrels. He said the barrels were knocked over and the cones blew away, and the structure was taken down after only seven days.
"It more or less simulates a construction zone, which leaves motorists confused," Mr. Berlucci said, advising against the proposal. He added that Barnstable decided to install the roundabout anyway, and residents are "delighted" with the structure.
Surprisingly, public comment Tuesday came in support of a traffic light, an idea that has been generally ignored in most conversations regarding the intersection. While no selectman publicly support the installation of a traffic light, the most costly of all ideas proposed, Mr. Coogan said public comment has swayed board members decisions in the past.
"If you look ahead 60 years, you will put in a traffic light," Oak Bluffs resident Charles Ratte said on Tuesday. "It is the most farsighted solution for that intersection."
Others agreed, pushing for Oak Bluffs to abandon the entrenched idea that a traffic light would not fit into the Island atmosphere.
Old issues and new proposals
To begin the summer resident meeting, Richard Combra Jr., Oak Bluffs highway superintendent and parks commissioner, and police chief Erik Blake gave updates on concerns that were brought up at the first summer resident meeting in July. Fixing the fence along Seaview Avenue, controlling speeding on Narragansett Avenue, and signs throughout the town are all being worked on, Mr. Combra said.
"We are going to do an inventory of all town signs and make sure they're in good condition and doing what they're supposed to do," Mr. Combra said. "Every few years it's good to check every single sign in town."
Chief Blake said he has placed several officers on Narragansett Avenue, after concerns were raised about excessive speeding. He also thanked residents and business owners for their cooperation in the ongoing noise battle in downtown Oak Bluffs, noting that noise complaints for the month of August were significantly lower than in the previous summer months.
New concerns from the seasonal taxpayers included bikes on Circuit Avenue and town permits for parking near the launch ramp in the harbor, and the high tax rate was again revisited.
Things started to heat up - and the room was reduced to standing room only - when Renee Balter, a member of the parking and traffic committee, presented a parking plan for the harbor area. She was immediately attacked by business owners in that area, who asked, "Why are you doing this?"
Ms. Balter said the area is unsightly and chaotic, and that people from other parts of the Island "don't know what is going on down there." She said the committee has been working on the design for six months, but the problem has been brewing for 12 years.
Bill Anderson, owner of Anderson Bike Rental's on Circuit Avenue extension, said, "The system works. It doesn't work perfect, but it works." Many of his fellow business owners and residents of the area agreed.
After many long speeches lambasting the committee's plan, Ms. Balter thanked residents for their input and said, "we'll let you know."
In other business, the selectmen voted on a date for the special town meeting, which will be held Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 7 pm in the Oak Bluffs School.
David Morris, who lost in his recent run for board of selectmen, chimed in on the harbor parking debate, and stood up for the Combra family, who he said has been unfairly attacked recently.
"I think the selectmen need to stop people who use this meeting to attack others," he said.
An advisory committee was created to help organize the now annual Della Hardman Day. Twelve volunteers, from the Island and elsewhere, were appointed to the committee.