Parallel parking coming to Circuit Avenue

Oak Bluffs select board narrowly approves streetscape plan.


Following years of planning, designing, and public hearings, the Oak Bluffs select board approved the streetscape plan for the downtown area during a Zoom meeting Tuesday night, which will include significant sidewalk improvements and convert a stretch of parking to parallel parking on Circuit Avenue.

The final vote was 3-2, with chair Brian Packish and board members Jason Balboni and Emma Green-Beach voting in favor of the plan. Board members Ryan Ruley and Gail Barmakian voted against.

The board held a straw poll before their final vote, and let each member voice their position.

Ruley said he supported the plan, including the parallel parking, but voted no on the process. “I don’t know if five people in town should decide this,” Ruley said.

Barmakian, a streetscape committee member, said she wanted the decision to go to the ballot for voters to decide.

Packish, also a member of the streetscape committee, pushed for the board to make a decision Tuesday, and said holding an election in the fall would be a disservice to Oak Bluffs’ seasonal residents and exclude them.

“As select persons, we need to step up and cast our votes,” Packish said. “We need these sidewalks, and we need them next season.”

Green-Beach referenced the public’s reaction to the construction of the roundabout. “So many people were so against the roundabout, and wholeheartedly thought it was going to be the end of the world, and it turned out to be a really good thing,” she said. “This project has the potential to be a situation just like the roundabout, to be a beautiful thing.”

Balboni said he was also ready to vote in support of the project. “Circuit Avenue is in horrible condition,” Balboni said. “Our seasons are getting longer, the people are here. The big debate right now is half the street being parallel and half the street being diagonal. Edgartown does parallel parking, Kennebec Avenue is parallel parking. We have it in other places in town.”

Barmakian felt the situation was being “manipulated,” and said a plan that keeps all parking on Circuit diagonal should be considered as well.

Barmakian made a motion to not approve the plan, but received no second.

While members of the public were not allowed to speak, the Zoom chat exploded with a mixed bag of comments both supporting and opposing the vote. Comments ranged from “thank you select board!” to “it should be a ballot” to “it’s going to look like Florida.”

The project — funded by $2.7 million that was approved by voters at the June 2020 town meeting — focuses on Circuit Avenue North, Circuit Avenue South, Kennebec Avenue, Healey Square, and a portion of Lake Avenue. Improvements include new sidewalks, trashcans, streetlights, and crosswalks, and provide accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

During extensive public hearings on the project, there was consensus that improvements to the sidewalks and other areas were needed, but feathers ruffled over replacing diagonal parking with parallel from Giordano’s Restaurant up to Healey Square, which would eliminate 12 of the existing 28 spaces. The sidewalks on the street’s north end will also be widened significantly, by five to seven feet in some areas.

The approved plans give Healey Square a brand-new look by removing large planters at both ends of the square and adding new semicircular benches with tree planters, opening up the views and access through the square, and creating a new pavement lift near the crosswalk.

Diagonal parking would remain on the south end of Circuit Avenue from Healey Square down to Third World Trading Co., and a raised crosswalk would be added, but to make room for improvements to Healey Square, the south end of Circuit Avenue would lose three spaces, and two parallel parking spaces would be added to the south end of Kennebec Avenue. Another space would be removed for a crosswalk, for a net loss of two spaces.

The plans also call for widening the street’s south end by one to two feet in some areas.

Aside from pavement and sidewalk improvements, Kennebec Avenue would mostly remain the same, but add another sidewalk.

The plan also calls for a switch from parallel to diagonal parking along Lake Avenue, which would add 13 spaces close to downtown.

With the board’s approval signed, sealed, and delivered, construction is expected to start sometime in the fall after Columbus Day, according to Packish.

In other business, the board denied signing land damage and right of entry waivers for three town parcels on Beach Road sought by MassDOT for the bike path project. 

Tom Currier from MassDOT said the agreements are standard documents given to municipalities across the state before MassDOT construction projects begin. 

“The only intent is when a community grants us a waiver and allows us to use the property for the construction of the project, they don’t change their mind after the fact and delay the construction,” Currier said.

Barmakian said the town would be giving up rights for any claims to damages from construction. She said the town was still seeking support from the state for remediation to damaged eelgrass beds during construction of the bridge on Beach Road.

“My fear, still, is this is a very big project. I don’t think any of us know how expensive it is in a very sensitive area,” Barmakian said. 

While Currier acknowledged Barmakian’s efforts and concern, he said the town needed to move forward with a decision on the agreements.

