Oak Bluffs selectmen asked to act on mopeds

Debate on King’s Rentals zoning violation serves as the opening salvo of a renewed battle to curtail mopeds on Martha’s Vineyard.

King's Rentals on Circuit Avenue Extension in Oak Bluffs. — The MV Times file photo

The agenda at Tuesday night’s Oak Bluffs selectmen’s meeting listed a “Discussion of King’s Rentals layout on Circuit Avenue Extension.” On the face of it, the discussion was in response to a complaint that King’s Rentals, a moped and bicycle rental business, was in violation of a town zoning bylaw that prohibits private businesses from using town-owned land.

However, at the heart of the discussion was a much bigger issue — to ban or not to ban moped rental businesses in town. While chairman Gail Barmakian tried to keep the discussion on the zoning violation, the majority of people at the well-attended meeting were there to pressure selectmen to consider a ban on moped businesses outright.

Campaigns to ban mopeds have come and gone on Martha’s Vineyard, with no success. The current movement was sparked by a horrific accident on July 30 when two young women from New Hampshire collided with a dump truck, one of them losing a leg at the scene.

Three of the four moped rental businesses on the Island operate in Oak Bluffs. A fourth operates in Tisbury.

All three of the Oak Bluffs moped businesses, King’s Rentals, Island Hopper’s (sic) and Ride-On Mopeds, are co-owned by Jason Leone.

Ms. Barmakian said Mr. Leone was unable to attend the meeting due to an emergency.

The recent Streetscape Survey done by the Oak Bluffs Downtown Streetscape committee showed that King’s Rentals was storing mopeds on town property, and that town property was also used for the state-mandated “test track” which riders must complete successfully before venturing onto public roadways.

The discussion Tuesday night was prompted by an August 12 letter to the board of selectmen by Nicole Brisson of Edgartown, in which she cited the zoning bylaw violation, and a litany of state and town bylaw violations, including late payments on business permits, incomplete applications, and lack of proper training by the three Oak Bluffs moped operations.

Ms. Brisson is spearheading a rejuvenated “Mopeds Are Dangerous” campaign.

Ms. Brisson told selectmen she recently rented a moped at King’s Rentals, and was told if she didn’t fall when she got on a stationary moped, she could attempt the test track. The route began on Circuit Avenue Extension, with a right turn onto Pasque Avenue, then a right turn on Oak Bluffs Avenue back to King’s Rentals and a “horribly dangerous intersection” — in busy August traffic.

Ms. Barmakian said that she and Mr. Whritenour had spoken to Mr. Leone last week, and that he told them he’d already removed a number of mopeds.

Selectman Mike Santoro confirmed that the the number of mopeds on the property had diminished in the past week.

Mr. Barmakian also said that Mr. Leone told her that a previous board of selectmen voted to allow him to use the town-owned land on Circuit Avenue Extension.

Alice Butler, office administrator for town administrator Robert Whritenour, said an extensive search of selectmen’s meeting minutes showed no such agreement.

Selectman Kathy Burton, a branch manager at the nearby Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank in downtown Oak Bluffs, said she sees King’s Rentals in operation every day, and that she was “very concerned” about what she sees. She said that she’d seen many instances of people leaving King’s Rentals who were in questionable control of their mopeds.

“I haven’t checked since this reduction, but I don’t know how it’s possible that you could have mopeds just on their private property,” she said. “I’ve been concerned about them conducting a private business on public property, and that’s not right. I get so upset about this I just broke my pen.”

“It’s a problem situation,” Mr. Whritenour said. “It’s going to take a while to figure out what is appropriate there.”

Mr. Whritenour said he thought a joint effort between the police and the selectmen would provide an appropriate solution.

“I have extreme concerns, and I would say the town could be liable to litigation,” former Chilmark Police Chief and Oak Bluffs homeowner Tim Rich said.

Selectmen agreed to discuss the topic further, with Mr. Leone present, at their next meeting on Sept. 13.

In other business, selectmen unanimously voted to accept two donations, totaling $1,137, to defray the cost of this summer’s beach raking on Pay Beach and Inkwell Beach. Richard Seelig presented a $661 check from the Oak Bluffs Citizens Beach Committee, and Caroline Hunter presented a check for $476 on behalf of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the first African American sorority in the country.