It’s not often when a selectmen’s vote draws a rousing ovation from a full house, but it happened on Tuesday night at the weekly meeting of the Oak Bluffs selectmen.
Donald Gregory, owner of Sun ’n’ Fun, which rents mopeds, bicycles, and cars, asked selectmen to approve a swap of mopeds for rental cars. Initially he asked for approval of 25 rental cars in exchange for removing his fleet of 40 mopeds.
Selectmen were so supportive of Mr. Gregory’s proposal, they unanimously voted for a one-to-one swap, allowing him 40 additional rental cars.
Chairman of the selectmen Gail Barmakian read from Mr. Gregory’s Oct. 4 letter to the board: “There has been a tremendous amount of discussion recently as a result of the awful accident this summer. I’ve been thinking a great deal about mopeds for the past few years. As many of you know, I suffered a personal tragedy, which has added to my thought process.”
Mr. Gregory was referring to an accident July 30 in which a young woman lost a leg, and to a fatal moped accident in July 2014, when Alexandro Garcia, 22, an employee and brother-in-law of Mr. Gregory, was killed when he lost control of his moped and collided with a truck in Chilmark.
“Some of the voices in the community look at my business and say, Just get rid of the mopeds. It’s not that easy. Mopeds drive my business. I think it is worth noting that I take tremendous pride in how we rent mopeds … I’ve been trying to determine a way to remove mopeds in a manner that won’t bankrupt the company. I understand that if I remove 40 mopeds from my license, I will never get them back.”
According to town bylaw, forfeited moped licenses are voided in perpetuity.
Mr. Gregory told selectmen he’d made a deal to store his rental-car fleet, which will now total 68 cars, on DeBettencourt Service Station property, just off New York Avenue.
Selectmen were effusive in their praise.
“I applaud you,” selectman Walter Vail said.
“I think this is a great trade,” selectman Michael Santoro said. “I’d also like to point out that he’s the only rental-car business based on the Island and the only rental-car business that pays excise tax on the Island. It’s another win-win.”
Tim Rich, former Chilmark police chief and de facto chairman of the newly formed Moped Action Committee, gave kudos to Mr. Gregory and to the board. “This is one of the of the few political decisions you can make and be sure 100 percent that the people agree,” he said.
Beer festival fallout
In other business, selectmen faced a group of residents who live close to Washington Park, adjacent to Our Market and the harbor. They returned to register their complaints about the Martha’s Vineyard Craft Beer Festival that was held in the park on Saturday, Sept. 24. The festival drew about 1,300 people, a larger crowd than event organizer Erin Bayer Santos had expected. Ms. Bayer Santos was not at the meeting.
“It was replete with large tents, loud bands, and over 1,300 patrons who paid at least $65 to get in,” Chapman Avenue resident Bill Lytle said. “I stood at the exit, and I watched a number of people staggering out. I’d say 20 percent had their fill.”
Mr. Lytle said events of this kind are not worth the potential cost to the town.
“I have deep concerns about a [drunk driving] accident,” he said. “I think it’s a liability this town should consider. This is a ticking time bomb. It’s only going to grow bigger next year.”
Washington Park abutter Shelly Davis said her local work as a psychologist has made her “acutely aware” of the predominance of substance abuse on the Island, which she said is almost 50 percent higher than on the mainland: “I’m not a teetotaler, I like to have a beer and an occasional martini, but a beer fest isn’t about moderation.”
Police Chief Erik Blake said that Sergeant Michael Marchand reported there was a shortage of food vendors and bathroom facilities — at one point he counted 20 people in line for a portable toilet — and that the park was too small for the event. One person was taken into protective custody, but there were no serious infractions.
“The location was wrong, it was too big an event from that park,” Chief Blake said. “If the permit for the craft beer festival is approved for next year, it should be at a bigger venue.”
Selectman Greg Coogan said he observed the beer festival and watched in the company of Sgt. Marchand. “All the points in Sgt. Marchand’s report were accurate,” he said. Mr. Coogan said he’d received a lot of calls, many of them from supporters of the event. “I have to represent people who’ve approached me on this,” he said. “Clearly it was a big day in Oak Bluffs. Businesses appreciated the increased business in town. As a whole, the group that was there was pretty reasonable. I didn’t experience loud bands; the music didn’t sound overly amplified.”
“People are fortunate to have these parks,” Oak Bluffs resident Donna Joyce said. “[The event] was in the afternoon, I don’t know what the big crime is. I think we should use the parks all the time, as long as things end at a reasonable hour.”
The discussion became a debate about appropriate uses of town parks, and the lack of a cohesive policy.
Chairman Barmakian questioned whether any events that require an entrance fee should be allowed in town parks, and suggested seeking the advice of town counsel on the matter.
“For those of us who don’t live next to a park, I have long said that I wish I had three acres in my front yard that the rest of the town would only ask to use three, four times a year,” Mr. Coogan said. “I’d be pretty happy to let them use it. I have always said we should have events in our parks. [Ms. Barmakian] is looking at me like I’m nuts, but I think we don’t use our parks enough.”
Parks commissioner Amy Billings asked Ms. Barmakian to clarify the “pay to play in the parks” issue soon, because she has a number of applications asking to pay to use town parks for events. “We turn down a lot of people; you’d be surprised,” Ms. Billings said. “These events happen all over the country. This was the first beer festival here, and [Ms. Santos] did a really good job, considering what she expected and what she was dealt with.”