Shellfishermen don’t dig new regulations

Tisbury selectmen also consider electricity connection, and town meeting crowds.

Jim Rogers, retiring after 45 years on the Tisbury Fire Department, embraces Fire Chief John Schilling at Tuesday's selectmen's meeting. — George Brennan

Once again shellfish regulations dominated the discussion at Tuesday’s Tisbury board of selectmen meeting and, like a lobster turning red in a pot, it boiled over at times.

Shellfish constable Danielle Ewart has proposed several changes, including how to notify commercial shellfishermen if the temperature has dropped below 26°F, which would trigger a closing.

That particular regulation got a cool reception from selectmen, and had shellfisherman Glenn Pachico hot.

Selectman Tristan Israel said along with having a website where shellfishermen can get the official temperature, he wants to see Ewart employ the old-fashioned method of a flag that gives a visual warning that shellfishing is off-limits. “There are circumstances where someone might not be online, might be on water,” Israel said.

He recommended waiting to approve the regulations until that language is added.

“I want them to be able to visually see something,” chairman Larry Gomez said, agreeing with Israel.

Pachico, calling the regulations and the process “very frustrating,” didn’t want selectmen to approve any of the changes in regulations. “This [shellfish] committee is defunct,” he said.

When Pachico attempted to bring up having his license suspended for an alleged violation, town administrator Jay Grande steered the conversation back to the proposed regulations.

Lynne Fraker, another commercial shellfisherman, expressed concern that the regulations didn’t do enough to protect the shellfishing resource. She said she was troubled by a regulation that requires those fishing to know when an area is off-limits, even if a sign is missing.

“Those signs have to be maintained by the shellfish constable,” Fraker said. “It’s hard to make that my responsibility.”

Jim Tilton, chairman of the shellfish committee, said the regulations were approved by that board, recommending they be adopted by selectmen. They clarify the rules and require license holders to have personal responsibility to know the regulations, he said. “If anybody is in doubt, [he] should consult the constable,” he said. “I’ve found her to be very available by phone.”

Powerful opposition

Typically, when moving a utility pole or providing electric service comes up, it’s a quick open and close of a public hearing and approval of the request. Case in point: A public hearing to move a utility off the sidewalk and onto property in front of the future home of Martha’s Vineyard Museum was approved in just a couple of minutes.

That wasn’t the case for a request by Jerry Baric to upgrade his electric service to 200 amp at 15 Renear St. in Vineyard Haven. The discussion quickly turned to Baric, who owns the neighboring property, allegedly using the property for his business, Aurora Electric.

Jerome and Doris Clark, neighbors of Baric’s, wrote a letter to selectmen urging them to deny the request. “Do not let our once quiet neighborhood be turned into a commercial zone,” the Clarks wrote.

Other neighbors pointed out that a large portion of the properties have been cleared and gravel put down.

“A lot of lights shine into our building across the street,” Betsy Smith of 20 Skiff Ave. said. “It’s becoming more commercial. Is it commercial or is it residential?”

Baric, who was at the hearing, said he has quickly moved to address issues raised by the town’s building department. His business is located on State Road, across from Black Dog Bakery Cafe, he said.

After hearing issues raised by neighbors, selectmen delayed action on the request to give building inspector Ken Barwick and DPW director Ray Tattersall time for Barwick to see if the property is in compliance with zoning regulations and for Tattersall to investigate the request for a trench.

The board will reconsider the issue at its April 24 meeting.

Preparing for a big crowd

Tisbury town moderator Deborah Medders was at Tuesday’s meeting predicting a big crowd for the town’s April 10 meeting, and talking about contingencies that are being worked out.

The town will vote on whether to fund the new Tisbury School project, which is expected to draw parents to the meeting.

With the school gym’s capacity at 400 voters, Medders said overflow rooms are being considered to allow for as many as 600 voters to attend. That would mean making audio and, perhaps, video available in those rooms, she said.

Additional staff, including constables, counters, registrars, and even deputy moderators will be needed, Medders said.

If capacity is exceeded, the meeting will have to be postponed to secure a larger venue, she said.

In other business, selectmen authorized Grande to file for a grant, with the assistance of Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Adam Turner. The state grant can be used for towns to plan for affordable housing such as evaluating property and to make zoning changes.

The board held off on support for an application that will be filed with the state for a project proposed by Island Housing Trust for Greenwood Avenue.

Gomez, who lives on the street, recused himself from the discussion.

Grande will draft the letter of support, which will be voted on at the board’s March 20 meeting.

Selectmen were asked to consider changing the regional agreement to assess towns based on property taxes rather than headcount. Bill McGrath said the current method unfairly puts the burden of paying for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School on Tisbury and Oak Bluffs.

“I’m generously saying it will take 10 years to do that,” McGrath said of making a change.

Israel said he will bring the issue up at an All-Island selectmen’s meeting Thursday.

The board recognized retiring EMTs and firefighters before a packed audience, many of them first responders or family members of first responders.

Rick Brew, 32 years of service, Melinda Loberg, 20 years of service, and Polly Brown, 10 years of service, were introduced by EMS coordinator Tracey Jones, and recognized by the crowd.

Fire Chief John Schilling recognized John Sundman, who retired after 10 years as a call firefighter. Sundman was known for showing up to fires on his bicycle, Schilling said.

Jim Rogers, who is retiring after 45 years, was praised for his dedication to training and fire education. He served as the town’s assistant fire chief.

“It been an honor for me to go into burning buildings, stand outside burning buildings, motor vehicle accidents, whatever it is, and always answer the call,” Rogers said. “It’s an honor to serve with … the fine men and women we have in the Tisbury Fire Department.”