Updated 9:30 pm
Oak Bluffs became the fifth Island town to adopt Plastic Free MV’s plastic water and soft drink bottle bylaw at annual town meeting Saturday afternoon.
There were 154 voters at Saturday’s special and annual town meeting, which met in the afternoon under the roof of the Tabernacle for more than 3½ hours. The required quorum was 50 voters.
The bottle bylaw eliminates the sale and distribution of disposable plastic water and soda bottles 34 ounces (roughly one liter) and under. First violations will result in a written warning, second violations cost $50, and a third or subsequent violations will cost $100.
The vote was preceded by lengthy discussion from business owners, Plastic Free MV student activists, and other stakeholders.
Jennifer Pachico Freeman of Reliable Market voiced her opposition to the bylaw. “It is up to the consumers to decide and to make their own choices about what is appropriate for them,” she said.
Luke deBettencourt, who owns the Corner Store, said he spoke on behalf of the Oak Bluffs Association, and the organization did not support the bylaw. He asked that the bylaw be postponed indefinitely. “We don’t support this at this present time, as the negative economic impact on the businesses in the last year and the following years here is unforeseen, and this could certainly cause an unneeded harm,” deBettencourt said.
Similarly, Bill Giordano of Giordano’s Restaurant said many businesses are still not out of the pandemic, and asked for the article to be indefinitely postponed.
Finn Robinson, one of the Plastic Free MV student activists, said Plastic Free MV has worked on the bylaw for several years, and met with businesses. “This is really a problem we need to address now for the future,” Robinson said. “Plastic bottles aren’t really necessary. There are alternatives for the businesses, like glass.”
Oak Bluffs voters overwhelmingly approved the bylaw, which was met with loud applause from the audience. With the vote secured, the article goes into effect May 1, 2022.
In addition to the bylaw, voters also approved an article put together by town business owners that sought to put off Plastic Free MV’s bylaw. The article establishes a seven-member committee to create an action plan by May 2022 that would manage plastic reduction and mitigation in the town.
Voters approved a total of $1.4 million in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds for the Martha’s Vineyard baseball fields, Harbor Homes, Habitat for Humanity, Island Autism Center and Neighborhood, Dukes County Regional Housing Authority rental assistance, PALS program, East Chop Lighthouse, Tabernacle roof restoration, and Flying Horses restoration.
Oak Bluffs resident Brian Hughes gave lengthy testimony opposing the use of $315,000 in CPA funds for replacement of the Tabernacle roof. He said the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association did not need the money, and should get it through fundraising. “The MVCMA has made no effort to raise funds voluntarily,” he said.
Voters approved the funds for the Tabernacle, with several citing its frequent use for town events such as town meetings, as well as its use by the high school and churches.
The town also approved $1.3 million for wastewater planning and upgrades, $200,000 as a 20 percent match to a $1 million Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council Grant for traffic and streetscape improvements in the North Bluff area, $183,572 for the town’s share of technology infrastructure improvements at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, $35,000 for Niantic Park repairs and upkeep (including work on the Civil War statue), $22,625 for police body cameras, and $20,000 for a consultant to review town zoning bylaws.
Voters also approved changing the name of the selectmen to the select board, as well as a bylaw to prohibit jumping, diving, or swimming from the Oak Bluffs Fishing Pier, a nonbinding article that would ban the use of polystyrene, an amendment to the solar development zoning bylaw, and adopted a stretch energy code to meet state requirements to become a state-designated Green Community.
Voters approved an article that gives the select board the ability to acquire easements on seven parcels of land to construct part of the shared-use path (SUP) on Beach Road.
The article was amended to include $25,000, which would be used to acquire the land. An executive summary on the warrant said most of the easements, if not all, would be acquired “by gift or donation.” The article was placed on the warrant at the request of the Department of Transportation.
Town moderator Jack Law III dismissed an article proposed by the select board that would make the town’s fire chief a “weak chief.” The position as it stands as a “strong chief,” under Massachusetts law, gives the fire chief hiring and firing authority and complete control over discipline.
Select board member Ryan Ruley said the decision to throw out the article was due to the chief signing a contract that established him as a strong chief.
An article for $510,000 to build a new park and ride was defeated after it failed to reach a two-thirds majority vote. The final vote was 58 in favor and 61 against.
The town’s finance and advisory board wrote in the town warrant that while they supported a park and ride, they recommended the article not be passed since the money only funded construction costs, and no revenue or ride plan had been finalized with the Vineyard Transit Authority.
Updated to include SUP easement approval. — Ed.