Mopeds motor on in Oak Bluffs

Selectmen unanimously approve license renewal for three rental moped concerns.

Rental mopeds have been one of the hotly debated topics in Oak Bluffs in recent years, but at Tuesday night’s selectmen’s meeting, the license renewals for the three moped rental outlets in town — Island Hoppers, King of Rentals, and Ride On — were approved after a civil discussion lasting less than half an hour.

Penny Wong, board member of Ride On, spoke for owners Jason Leone, John Leone, Aguimar Carlos, and Richard Sampieri.

“I hope the board recognizes we have tried to work hard with the town and we have had full transparency,” she said. “We made sure all our i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.”

Police Chief Erik Blake told selectmen his department monitored the businesses closely last summer, and that they had complied with town bylaws, amended by a vote at 2017 town meeting, that called for supervised training, enforced weight limits, close-toed shoes, height restrictions, and stickers that denoted the owner of the mopeds.

Wong offered to reduce the number of mopeds at Ride On from 120 to 80 in exchange for licenses for 30 rental cars, reducing the overall number of rental mopeds in Oak Bluffs from 218 to 188.

Bob Breth, owner of Martha’s Bike Rentals in Tisbury for 30 years, will manage the three operations, taking over for Jason Leone.

“You will see a professional and streamlined operation,” Breth said. “We will follow the parameters; that’s not an issue. I run a tight ship. The training will be first-rate. If you cannot ride, you’re not leaving the lot. We want you to come back. If you can’t ride [a moped], you can get a car … I will not compromise on safety.”

Town administrator Robert Whritenour said town counsel reviewed the applications and “recommended it is appropriate to move forward.”

Nicole Brisson, founding member of Mopeds Are Dangerous Action Committee (MADAC), said the goal has not been to put the owners out of business, but to put a premium on public safety. She also questioned if the current bylaws, which state a moped should not exceed 25 miles an hour, are being broken by the newer machines that she has been told by renters reach speeds over 40 miles an hour.

“If they go over 30 miles an hour, they need a motorcycle license,” Blake said. “That’s the law. We can enforce that.”

Tim Rich, former Chilmark police chief and founding member of MADAC, commended selectmen for supporting the home rule petition to ban moped rentals in the town, which was unanimously approved at town meeting last month. “On behalf of the Mopeds are Dangerous Committee and personally, I would like to publicly thank the board for its leadership and support for bringing the home rule petition to voters, and to the voters for their unanimous support,” he said. “It shows we’re all concerned about public safety on Martha’s Vineyard.”

Selectmen approved the renewal of the licenses, provided stickers from the three businesses are in different colors, that rental logs for the first two weeks of the season and at the end of the season are provided to the board, and that Chief Blake is satisfied with ongoing operations.

In other business, selectmen unanimously approved the appointment of tax collector Cheryl Sashin to the position of treasurer and tax collector, beginning June 1. Sashin has been tax collector for the town since 2004, the last time it was an elected position.

Selectmen also unanimously approved health agent Meegan Lancaster’s request to temporarily assist the town of Chilmark with restaurant inspections for the next 30 days. Lancaster said she would be taking on the work on her own time, and that she was filling a temporary need caused by an injury to Chilmark health agent Marina Lent. Selectmen and Whritenour took the opportunity to acknowledge Lancaster’s excellent work since taking over the post a year ago. “We couldn’t be more impressed with Meegan and the job she’s done,” Whritenour said. “It’s a hard job, and we’re very lucky to have her.”