Updated 1:30 pm
Oak Bluffs selectmen approved a new wine and malt license for Fat Ronnie’s on Circuit Avenue after some tense discussion.
Before his hearing began at the selectmen’s wide-ranging meeting Tuesday, Reynaldo Faust, Fat Ronnie’s owner, asked selectman Gail Barmakian to recuse herself.
“If you have a problem with me sitting for a particular reason, you don’t think I can be impartial, then you can state that,” Barmakian said.
“Well, you definitely couldn’t be impartial,” Faust said. “We go back decades, our personal relationship and our friendship has gone sour, and since then you have used this board and your authority on the board to come after me.”
Barmakian recused herself from voting, but stayed to listen. Selectman Mike Santoro left the room because he owns several businesses with liquor licenses.
Faust said he really just wanted to add beer to his menu, and possibly wine, but ran into issues concerning his bathroom.
Fat Ronnie’s currently has a bathroom, but Faust said he received conflicting information and was told he needed a handicap-accessible bathroom. State regulations require Faust to have an “adequate bathroom.”
Faust had conversations with both town building inspectors. Tom Perry said a handicap bathroom was required, while Eladio Gore said it was not, according to Faust.
Faust asked selectmen why he was being told to have a handicap bathroom when other restaurants like Dos, Backyard Taco’s new second location, and Shuck Shack received wine and malt licenses without needing a handicap bathroom.
Selectmen Greg Coogan and Jason Balboni agreed that the selectmen don’t cover whether a restaurant needs a handicap bathroom, but the two said they wanted clarification from the building and wastewater departments before approving the application.
Chairman Brian Packish asked Faust if he would like to continue the public hearing and get the approvals he needs before selectmen took a vote. Faust said he did not want to continue the hearing because he needed to order equipment and supplies and install them before the busy season begins.
Selectmen ended up closing the hearing, and agreed that a handicap bathroom was not an issue they usually faced, but Packish said selectmen need to be consistent with their approval and have a complete application with sign-offs from all necessary departments. As a compromise, selectmen decided to approve Faust’s license conditional on receiving sign-offs from the building and wastewater departments.
In an open discussion, selectmen spoke about the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank real estate tax.
The Land Bank receives revenue from a 2 percent transaction fee every time a property is sold on Martha’s Vineyard. After more than 30 years of the Land Bank conserving land on the Island, some are calling for a change.
Coogan floated the idea in March, saying the Land Bank’s legislation could be changed so a percentage of its revenue could go toward affordable housing. He said if the town moved forward with the idea, they would need to have united support from each Island town.
“There’s an appetite to change that legislation, whether that’s housing I think that’s primarily what people are interested in, but also just to maybe slow down the purchasing,” Coogan said. “I think they’ve done a great job, but I question whether they need the same type of buying where we have such limited land resources.”
Coogan agreed to do more research on the subject, and bring it back to selectmen.
In other business, Oak Bluffs may be getting free labor to help clean up its harbor and shoreline.
Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden told selectmen the sheriff’s department offers an inmate litter management crew in conjunction with the state Department of Public Works that performs free litter pickup on the state highways of Martha’s Vineyard. In the past nine years, the program has provided over 21,050 man-hours picking up litter on the Island.
Guinevere Cramer, an Island resident, asked Ogden if the inmate crew would be able to pick up trash, plastic, and nip bottles from the Lookout Tavern down to the harbor parking area of the Island Queen.
Barmakian asked if they could clean up litter around East Chop, which she called “amazingly bad.”
Ogden said he would work with the town’s highway superintendent, Richard Combra, to facilitate three cleanups between May and September, with the first coming before Memorial Day weekend.
“No one will be late to work,” Packish joked.
Selectmen approved the use of $229,730 of Excess and Deficiency (E and D) funds for heating oil, building maintenance, and transportation at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
The high school must notify towns if the school committee approves the use of E and D funds. Towns then have 45 days to call a special town meeting and vote to approve the funds.
Packish said the high school needs to be better about looking over its budget, and have all the E and D fund requests in one special town meeting.
“Somehow you need to figure out how to really be … as close as you can get, so we’re not doing this every 45 days,” Packish said. “Other towns are asking us to stand with them and vote these things down, and on some level they’re right. At the end of the day, I know you guys are doing the best you possibly can, but we need you to step up.”
Chilmark selectmen shared similar sentiments. In a letter Monday, Chilmark selectmen asked the school administration to withdraw a request for another special town meeting.
“Requiring two STMs in a three-month period that also includes an annual town meeting flies in the face of common sense and concern for the voters. STMs present an additional (and unbudgeted) financial burden to the towns, and, more important, they require an additional commitment of time from each town’s citizens. It would be tempting for a town to simply not call the additional STM. But, critically, the failure of a town to call a STM is regarded as an affirmative vote by that town. The town’s voters should decide on spending, but if towns do not call another STM, the voters do not get to vote,” the letter states. “The current situation reflects a lack of leadership and oversight.
The school’s total certified E and D funds are $1,023,350, according to Amy Tierney, MVRHS chief financial officer.
Chilmark chairman Jim Malkin said he would call an all-Island selectmen meeting to discuss the issue.
Selectmen denied an annual livery license for All Star Tours & Transportation, a Vineyard Haven tour company.
Owner Bob Breth, who also owns Bobby B’s, Bernie’s Homemade Ice Cream, told selectmen his tour company requested the license so they could park their buses in Oak Bluffs.
Packish said Breth needed to update his license so he could do ticket sales from his bus before the town could allow him to have a livery license. Breth withdrew his request.
Selectmen chose Icon Architecture of Boston to conduct a feasibility study for renovations and design to the town hall. Selectmen chose Icon after a round of interviews with other firms. Icon’s feasibility study will cost $62,500.
Updated to add E and D fund total. — Ed.