Mopeds back on track in Oak Bluffs

Judge issues injunction in favor of Oak Bluffs rental owners.

Jason Leone, owner of moped rental businesses, was a winner in court Friday. A Superior Court judge issued an injunction ordering test track waivers. —Stacey Rupolo

Superior Court Judge Cornelius Moriarty has granted an injunction that will allow mopeds to roll this summer in Oak Bluffs.

In a six-page decision issued on Friday, the judge ordered the board of selectmen to issue a waiver of the training track requirement to the three moped rental businesses “so long as they [are] otherwise qualified.”

Jason Leone, owner of two moped rental businesses in Oak Bluffs and co-owner of a third, is required to post a $25,000 bond.

In response to the ruling, Oak Bluffs selectmen are looking to schedule an emergency meeting at 4 pm on Tuesday, May 30, according to town counsel Ron Rappaport.

The board of selectmen unanimously voted not to issue a waiver for the test track provision of the moped bylaws on May 9, citing public safety issues. Town bylaw states that a moped rental business must have a 25- by 50-foot test track on the premises, or get a waiver from selectmen by providing alternative safety training.

“Both sides presented strong legal arguments,” selectman Gail Barmakian told The Times at Dukes County Courthouse on Friday afternoon. “This was a legal ruling, not a public safety ruling.”

On Wednesday, New Bedford based–attorney Phillip Beauregard, representing Mr. Leone, told the court that the selectmen’s waiver denial would cause his client “irreparable harm,” because according to town bylaw, if his license was not renewed this year, it would be permanently forfeited.

Judge Moriarty apparently agreed, writing, “This Court is persuaded that denying the plaintiffs’ requested injunction will cause the plaintiffs’ to lose their businesses.”

Mr. Beauregard also argued, as attorney Kelly Malone had done several times before, that local bylaw could not trump state law, which they asserted the selectmen had done with the waiver denial. The judge agreed, saying there was “sharp conflict” between town bylaw and state statute, which states, “Every person operating a motorized bicycle upon a way shall have the right to use all public ways in the commonwealth.”

“In my view, the Bylaw impermissibly frustrates the rights immanent in the statute and, at least in so far as a large segment of the general public in [Oak Bluffs] is concerned, effectively overrules [state statute],” Judge Moriarty wrote.

Mopeds have been a hot issue on the Island for months, with each of the six towns approving nonbinding referendums to ban them. An outright ban is not permitted, town legal experts have said, but the Oak Bluffs selectmen decided to enforce a waiver requirement.

Not surprisingly, Nicole Brisson of the Mopeds Are Dangerous Action Committee (MADAC) was displeased with the judge’s ruling, writing in an email to The Times, “MADAC has always maintained that we are most concerned with the health and public safety of the the moped renters and the motoring public. This decision flies in the face of all that we have been advocating for. Maybe the status quo and the business owner’s financial situation are considered more important than someone’s life or limb. God forbid there is another accident while the moped dealers are operating under this temporary waiver provision.”



Comments are closed.