O.B. Selectmen, at marathon meeting, approve 13 entertainment licenses
In a lengthy session Tuesday night, Oak Bluffs selectmen held 13 public hearings for local establishments seeking entertainment licenses. The tedious process pushed the meeting close to the four-hour mark, but devoted residents stuck it out in order to support or oppose various businesses.
Despite the long process and a handful of complaints against various establishments, including the Oyster Bar Grill and the Island House, selectmen approved all 13 entertainment licenses without any specific conditions.
"We set out a very aggressive timeline to get to this point," town administrator Michael Dutton said Tuesday evening. "This board takes entertainment licensing very seriously."
Last summer, selectmen were deluged with complaints from neighbors in downtown Oak Bluffs about booming basses and loud lyrics that were keeping them up at night. Selectmen set out to create a new application for entertainment licenses, and vowed to have public hearings when businesses came in for renewal licenses. Tuesday was the first night the board put that new policy to the test.
Renewal licenses were granted to the VFW, the Portuguese American Club, Farm Neck, Offshore Ale, the Sand Bar and Grille, Nancy's Snackbar, the Ritz Café, the Lampost, the Island House, Seasons, the Oyster Bar Grill, Balance, and Lola's.
The board welcomed comments in support or against granting the licenses, and simple questions from audience members and selectmen alike. The majority of businesses skated by without a peep from anyone, but abutters spoke up about the Oyster Bar, the PA Club, the Island House, and the Lampost.
"We're on the edge," abutter Margaret Stafursky said about noise coming from the PA Club. "I have found myself saying, 'wow they're loud.'" Ms. Stafursky said she and her husband Bill have never made a formal complaint, but are worried that noise from functions at the PA Club is escalating.
Oyster Bar Grill abutters were more forceful with their opposition. Russ Dagnall, president of the Camp Meeting Association, read letters from Campground abutters who said last summer's excellent communications with the Oyster Bar owners has broken down.
Caleb Caldwell, owner of the Madison Inn on Kennebec Avenue and a resident of the street, spoke in support of Offshore Ale, but against the Lampost.
"I just live with it. It's one of those downtown things you get used to," he said of his centrally located residence. "I didn't mind until I had the hotel, and now I'm concerned for the guests."
Owners of the Island House said that over the winter they soundproofed the back of the building with sound boards, partitions and insulation, and installed a high velocity air system so the back door will no longer have to remain open for air circulation.
"It was helpful to document the concerns that people have," Mr. Dutton said after the meeting. "Not only helpful for the selectmen, but for the applicants so they can see how the town plans to administrator and police those licenses."
In other business, selectmen approved a request for the Boston Pops to hold a concert this summer on Ocean Park. The concert will benefit the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, and $4.60 from every $40 and $50 ticket will go to the hospital. An additional 40 cents from each ticket sold will go to the Oak Bluffs parks department for restoration of the bandstand.
Local businessman Herb Putnam pitched the plan to the board, and said they expect between 5,000 and 8,000 people for the Aug. 12 concert.
Selectman Duncan Ross said the event would shine a positive light on Oak Bluffs, but selectman Ron DiOrio pushed for the town to charge the concert organizers a "substantial fee" for use of the park. Parks department superintendent Ritchie Combra Jr. said there is a flat $200 fee for use of the park.
"The hospital is already on so many free rides with the town of Oak Bluffs, and this is another free ride," Mr. DiOrio said, adding that the event would increase traffic and congestion in the area. In response, selectmen Greg Coogan said he would happily trade his home for the night, with anyone in Ocean Park that is irritated with the event.
Selectmen also voted to no longer offer the Blue Cross Blue Shield Master Medical healthcare plan to new town hires. Current employees on the plan will not be forced to switch, but Mr. Dutton said the town would offer a stipend to employees who make the switch.
The 2008 monthly premium for a family under the current plan is just over $1,800. That will drop to around $1,400 under the new plans, Mr. Dutton said. Four choices will be offered, two from Blue Cross Blue Shield and two from Harvard Pilgrim, which offer similar service and care to the current provider.