“I’m sorry you don’t like the land damage agreement language, but there’s not much any of us can do about that. I suggest you either vote yes or no, but we need to move forward because we do not now have time to pursue these easements on the town property to build our wide sidewalk, bike path,” he said. “It’s either you live with the uncertainty that MassDOT will not screw the town of Oak Bluffs. I think we’ve demonstrated good-faith efforts in the past.”

Currier said he didn’t think MassDOT would be able to advance the bike path project without the waivers, and will move on to other projects that are ready to go.

Barmakian said Currier isn’t the one to make a decision, and that delaying a decision for another few weeks while she works with the state would not hurt the project.

The waivers were denied 3-2, with Packish, Barmakian, and Green-Beach voting not to sign the waivers.

Meanwhile, select board members approved sending a letter to the Steamship Authority supporting the seasonal 5:30 am boat from Woods Hole.

In a close vote, the board reappointed Michael Santoro to the town’s harbor advisory committee. Santoro is a former select board member who has held the advisory committee position for several years. The board chose Santoro over finance committee member Maura McGroarty.

In related news, Ruley and Green-Beach agreed to work with the harbor advisory committee, business owners, and musicians to discuss the town’s policy on outdoor music. Currently Oak Bluffs allows acoustic outdoor music and amplified outdoor music with a special permit.

In a sign of a post-pandemic world, the board approved holding Tivoli Day on Sept. 18, and the Martha’s Vineyard Marathon on Sept. 25.



  1. While this might initially seem like a great idea, have any of you seen the way the Summer residents and visitors park even when its wide open? The Bad Parking Facebook page is gonna be busy this Summer!

  2. Given the poor state of parking abilities, this change might be a blessing for those who know how to parallel park.

  3. I am sure the business owners love reading the fact that they’re losing parking spaces on circuit Avenue.

    • Craftworks is in favor of losing parking spaces on Circuit Ave, actually converting it to strictly a pedestrian street would be even better.

  4. l don’t think it’s right that Town Select Persons, that are also on the Streetscape Committee, should be able to vote for something for the Streetscape Plan. To me, that is a conflict of interest. I personally agree with Gail Barmakian, this should have gone to the people, on a ballot.

  5. Not sure there is even room to parallel park and does this give more parking in town as it is at a premium in the summer months and then some?? Plus it holds up the whole street when someone tries to parallel park . Who comes up with this hog-wash idea???

  6. I have one question — how can such a stupid idea ever even be considered , let alone implemented ?

  7. Oak Bluffs leadership once again reinforces a poor plan. Traffic backups will be a nightmare with parallel parking. What a dumb idea.

  8. Please do not modernize Circuit Avenue. Its sometimes narrow and uneven sidewalks are a big part of what makes it the charming antique that we have all loved since we were kids and what tourists find unique and attractive. It’s comparable to ripping up the cobble stone streets in Nantucket and laying down nice, fresh, new pavement. Why do such a thing?

    As well as making the mistake of “Fixing” something that does not need fixing, the ill-imagined plan to modernize and degrade the quaintness of Circuit Avenue also includes, not adding parking spaces, but eliminating 12 spots and by making parking more difficult by implementing parallel parking on a busy commercial street.

    I would truly like to see the results of a vote or a pole on this subject by the residents of Oak Bluffs, as well as an island-wide vote just for good measure. Why not take a vote and if necessary, reconsider?

  9. well— at last we have a bi partisan agreement with the commenters here– not a single one thinks this is anything but stupid. right wing, left wing, independent, socialist, fascist .
    We all think this is about the dumbest idea ever for O.B
    So what is the motivation for the approval of this boondoggle ?
    Why would any select board member approve this?
    Perhaps they are getting kickbacks from the contractors ?
    Let the conspiracy theories begin—

  10. Parallel parking on a street with traffic ALWAYS backed up is just about the worst idea ever!
    This guarantees accidents and a LOT of ugly exchanges on the street.
    Please re-consider taking away angle parking.

  11. A survey of 1,000 Americans found:
    49% of American drivers reported some degree of fear of parallel parking. It’s known as one of the most complicated driving skills — and for good reason.
    Nearly half of Americans (49%) have parallelophobia, or the fear of parallel parking.
    The most common fear drivers have is holding up traffic (24%), followed by hitting another car (21%).
    Of those who drive, only about half (53%) feel “very confident” in their parallel parking skills.
    Northeasterners are most confident (61%) while midwesterners are least confident (46%) in their parallel parking abilities.

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