In marathon, Tisbury selectmen juggle shellfish, houseboats, trash

The nearly four-hour meeting included a plea by opponents of synthetic turf, and a debate over its pros and cons.

Tisbury selectmen tackled a long agenda Tuesday night. — Cathryn McCann

Tisbury selectmen held a lengthy session Tuesday night that encompassed a variety of regulatory and political hot potatoes. By the time the meeting was over, town leaders had approved new shellfish regulations, a new fee schedule for trash disposal, and stepped back from stepping into the synthetic turf debate.

A recent proposal by nonprofit MV@Play for a privately funded $12 million community athletic complex at the regional high school has sparked debate across the Island over the use of synthetic turf. Tuesday, the debate continued at the selectmen’s meeting, where community members opposed to the synthetic turf proposal urged the board to refer the project to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) for review as a development of regional impact (DRI).

The first phase of the project, a new track and synthetic turf multisport infield with an organic infill, was recently approved at a Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) committee meeting. Superintendent of Schools Matt D’Andrea said the high school and MV@Play have signed a licensing agreement for the project.

Tuesday night, Tisbury resident Lillian Robinson questioned if the public had been given enough exposure to the proposal prior to the school committee vote.

“Essentially this was not before the public to a great extent, and many members of the public feel that a significantly greater amount of review is needed before a decision can be made, and that’s why many of us are requesting that this go before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission,” she said.

West Tisbury resident Jessica Miller emphasized that the project has a regional impact on the community, and said the school committee made a hasty decision on the project.

School representatives urged those opposed to the project to trust the school committee’s judgment. “I would hope that you would trust the town’s elected school committee members on the regional school committee to have made the best and correct choice for our Island and our Island children,” MVRHS school committee member Janet Packer of Tisbury said.

Mr. D’Andrea echoed that sentiment. “The school committee is very thoughtful about the decisions they make,” he said. “As superintendent of schools I’ll tell you, they’re very thoughtful, and they do not rush into decisions. They look at all sides, and they make informed decisions.”

Some questioned whether the selectmen’s meeting was the appropriate venue for the discussion.

“We have a school committee that represents the region of Martha’s Vineyard; granted, you may not have liked the vote, but the vote was to accept it, and that’s a regional body that made that decision,” selectmen Larry Gomez said, adding that it should be up to the town of Oak Bluffs, where the high school is located, to “carry the banner one way or the other to the MVC.”

Selectmen Melinda Loberg and Tristan Israel said that although they had concerns with certain aspects of the proposal and process, they wanted to take a wait-and-see stance. The board agreed to take no action, with the possibility of revisiting the discussion at a later date.

No more teeth

Also Tuesday, selectmen passed new town shellfish regulations that prohibit “drags with teeth, tines, rakes, scoops, fingers, or any other extension, attachment, or device the constable finds harmful or damaging to eelgrass or any other benthic zone vegetation.” Selectmen agreed to set off a section of Lagoon Pond behind Wind’s Up between Packer’s pier and the landing for recreational shellfishing only. Previously, the recreational-only area was in a cove off Hine’s Point, which made it difficult for recreational fishermen to access, Tisbury shellfish constable Danielle Ewart said. A third regulation stipulates the family section limit will be three limits per boat per week.

Changes to the regulations have been in discussion since November 2015, when Ms. Ewart first requested that drags with teeth be banned.

Tuesday, commercial fisherman Lynne Fraker suggested that bar drags also be banned, which she said can be very destructive. She said the language of the regulation leaves too much open to Ms. Ewart’s interpretation. “I have no problem prohibiting the list of things that are here — I don’t think it’s extensive enough, and I don’t think you should have that gray area,” she said.

Some speakers questioned the family boat limit.

“This is to just try to keep the season lasting a little bit longer, instead of everybody rushing out there,” Ms. Ewart said. “These family boats are turning into commercial boats. It’s in and out all day.”

Recreational fisherman John Packer asked for a compromise. “I understand you don’t want some guy taking 30 people out per day, but I think more than three might be a compromise,” he said. “I think having commercial boats not be recreational on the weekends would be nice also.”

Others speakers voiced concerns with commercial fishermen who also hold a recreational permit and get extra bushels for profit. Tisbury shellfish committee chairman James Tilton said the permits are a separate issue from the regulations, and have been the topic of an ongoing conversation.

Selectmen approved the proposed regulations unanimously, with the caveat that Ms. Ewart ask environmental police to monitor the selling of recreational shellfish for commercial purposes, if plausible. They asked the shellfish committee to explore other issues discussed and come back with further recommendations.

“Let’s see how it works,” Ms. Loberg said. “We’ll learn a lot this season.”

LDO fees increase

Selectmen approved a new fee schedule with increased rates for the local drop-off (LDO), based on a consultant’s review this past year. Vehicle sticker prices are up from $25 to $35 for a patron under 65, with a $10 charge for any additional vehicle or replacement sticker. Senior citizens will be charged $20 for a sticker. Stickers can be purchased at the Tisbury Department of Public Works.

A 40-gallon container of trash is up $1, from $4.50 to $5.50. Other big changes include tractor lawnmower disposal, which is up $24, from $26 to $50, and engines without oil, which are up $37, from $13 to $50, and other varied appliances. Disposal of recyclables will remain free.

“In order to cover our expense, since the local drop-off operation is losing money, is to try to stabilize the accounting for that department, so that the revenue will start to equalize expenditures,” Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande said. “That won’t happen immediately, but it will certainly close the gap, and we did talk about that at town meeting.”

Selectmen approved the new schedule with modifications to the language for commercial disposal, which will be effective July 1.

Floating vessel confusion

Selectmen held a lengthy discussion about how to monitor and permit so-called “non-water-dependent vessels” in town waters, such as houseboats and floating workshops. The board has asked the Tisbury planning board to look into the rules and regulations for such vessels, which planning board member Ben Robinson said will be done over the summer months prior to any public meetings this fall. Any changes would have to be approved at town meeting.

“If you were going to take a woodworking shop and stick it in the middle of a piece of commercial property, you go through certain parameters to be able to do that,” Mr. Israel said, referencing the floating workshop in Lagoon Pond near Vineyard Island Marina. “You have to go to the building inspector, you pay certain fees, and you get it or you don’t, based on the proposal … It’s been there for two years, and it may be wonderful, but we have no mechanism in town to apparently deal with this.”

He said he wanted answers on how to address those kinds of floating structures.

“I would like to ask the planning board and others to develop some guidelines for this, so that if we want to have this use, there’s some kind of permitting process for this use,” Mr. Israel said.

The planning board will look into the rules and regulations this year. Meanwhile, selectmen will discuss whether or not to implement a moratorium on any new floating structures at a public hearing on July 19.