Oak Bluffs to explore day mooring fees

Town approves agreement with Coast Guard for archaeological survey at East Chop.

Wanting to tap into a new revenue stream, Oak Bluffs will explore mooring fees for day trippers. — Rich Saltzberg

Change is on the horizon for Oak Bluffs Harbor after the select board directed the harbor advisory committee to begin exploring mooring fees for daytime boaters.

Unlike Edgartown, which charges $45 per day or per night, Oak Bluffs does not charge day boaters for moorings. The town only charges per-night fees of $30 off-season and $45 in season.

“It’s inconsistent with the other harbors on the Island, as well as the amount of energy and costs it takes for us to manage 100, 200 boats tied up in the mooring field, maintenance of moorings,” select board member Brian Packish said. “There’s an opportunity to create a possible revenue source.”

Packish said the new mooring fees, if approved, would not go into effect until next year.

Harbor advisory committee chair Michael Santoro said the town is missing out on a revenue stream. “I think the harbor now, we’re considered a world-class harbor,” Santoro said. “We certainly now can charge to come in by the hour.”

Select board member Jason Balboni concurred, and said for a boat owner, a $50 fee is not a burden.

The harbor advisory board will also analyze where the revenue goes and report back to the board by Nov. 1.

In other business, the board unanimously approved entering another license agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard that will allow for an archeological survey on town property.

The Coast Guard is in the midst of a lead remediation project at the East Chop Lighthouse after significant levels of lead contamination were found both in the federal parcel that East Chop Light sits on and in Telegraph Hill Park, town land that surrounds the federal parcel. The highest level of lead found by a Coast Guard contractor turned out to be from a sample taken in Telegraph Hill Park. The state has required an archeological survey of the area around the lighthouse ahead of any removal of contaminated soil. 

The board also unanimously approved holding Ladyfest on Oct. 2 from 3 to 11 pm.

The yearly concert was co-founded in 2017 by Rose Guerin and Kelly Feirtag, with assistance from the Ritz’s owner, Larkin Stallings. The organizers partnered with Connect to End Violence, a program of M.V. Community Services (MVCS), to raise awareness about domestic violence and abuse in the community. The concert will return to its in-person setting a year after holding a virtual concert.

“I’ve had the luxury of attending almost every one of the events, and it’s tremendous fun,” Packish said. “It’s important to keep Oak Bluffs in a leadership position around these issues and supporting them.”

The town will wait two more weeks before taking “guaranteed” action on land damage and right-of-entry agreements with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for the bike path project on Beach Road.

The board has met with MassDOT several times to discuss the agreements, but each time select board member Gail Barmakian has expressed concern about the agreements that would have the town give up rights if any damage was done during construction. The board gave Barmakian two more weeks to work with the state to iron out any issues, and said a vote would be taken at their next meeting.

At her first meeting as the newly minted town administrator, Deborah Potter informed the board that the town’s local estimated receipts, revenue from taxes other than property or state aid, are $5 million — $1.2 million over the town’s recap estimate from last year, which was reduced due to potential impacts from the pandemic. Additional receipts that have yet to come in will boost that amount higher, one of which is the short-term rentals tax.

“These numbers are all very favorable, much higher than expected, and put us, optimistically, in a good position for free cash, but I’m not making any promises,” Potter said.


  1. So many harbors are becoming exclusive. I am in opposition to a day fee and unlike the people on the harbor advisory committee infer, $50 is still a lot of money. Not all boaters are laden with cash. Also presently the free mooring isn’t quite free when each person pays the launch service to come ashore. Money spent on a mooring fee would bel less money spent at the establishments in town. I enjoy visiting OB in the summer but would be reluctant to come with such a fee in place

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