Plastic Free sets sights on O.B.

The grassroots campaign begins discussion on the bottle bylaw already approved up-Island.

Jasper Ralph, 12, introduces a bylaw banning certain plastic bottles in town to Oak Bluffs selectmen. — Brian Dowd

The bylaw prohibiting the sale or distribution of plastic soda and water bottles of less than 34 ounces, which unanimously passed at the West Tisbury, Aquinnah, and Chilmark town meetings, may have a tougher time getting approved by voters in Oak Bluffs.

Jasper Ralph, 12, a student at the West Tisbury School and one of the young activists that make up Plastic Free MV, the group behind the first-of-its-kind bylaw, introduced the potential bylaw to selectmen at their meeting Tuesday.

“We’d like to propose putting our bylaw on the warrant on the next town meeting,” Jasper said. “We are Plastic Free MV. We’re a group of around 24 kids, but most of them are on a field trip today.”

If approved, the bylaw would impose penalties on those who violate the bylaw. The first violation is a written warning, the second a $50 fine, and the third and subsequent violations are a $100 fine. Each day the violation continues constitutes a separate violation.

Plastic Free MV received assistance from Joan Malkin, a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, in writing the bylaw.

Jasper said Plastic Free MV holds forums and movie screenings to educate the public and hear their concerns about the bylaw.

Selectmen were open to the idea, but felt plenty of public outreach and dialogue would need to happen before the town even considered putting the bylaw on the next town warrant.

Selectman Mike Santoro brought up the bylaw that banned plastic bags on the Island, but said bottles would be different. He wants to see engagement with stakeholders and others in the public to make sure all concerns were heard.

“Our town is very unique, we have a lot of restaurants, and more takeout type of places that it will affect,” said Santoro, who is a restaurant owner himself.

The name of the game is alternatives.

“We found that there are alternatives for soda because soda you can get it in a can or you can get like a six-pack of soda. Water, there are alternatives … there’s flow water, there’s box water. You can also bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up,” Jasper said. “For juice and things like that and other drinks, they don’t have alternatives yet, and so we thought it would be unfair to get rid of it entirely.”

Some business owners, like Jennifer Freeman of Reliable Market, are wary of the bylaw.

“How is this not pro-restriction on trade?” Freeman asked. “You’re saying to me as a small store in Oak Bluffs you cannot sell this product, but you’re not making it illegal for someone to possess it in their home.”

Chairman Brian Packish said that would be a question going forward, and something addressed at a public forum.

The next step is for Plastic Free MV to reach out to town administrator Robert Whritenour and begin doing public outreach.

“I admire all of your efforts, and you’re extremely well prepared, and I’m impressed with all of your knowledge and energy that you’ve put into it. It’s very encouraging, especially in today’s world,” Packish said.

In other business, selectmen appointed three members and one alternate to the town conservation commission. Alice Goyert, Rose Ryley, and Sharon Cooke were appointed to the commission, with Rick Herrick as an alternate.

Selectman Gail Barmakian said the conservation commission is mainly concerned with the Wetlands Protection Act, state regulations that establish procedures for conservation commissions and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to follow in issuing permits for work in areas under the act. Each of the members were aware, and had read the act in full.

Selectmen approved a onetime amplified music permit for Coop de Ville. The live music will be played on a boat across from the restaurant from 2 to 6 pm on Sunday, June 16. Santoro abstained from the vote.

Members of Icon, the Boston-based firm that will perform a feasibility study for the renovation of town hall, conducted a walk-through analysis of town hall Wednesday to gather information for the study.

After a failed ballot vote to build a new town hall, the town is now focused on renovating and repairing its current building.

Auditors from Powers and Sullivan, an accounting firm in Wakefield, briefed selectmen on their audit report. The town is in a good spot financially and operationally.

Selectmen lauded Whritenour and town staff for keeping town financials on track.

“Overall both revenues and expenditures are on track for a successful year-end closing,” Whritenour said.