Tisbury reviews policy for one-day liquor licenses

Selectmen also hear report on CVEC solar array.

Olivia Becchio, right, puts a hole punch in Peter French's alcohol wristband during Beach Road Weekend. Tisbury is looking to streamline its policy for event liquor licenses. — Gabrielle Mannino

Tisbury is looking to streamline the process and set guidelines for issuing one-day liquor licenses for events like Beach Road Weekend and a proposed oyster fest planned for May on the grounds of Martha’s Vineyard Museum.

The regulations were discussed at a public hearing Tuesday, but selectmen Melinda Loberg and Jeff Kristal ultimately decided to wait for town administrator Jay Grande to make suggested edits and for selectman Jim Rogers, who was absent, to weigh in. The public hearing will continue at the board’s Jan. 7 meeting, with the idea of setting the policy that night.

Nevette Previd, who is organizing the oyster festival, and Katy Fuller, operations manager for the museum, were in the audience for the hearing.

Loberg asked who is eligible to apply for a license, and wanted to make sure the regulations weren’t so stringent that people holding private parties on private property — like wedding receptions or graduation parties — would require a permit.

“If my neighbor has a kid who is getting married and they’re going to invite guests and they’re giving away food and alcohol as part of the wedding reception, I’m not sure what the town has to do with that,” Loberg said.

Fuller said when the museum was in Edgartown, the need for a liquor license was dependent on who was invited. “The way Edgartown treated it was: If you were advertising the event to the public, you had to apply for a one-day license. If it was not advertising to the public, say the museum just had a staff party, then they treated it like a house party,” she said.

There was consensus among Loberg and Kristal that the criteria should be whether an event is advertised, whether drinks are being sold, or if it was a private party on public property serving alcohol.

Besides Previd and Fuller asking clarifying questions about who has to apply and when, no one else spoke during the hearing.

Both Fire Chief John Schilling and Police Chief Mark Saloio offered no objections to the guidelines. Saloio said the town maintains a lot of discretion by using the word “may” instead of “shall.”

The need for the guidelines is evident because of just how long it took the town to give promoter Adam Epstein the go-ahead for Beach Road Weekend to serve beer and wine at the three-day festival held in August. The town issued a license just weeks before the event.

Kristal, a proponent of changing the town’s local alcohol bylaw to get rid of the provision to require food be ordered with any alcohol, made yet another pitch to alter the town’s liquor laws. “We should just scrap our bylaw and go with the state,” he said.

Loberg, who rejected that idea at a meeting last month, didn’t bite.

CVEC update

Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC) director Liz Argo updated selectmen on the town’s 1.2-megawatt solar array and other topics.

Argo asked for and received the board’s approval for a ¼ cent operational adder, a one-time fee per kilowatt hour to help with CVEC’s expenses. Though it’s a one-time fee that comes out of the town’s take, it’s becoming an annual request of CVEC to help the cooperative pay for staff and other expenses. Argo said she’s looking for someone who can eventually step in and take over so she can retire and take on more of a supportive role at the energy cooperative: “Frankly, I’m looking to retire. I’ll never be completely gone, because too much of this has been created, and so there’s a little bit of a learning curve for whomever comes into this position. But it is time we had someone in the manager’s position so I can take on a supportive role rather than the 24/7 role I’m in now.”

Argo explained a drop in the amount of revenue brought in by the town’s solar array on a capped landfill. The amount dropped from $177,000 in fiscal year 2017 to $98,000 in fiscal year 2019, but still never dipped below the town’s guaranteed annual output from the project, Argo said.

At issue was weather and a faulty inverter that needed to be fixed and resulted in less energy output by the solar array. Storms in March 2019 caused outages, and there were delays in utilities responding, Argo said. “Solar assets are on the bottom of the list [to be restored],” she said.

Argo also asked for the board of selectmen to consider appointing a new representative to the CVEC board. Kirk Metell, the town’s director of public works and facilities, is the current rep, but has been unable to participate in meetings.

Grande explained the meetings are long, but Argo said it would be worth it for the town to at least have representation for CVEC’s annual meeting in September. She said most Island representatives attend the meetings remotely.

Board members pitched some ideas, and agreed to look for someone who could give the cooperative more attention.

Overall, Argo said, CVEC is doing well — saving its member towns upwards of $13 million on electricity costs since 2014. All Island towns, Nantucket, all but one Cape town, and Marion are part of CVEC, which is working on a couple of projects in Oak Bluffs.

Argo also pointed out a state grant program it is facilitating for electric car-charging stations that the town might participate in. CVEC is also looking at battery backup initiatives, and has contracted to install one at Dennis-Yarmouth High School.

A community solar project is also in the planning stages in Harwich, Argo said. In that instance, a homeowner who can’t install solar panels either because of cost or location can buy into the community solar project to get the benefits of reduced electricity costs.

Kristal asked how someone on the Island could apply, but Argo said right now it’s just in the discussion stages.

Finally, Argo gave an update on maintenance at the town’s solar array. Two years ago, then-building inspector Kenneth Barwick showed up at a selectmen’s meeting with a paper bag filled with an overgrown weed from the solar array grounds.

Argo reported the new operations and maintenance company, Greenskies, has been “very responsive” to mowing and removing overgrowth at the facility.