Oak Bluffs selectmen tend to business on school vacation week

Plastic bag ban bylaw and new FEMA flood maps are discussed.

In this file photo taken in the summer of 2014, a half barrel planter next to Oak Bluffs Harbor overflows with litter. — Photo by Barry Stringfellow

Oak Bluffs selectmen explored several facets of the litter problem in town at the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday night. With seemingly most of the Island away during school vacation week, the agenda was light.

Selectmen continued their discussion of a bylaw that would ban the use of disposable plastic bags. Selectman Gail Barmakian, who chaired the meeting in the absence of chairman Michael Santoro, suggested that selectmen further evaluate the impact that the proposed bylaw would have on merchants. She added that the bylaw, which is being championed Island-wide by the Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS), is vague in terms of enforcement.

The bylaw will be on the warrant for annual town meeting in April.

Samantha Look from the VCS informed selectmen that the bylaw will also be on the annual town meeting warrants in Edgartown, Chilmark, Aquinnah, and Vineyard Haven. In West Tisbury, selectmen have signed off on the measure, and it awaits FinCom approval.

Ms. Look said that Stop & Shop has responded favorably to the idea in initial discussions. She said management at Tony’s Market was also receptive to the ban. She said information is available at the VCS website.

Selectmen agreed to hold a public hearing on the bag ban bylaw at their next meeting on Tuesday, March 9.

Christine Todd, executive director of the Oak Bluffs Association (OBA), told the board that the OBA has allocated funds for a part-time litter monitor for the downtown area during the summer. She said the OBA is also creating a brochure to educate residents, visitors, and businesses about trash removal, covering items such as pickup schedules, the sticker system, recycling, and rules and hours of the refuse station. The brochures will be given out at the information booth and given to real estate agents for distribution to renters. A poster campaign is also being planned.

Ms. Todd also reported that Oak Bluffs and Edgartown liquor store owners were strongly opposed to a voluntary ban on the sale of nip bottles. “The bottles are all over the place, and it’s really criminal,” she said. “We’ll continue to have them on our front burner.”

“Unfortunately, most of the damage is done at some of the most beautiful places on the Island,” selectman Greg Coogan said. Mr. Coogan suggested asking liquor store owners to put up signs encouraging proper disposal of the bottles.

In other business, a resident of the Viera Park area, who declined to give her name to The Times, told selectmen that the new Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), charted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the town, had incorrectly designated her property in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). “We’re 12 feet above sea level,” she said. “I can’t figure out why we’re in a flood zone and some low-lying property, some of which belongs to the Land Bank, is not in that zone,” she said. She also asked the town to provide assistance in rectifying the error, since the public was not made aware of the 90-day comment period, which ended Jan. 20.

Ms. Barmakian also questioned the FIRM’s accuracy, and suggested that the town may be well served in spearheading an appeal, since there is also a significant amount of town property designated in the SFHA.

Town administrator Robert Whritenour said that irrespective of the comment period, individual homeowners can appeal their designation at any time by filing a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) with FEMA. He also said the town will help guide homeowners through the LOMA process.

Selectmen voted unanimously, 4-0, to give Larkin Stallings, proprietor of the Ritz Cafe on Circuit Avenue, permission to close from Wednesday, Feb. 24, until Monday, Feb. 29. Mr. Stallings requested the closing so the floors of the the iconic bar/nightclub/restaurant could be cleaned and sealed, which he described as “10 years overdue.”

Selectmen also voted unanimously to give Mr. Stallings permission to provide live entertainment at his establishment on Sundays when he reopens. The Ritz will have live music six nights a week, and continue karaoke night on Monday.

Ms. Todd took the opportunity on behalf of the OBA to commend Mr. Stallings for the improvements he’s made to the establishment since he took ownership in June 2014.

In his update to selectmen, Mr. Whritenour said that local estimated receipts for the town for FY16 were up almost nine percent from the same time in FY15. He credited the collection of penalties and interest in back taxes as a major source of the increased revenue.

Selectman Kathy Burton took the opportunity to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the former chairman of the Oak Bluffs Affordable Housing Committee, Marie Doubleday, who stepped down due to health reasons.