Shell game: Board tackles abutter dispute

Tisbury also approves a new taxi system for SSA terminal.

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Town administrator Jay Grande had trouble getting his video working during Tuesday’s Zoom meeting of the board of selectmen, but had it working here.

The Tisbury board of selectmen quickly authorized town administrator Jay Grande to sign a license for a newly approved aquaculture farm.

Then they debated for the next 20 minutes about whether they should have acted so hastily.

At issue was the early May conditional approval of Jeff Canha’s oyster farm on Lagoon Pond

After the quick authorization, David Forbes, whose property abuts Canha’s proposed project, told the board Canha was supposed to negotiate the exact location with him because of his concerns about navigating his boat past the oyster farm, but that hasn’t happened.

Harbormaster John Crocker said he attempted to facilitate a negotiation, but no consensus was reached. 

Forbes was more blunt. “We approached [Canha] with some ideas, and he just blew us off,” he said. 

While Forbes and Crocker remembered that negotiation as being a condition of the license, when executive assistant Alex Kral read the minutes, Forbes’ dock and a negotiation with Canha was not listed as a condition.

With the town’s attorney David Doneski on the Zoom call, selectmen sought his advice and then ignored it. Doneski suggested they hit the pause button and review the tape before authorizing Grande to sign.

But Kral said she already reviewed the recording to compile the minutes.

Canha told the board he consulted Forbes even before bringing his finished proposal to the board, and then he put it as only he can: “I had been buttering my muffin all along.”

Canha said his closest buoy will be 70 feet from Forbes’ dock, which he believes will be enough distance for safe navigation. He said he is working with an engineer to mark the site with buoys so everyone can see where it will be located. A request by Forbes to double that distance recently was a nonstarter, he said.

Selectmen agreed deploying the buoys would be a good visual aid. Board members agreed the licensing process didn’t need to stop, because there are still state approvals for Canha to get.

“Let’s get back to what our intent was during the hearing, and that’s to work something out,” selectman Jeff Kristal said of Canha and Forbes.

 

New direction for taxis

The Island’s taxi operators will be queuing up a different way at the Steamship Authority terminal in Vineyard Haven. The idea is to improve safety for pedestrians going to and from the SSA ferries.

Five taxis will parallel-park in the same area where they now are parked diagonally. The cabs that don’t fit there will queue up on Union Street, and filter in as the others leave the terminal.

Selectmen unanimously approved testing the new configuration, and asked Police Chief Mark Saloio to report back in two weeks about how things are going.

Kristal said he’d like the board to give it the full three months of summer to see how it works.

“I’m open to ideas. If we could enhance safety, I’m in favor of it,” Selectman Jim Rogers said.

Grande said a separate Complete Streets project is in the design process to create a defined pedestrian pathway from the SSA terminal to Union Street and downtown — a long-term goal of selectmen.

Several representatives of taxi companies were on the call, but only Melaney West spoke. “This is a trial to flesh out some of the concerns you mentioned,” she said. One positive is that the location for pickup won’t be any different for customers, she said.

“If it’s working, it’s working,” Kristal said. “If it’s not, people will scream and yell.”

Also at the SSA terminal, the board agreed to change the wording on an electronic sign there to alert the public to expanded testing for COVID-19 available through Island Health Care at the parking lot of MVRHS.

In other business, a vision for the June 13 town meeting began to take shape. Voters will meet under a tent on the field at Tisbury School at 1 pm, with the hopes of finishing the town’s business quickly and efficiently.

When resident MacAleer Schilcher asked if there were lights in the tent, the answer was yes, but the clear hope was that they won’t need to be used.

As for quorum, at present the town needs 100 voters to show up and stay for the duration. However, state legislation is in the works to allow towns to reduce that number. But Doneski, the town’s attorney, pointed out that time is running out for the state to approve the quorum reduction.

Safety and health guidelines are in the works, and will be on the town’s website soon, Grande said.

Porta-potties and a hand-washing station will be available for voters. Seating may take into consideration that some families have been in quarantine together during the pandemic and can safely sit next to one another, town moderator Deborah Medders said. No decision has been made and will be done in consultation with the health agent.