O.B. seeks bids for Circuit Ave. project

Parallel parking is coming.


The Oak Bluffs select board voted 4-1 to approve issuing a request for proposal (RFP) for the Circuit Ave. portion of its streetscape project.

The streetscape project has been in the works for years. Design and engineering have been vetted by committees and public hearings, but the select board was nearly split when they voted 3-2 to approve the design that was generally favored, but contentious when it came to the designs for parallel parking on the busy Oak Bluffs street.

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 widened sidewalks, trash cans, streetlights, and crosswalks, and provide accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Healey Square would also be redesigned and get a brand-new look by removing the large planters at both ends.

Select board member Brian Packish said the project will be fragmented, with the Circuit Ave. portion prioritized first. He added that the project is expected to come in under budget due to additional funding from a state grant for the harbor portion of the project.

During a Zoom meeting Tuesday night, select board member Gail Barmakian took issue with the sequence of beginning the project and then getting funds.

“We have never started a project without having the financing in place. Not raising an appropriation, but where it’s coming from. Even though you can because we haven’t borrowed yet,” Barmakian said. “It would seem to me a very careful, smart, and responsible approach to know those funds are going to be raised in a specific way and go to the town first.”

Voters approved borrowing the $2.7 million, but the funds are not in the town’s budget because the money has not been borrowed yet, according to town administrator Deborah Potter. 

“You have an authorization to borrow, but you don’t actually put the money in your budget to pay it back until you incur that debt,” Potter, who is also the town accountant, said. “In this case, since the project would be commencing later in this year, there are strategies employed that you don’t ban or bond the money until such a time you know you can actually push it forward another fiscal year and a half until your first payment is due.”

She also said there were no issues with the way the town was conducting the project.

“There’s multiple ways to get a solution done, and there does not appear to be anything out of the ordinary in the way this has been done,” Potter said.

Barmakian voted against the project, saying it was “shortsighted” and “irresponsible” to go forward with a project without knowing where funds were coming from.

Parks commissioner and streetscape committee member Amy Billings similarly had concerns about the project funding, and separately about parking. “I do worry about accepting a bid whether it’s high or not high, and the other parts of the project not getting done,” Billings said. “I’m pretty disappointed the parallel parking was pushed through without more thought.”

At the beginning of the discussion, Packish disclosed that he does not own any property on Circuit Ave., and filed disclosures with the state ethics commission. Packish is part owner of the building that houses the Red Cat Kitchen on Kennebec Avenue.

But Maura McGroarty, a member of the town’s finance committee, raised concerns about Packish’s involvement in the project.

“As chair of the select board, in my opinion, I haven’t asked the ethics board, you should not have even been on the streetscape committee, never mind chairing it, at the same time you were eligible to vote as a member for its approval,” McGroarty said. “I think that’s a problem. I haven’t pursued anything about it. I am saying this respecting the position you’re in, but thinking it’s very problematic.”

Packish thanked McGroarty for her comments.

The chat section of the Zoom meeting had several comments from town stakeholders ranging from support to dismay.

“As a taxpayer that is stuck paying for this plan, I can’t emphasize enough how I don’t care what one guy on TripAdvisor thinks. I love Circuit Avenue on any day, and would only prefer it be repaired with current parking rather than what a tourist wants,” Rich Weiss said.

“We have been planning and looking into this for so long — can we just get it done? It’s a good plan,” Kathy Laskowski said.

“Wider sidewalks and parking have been publicly discussed since 2014 and voted on in May. At the time there were 35 businesses in favor and 8 against the project. Four businesses were neutral,” Doug Abdelnour, who owns Nancy’s Restaurant, said.

In other business, the board approved the opening dates for the scalloping season. For Sengekontacket Pond and outside waters, the recreational season opens on Oct. 17, and Nov. 8 for commercial permit holders. Lagoon Pond will open on Nov. 13 for recreational, and Nov. 15 for commercial.

Shellfish constable Chuck Fisher said most of the adult scallops he’s been seeing are stunted in growth. The regulation for scallops is a well-defined growth line which is at least 10mm from the hinge. However, if the growth line is under 10mm, the shell height has to be at least 2½ inches from the hinge to the tip. “So either really big, or a really defined growth line 10mm from the hinge,” Fisher said.


  1. Thank you selectperson Barmakian for your voice on this issue. Mr. Packish you’ve got too much property downtown to be voting on this issue.

    Parallel parking on Circuit is one of the dumbest ideas ever!

    • Agreed….so the question is : where is the parking garage gonna be built. ? seeing you’ll need it taking away more than 1/2 the parking

      • Why does Oak Bluffs need parking?
        10 months a year I have no problem parking.
        Is this to accommodate the businesses that sell summer tourist slop?

