Oak Bluffs selectmen endure rowdy night with constituents
Although little actual business was tended to at the Oak Bluffs selectmen's meeting Tuesday night, residents showed up in droves to complain, criticize, or debate their neighbors and various elected officials.
Meeting without chairman Duncan Ross, who was vacationing, selectman Greg Coogan led the meeting, during which small geysers of emotion erupted all evening in the packed room.
Zipping through the first part of the short agenda in record time, the meeting met its first raucous quarrel when Joe Mikos sought a special permit to operate a photography studio from his home.
According to a new bylaw passed at the April 12 annual town meeting, business owners who wish to run a business out of their homes must get a special permit and meet new regulations.
Addressing the board, Mr. Mikos said he is a wedding photographer who would like to process the digital photos from a studio at his home at 48 Vineyard Avenue.
Immediately after one neighbor declared support of Mr. Mikos's request, another abutter declared that bright lights from Mr. Mikos's studio shine directly into his bedroom at night and that delivery trucks frequent the home business, kicking up large amounts of dust.
"I've had five congestive heart failures and a stroke," Charles Barr, the abutter, steamed. "I don't need this kind of aggravation. The bottom line of this thing, it's screwing up my lifestyle. And I don't need that."
In an earnest tone, Mr. Mikos said he is in the process of covering his driveway with shells, and he has erected the outdoor motion sensor light due to a neighborhood Peeping Tom.
The selectmen were sympathetic to Mr. Barr's claims, but also made light of the situation.
Mr. Coogan said not only businesses shine bright lights into their neighbor's yards, and if he could, he would "take a BB gun and shoot out all the outdoor lights my neighbors have."
Selectman Kerry Scott said she felt uncomfortable giving the special permit to Mr. Mikos, due to Mr. Barr's complaints.
"We talk so often about not disturbing people where they live by the decisions that we make," she said. "I agree with everything Greg said, but I would hate to be miserable for a whole year."
The board agreed to revisit the topic at their next meeting on Sept. 26, after special conditions are considered.
"I think these are fixable problems," Mr. Coogan said. "I don't think this is some guy who's putting up a tree stumping business in the middle of a residential area."
Oak Bluffs residents Linda Marinelli and Anne Margetson, neither of whom lives in Mr. Mikos's neighborhood, said they felt the need to join in the discussion.
Ms. Margetson said she understood why Mr. Barr might be bothered by bright lights, and Mrs. Marinelli, who was for years in the shellfish business, asked what type of shells would be put down on the driveway. "Are they fresh shucked?" she inquired.
In a much shorter and less contentious public hearing, the board approved a special permit for Richard Walton to operate his "small, country-type of law practice" from his home at 39 New York Avenue.
During the designated public comment section at the end of the meeting, residents brought up issues ranging from demands for cash to the deafening noise made by motorcycles.
Henrietta "Penny" Norris revisited an ongoing battle she has had with the highway department and the selectmen.
A very angry Ms. Norris read a hand-scribed, three-page letter detailing a lengthy he-said-she-said conflict over an area in front of her property.
She claims the area where she has parked her car for 37 years is part of her property and that the selectmen owe her $713 for gravel she had spread over the ground. She demanded payment that night.
Highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. calmly explained that the area Ms. Norris claims is her property, is in fact town land, according to a survey conducted by the town. He added that people had complained about where Ms. Norris had been parking her vehicle, and that is why the survey was conducted.
Backing up Ms. Norris's claim, Barbara Linton, an Edgartown resident, sternly demanded to see the deed to the home. When Mr. Coogan asked her to soften her tone, she shouted back "Show us the deed! Show us the deed!" A back and forth squabble ensued, after which Mr. Coogan simply moved on to the next public comment.
In a telephone conversation with Ms. Norris yesterday morning, she said, at her request, the highway department came to her home at 8 am to cut the grass and replace browning bushes that are on the town-owned parcel of land in front of her home.
David Morris, who has taken to sitting in on board meetings since losing to selectman Ron DiOrio in last month's special election, asked if anything could be done about the loud motorcycles in town.
Many others nodded in agreement, citing their own stories of bikes charging down their street at all hours.
In other business, Mr. DiOrio plugged an ethics training session that will take place in Chilmark on Oct. 19.
"I urge anyone running for a committee to attend," he said. "It's a great way to learn what the do's and don'ts of government are."
At selectman Roger Wey's request, Mr. Combra agreed to store a trailer stocked with $60,000 worth of emergency management equipment at the highway department. The trailer is now parked in the driveway of emergency management coordinator Peter Martell.
"Any type of town equipment should be stored on town property," Mr. Wey said. "Now, it is much easier to access in case of a real emergency."
In a unanimous vote, the board appointed Kris Chvatal to a one-year term on the finance committee.