Oak Bluffs selectmen return to mopeds issues

Tim Rich, retired Chilmark police chief and a sharp critic of moped rentals, questioned how moped businesses operate at the Tuesday night selectmen's meeting.

Continuing a conversation from their August 23 meeting, Oak Bluffs selectmen on Tuesday night discussed town bylaw violations by King’s Rental, one of three moped-rental businesses in Oak Bluffs, located on Circuit Avenue Extension.

On the face of it, the discussion was in response to a specific complaint that King’s Rental was in violation of a town zoning bylaw that prohibits private businesses from using town-owned land. But as was the case at the previous meeting, the conversation frequently touched on other moped-related issues.

Todd Rebello, former Oak Bluffs selectman who helped write the moped town bylaws 14 years ago, was on hand to speak to the board about his discussions with King’s Rental co-owner Jason Leone.

“I spent about a week and a half examining this, and I came to the conclusion that the complaint was somewhat valid,” Mr. Rebello said. “I showed [Mr. Leone] the property lines that he thought were appropriate were not appropriate, and that he needed to remedy the situation. I told him this is not a show of might, you don’t need to have every moped in your arsenal down there on display.”

Mr. Rebello said since that conversation, Mr. Leone had substantially reduced the moped inventory at the location, and that the mopeds were no longer parked on town-owned land. “I hope you all have taken notice of the difference,” he said.
Lack of appropriate instruction was a frequently stated concern.

“I can see that everything is within the lines, but I’m still concerned about the training that goes on in the road,” selectman Kathy Burton said.

Tim Rich, former Chilmark Police Chief and Oak Bluffs homeowner, asked selectmen why the 2004 bylaw requiring a test track was not enforced.

“Under the moped bylaw section seven, it calls for an on-premise, unobstructed training track, and says board of selectmen can waive the training-track requirement,” he said. “Has this been done by yourselves or a previous board of selectmen?”

Mr. Rich also suggested that allowing a private business to use town roads as a test track may expose the town to litigation.

Mr. Rebollo said the bylaw requiring a moped business to have a test track on premises, practically impossible in the downtown district, was intended to prevent new moped businesses from opening. But pre-existing businesses like King’s Rental are grandfathered, and therefore exempt from the test-track bylaw.

Mr. Rebello said the existing bylaw prohibiting the sale or transfer of moped business licenses was intended to eliminate mopeds by attrition. That strategy appears to be working.

“We wanted the moped shops to go away, but we didn’t want to put someone out of business; that’s not how we do things in our community,” he said. “When we started there were 680 mopeds, now the numbers are down to 250, and we haven’t spent a legal dollar.”

With regard to renter safety, Mr. Rebello said prospective renters at King’s rentals were given a series of tasks before they were allowed to go on the road, and that this summer King’s Rentals had failed 400 customers and refunded their money.

“Post-rental, I’ve seen people drive over my lawn,” Mr. Rebello said. “That’s a whole other discussion.”

“For me, there’s a lot that needs to be tightened up,” chairman of the selectmen Gail Barmakian said. “We need to talk to town counsel about it.”

“Tisbury tried to ban mopeds and couldn’t, because the state allows them and we’re stuck with them,” selectman Greg Coogan said. “Unfortunately a lot of it is out of our control. We are in a difficult position to demand that they do something that’s not within our purview.”

Selectmen agreed to have a more comprehensive discussion about moped bylaws, and to involve town counsel and the chief of police.

In other business, selectmen voted unanimously to hold a special town meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15.