Oak Bluffs selectmen discuss hospital plan
After a three-week hiatus, the Oak Bluffs selectman met Tuesday night, when they discussed the hospital building plan, filled a handful of town positions, and viewed an interactive presentation detailing a harbor beautification plan. Chairman Duncan Ross and the other board members spoke in front of a sparse crowd, but the audience offered opinions on several issues of interest.
During his regular update, selectman Roger Wey asked Oak Bluffs resident Brian Henderson to speak about access to the game room on Circuit Avenue. During the summer the game room has an entrance opening onto the street, but recently that door has been closed and people must enter through Seasons, he said. He said the environment is not appropriate for his teenaged children.
"It's not a good mix for the kids," Mr. Henderson said Tuesday. "I can give you a million reasons why it's not a good idea. I don't think anyone can give you one reason why it's a good idea."
They agreed to examine the regulations regarding the game room.
Next was an update on the hospital construction plan. Hospital chief Tim Walsh and Tim Sweet, vice chairman of the hospital trustees, gave an update on the final construction plan, highlighting the new location of an additional parking lot, which will now be across the street from the hospital next to the State Police barracks. They both said the planning process has been long and involved, and they are taking the concerns of Oak Bluffs residents very seriously.
Selectman Kerry Scott spoke at length about her many concerns with the project. Ms. Scott submitted a letter to the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) on Oct. 8, highlighting her views.
"We do feel proud to have the hospital here," Ms. Scott said Tuesday. "But we also have to realize there will be effects on our people."
Selectman Greg Coogan said the MVC hearings have been going on for weeks, and that the board members had plenty of time to submit something in writing. The selectmen finally agreed to submit a letter to the MVC noting that they support the project, but have concerns with the effects on Oak Bluffs abutters and the strain on the town's resources.
During public comment, Patrick King, a hospital abutter, criticized the new hospital plan. He said he will lose thousands of dollars in rent during the construction phase. "It seems like the MVC will protect the plover but it won't protect us," he said.
In a separate discussion about the newly formed Community Preservation Act (CPA) committee, selectman Ron DiOrio criticized Steve Durkee over his committee's planned application process for affordable housing funds. CPA funds will amount to $700,000 next year, some of which will fund affordable housing projects, if voters approve. Applicants are required to submit 11 copies of their application, plus a compact disc outlining their engineering plans.
"The process seems like a real burden for the families who need it the most," Mr. DiOrio said curtly. "This is a hurdle that they're going to have a difficult time getting over." Mr. DiOrio is the president of Habitat for Humanity of Martha's Vineyard.
Mr. Durkee explained that most of the applications will be from agencies working on behalf of individuals and that they have the resources and staff to gather the required materials. He added that the application requirements correspond to those in other towns.
Although it didn't make the printed agenda, the selectmen agreed to squeeze in a presentation and update by Oak Bluffs harbormaster Todd Alexander. In his yearly report to the board, Mr. Alexander said the harbor had an unremarkable year, despite having the most profitable August in its history.
Mr. Alexander said the harbor's Wi-Fi Internet service had twice as much usage as last year, that a handful of cruise ships went elsewhere due to weather, and that the harbormaster's department will replace the remaining plastic power pedestals with metal ones.
Mr. Alexander then fired up his laptop and treated the board to a "Google sketch" he created. Google sketch allows users to grab an image from Google Earth - the search giant's satellite imagining system - and add trees, benches, and improved walkways.
The harbormaster's beautification plan includes 15-foot trees approximately 50 feet apart, spanning the walkway between the harbor and Lake Avenue. Mr. Anderson said the trees would add character and beauty to the area.
"We have to make sure the trees will stand up to salt, and that they won't grow too high, because we don't want to block people's view," Mr. Anderson said, adding that the Google sketch program allows nearby residents to see how the trees will look from their property.
Highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. reported that the trees that are currently along the boardwalk would soon be decorated for the holidays. The trees are on loan at no cost to the town. They are not the permanent trees Mr. Alexander described.
In other business, the selectmen appointed Marie B. Allen to the board of assessors; Pat Ingalls to the Martha's Vineyard Regional Cultural Council; Hans von Steiger to the Wastewater Commission; and Nick Trentacost to the zoning board of appeals. George Warren and Joseph Re were named first and second alternates for that position.
And, the board approved a request from Renee Janak to expand her business, Beetlebung Coffee House, into Oak Bluffs. Ms. Janak said she has in mind a property at 73 Circuit Ave. and wanted to make sure the board had no concerns before she went through with the sale.
The board also voted unanimously to divert $10,000 donated to the Oak Bluffs planning board by developer Corey Kupersmith, to the renovation of the bandstand in Ocean Park. Town administrator Michael Dutton said Mr. Kupersmith asked that the money be used for that project.