O.B. wants to be green

Town sets course for Green Community status.

Oak Bluffs selectmen during Tuesday's meeting. The town is on its way to becoming a Green Community.

Led by a committee formed by the town’s planning board, Oak Bluffs is on its way to becoming a Green Community.

Green Community status provides a roadmap and financial support to municipalities that cut energy use by 20 percent over five years, and meet four other criteria. 

Planning board member Bill Cleary told selectmen the planning board is working to study the different criteria needed to attain Green Community status.

The first is for the town to designate a limited site in town that is available for renewable energy projects (municipal or commercial). Oak Bluffs must pass zoning in designated locations for the as-of-right siting of renewable or alternative energy-generating facilities.

The second is to promise expedited permitting response for renewable energy projects at the site. 

The next step is to establish an energy baseline at town buildings, and set a five-year target for good-faith efforts to achieve a 20 percent reduction in energy use. 

The fourth is to agree to buy fuel-efficient municipal vehicles (police cruisers and heavy-duty vehicles are exempted).

Finally, the town must adopt the Massachusetts building stretch code for energy efficiency. Buildings constructed to the stretch code use significantly less energy than buildings constructed under other codes.

Cleary said the town can expect a warrant article at April town meeting that would require green construction on new buildings, but exempt additions or renovations to existing structures.

Selectman Brian Packish said stretch code for new buildings is something many new homes are meeting, or are close to meeting. “When it first came along, people didn’t understand it, and when things are new, people are scared of it. Now that it’s been in West Tisbury and Tisbury for a reasonable amount of time, I think most builders have adapted to it,” Packish said. “Here in Oak Bluffs, if you’re building a new construction you’re pretty much right there at stretch code.”

If all goes to plan, Cleary expects the town to get Green Community designation in November or October 2020.

“There is a pretty significant financial benefit to the town becoming a Green Community … the initial grant is almost $200,000,” town administrator Robert Whritenour said. “Those funds can be used to stimulate more energy efficiency.”

In other business, a proposal to run the Martha’s Vineyard Craft Beer Festival and the Martha’s Vineyard Triathlon in succession in September 2020 was met with little support from selectmen.

Erin Bayer Santos, who is running the triathlon and has organized the craft beer festival in the past, asked for selectmen’s input.

Bayer Santos said running the events in succession — the triathlon in the morning and craft beer festival in the afternoon to evening — would provide runners an event after their race, benefiting not only the two events, but Oak Bluffs as well.

Selectmen cited increased traffic, the number of people from the combined events, and potential overlap with Tivoli Day as some of the concerns. “I just don’t see the support for having both of these on the same day,” selectman Jason Balboni said.

Selectmen asked Bayer Santos to flesh out the plan more, and consider having the events on the same weekend but on separate days.

Selectmen approved a financial policy for town employees.

In October, selectmen agreed to review a financial policy for the town. The policy has been approved by the finance committee. 

Finance committee member Maura McGroarty said she voted against the policy due to certain language she felt was too flexible in the section concerning other post-employment benefits (OPEB).

Town accountant Deborah Potter explained the language was used on some of the policies to set goals, and intentionally provide flexibility.

“Most of the policies are mainly objectives, where you want to be, but they don’t necessarily specify means by which you get there,” Potter said. “You’re not trying to hamstring people or to set impossible goals, but to set as high a goal as possible and then work toward attaining it.”

A new skin care and massage studio is headed to Circuit Avenue.

Cinnamon White is opening Cinnamon White Skincare and Massage at 97 Circuit Ave. White has been a licensed esthetician for the past 15 years.

Selectman Michael Santoro commended White on her character and business acumen. “I’ve known Cinnamon for over 20 years,” Santoro said. “I wish you luck; you’ve got a great reputation.”

Selectmen unanimously approved the business license. 

Selectmen also signed a letter in support of the passage of House bill 1783, an act concerning the rental of mopeds and motor scooters in the town of Oak Bluffs. The bill went before committee on Beacon Hill in November, where business owners spoke out against the home rule petition.

If passed, the bill would allow Oak Bluffs residents to vote to prohibit commercial rental of mopeds at a special or annual town meeting.

“Here on Martha’s Vineyard, the rental of scooters has become a serious public safety problem for both local residents and unsuspecting tourists who are routinely sent out into traffic at an alarming rate, with no real appreciation of the potential hazards that await them,” the letter reads. “These vehicles are a complete hazard, and even the first instance of driver inattention or inability to react quickly can and often does result in death and dismemberment.”

The letter will be sent to state Sen. Rebecca Rausch and state Rep. James O’Day, the Senate and House chairs of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government.