    • Agreed. I admire all Mr. Packish has done for OB, but agree he owns too much property to be an objective and impartial select person.

  2. As I commented on another related article last week, if the selectmen et al persist in going along with this plan which apparently no one I knows likes or wants, except the town officials, then put in place a municipal parking lot with a bus that makes trips from the lot on a regular basis, back and forth, all day long into the nighttime! Do we have money for that, BTW?

  3. I’m just curious, I want to know, who will be paying the bills for the new lighting, maintenance on the roads and sidewalks and new lights. Will money be coming from the tourists who may enjoy the wider sidewalks and new lights, or will it be the tax payers who live here, and the tourists don’t care about the bills? I am dead set against the parallel parking. To lose 15 or so spaces, and tell people, “find a space on Lake Ave and walk”, doesn’t work for a lot of people, especially seniors, to just check their mail and carry groceries home from the market. I personally think this is one of the most ludicrous ideas Oak Bluffs has ever had. Considering, it’s only going to help, with wider sidewalks, the walking tourists. I repeat. Trying to back into a parallel parking spot will not be easy, when there is a line of traffic. The driver behind you doesn’t know you want to park in a spot, so he/she will, more than likely, be on your bumper, as you go up Circuit Ave, so you won’t be able to back into the spot.

  4. This was terrible to push through without a public vote! Many of us are totally against this insane project. A total waste of money. We do not want a manicured and “beautified” Oak Bluffs. Suburbia is coming! Yuck!
    Wide sidewalks and parallel parking make zero sense and the cutting of the mature trees is sickening. I will be voting all of these selectmen out!
    A disgrace to Oak Bluffs and this historic town will be changed forever.

  5. Whoever even considered parallel parking should have their head examined! As if normal traffic and easy access parking were not challenge enough. Some folks are so open minded that their brains fall out!

  6. So the plan is to implement parallel parking on Circuit Ave., wait till the resulting traffic jams back up to the harbor (if not to Vineyard Haven), and then, only then, realize that it was a bad idea? What is the matter with you people??

  7. Parallel parking on Circuit Ave is a totally ridiculous idea! It is difficult for most (sober) drivers and the loss of badly needed parking spaces just doesn’t make any sense.

  8. I am concerned about the replacement of memorial medallions on lamp posts and benches in Healy Square. i assume the Project will absorb theses costs and not the people who bought them or The friends of Oak Bluffs

  9. How much are OB residents supposed to sacrifice to the tourist industry that washes over us in the summer like a tsunami? For 3, maybe 4, months of the year? I’m not anti-tourism, but: Who did the research to justify the burden of the expense of restructuring our downtown? And what were the results of the research? Is there a safety issue on Circuit Ave? How many pedestrian accidents have occurred in the summer on our narrow sidewalks? Has tourism declined because of congestion on our main street? Or is this some of our selectmen’s desire for OB to present a faux quaint and chic appearance like so many other tourist areas on the New England coast, in spite of the realities of life for those of us who live here year-round…that’s the other 9 months of the year when there are no tourists! How are we supposed to re-organize our lives to enable only the pleasures of our summer visitors? What about us? How are we going to get to the Post Office? do our grocery shopping? Purchase items that we need at the hardware store and other retail stores? It has always been a struggle for us in the summer. Why do you want to make it even harder?

    • How much do OB residents benefit from the tourist industry that washes over us in the summer like a tsunami?
      OB is always demanding more and more boats come into OB.
      What percent of OB taxes are paid for by tourist industry that washes over us in the summer like a tsunami?
      Wake up, if the Island were not desirable you would not be here, adding to the people in the summer.
      If you desire year around peace and serenity go find an undesirable island.
      How much of your household income comes from the tourist industry?

  10. I’ll do it– I have no experience in this kind of stuff, no license, no insurance and no employees.
    I am the perfect “contractor” to do this. I guarantee that I will fence the fence out of it, and in the end, it will be so fenced up that even the idiots who approved this will throw their hands up in disgust that I could actually be more incompetent and corrupt than they are — hard to believe, but I will do my best. I will do my best to bill the maximum possible for unreasonable cost overruns and pass all the cost on to the taxpayers.
    But the real up side of hiring me is that I would donate all the corrupt money I “make” to the hospital or any other charitable organization to do whatever they wanted to with.

  11. I still don’t understand how this enormous project can be shoved through by just the select board and not put to a town vote.
    Why do they have this much power? Who’s town is this?

  12. Read the article folks. This project has been around for years with many meetings for input and was approved at town meeting last year. The plans have been on the town website for a long time. Next time get off Facebook for a few minutes and take a look at what is going on around you.

  13. Why go to a board meeting…They don’t listen to the local taxpayers anyway…This is a stupid idea….What happened to the quaint,,charming,,Martha’s Vineyard….

    • When was the last time you spoke at a board meeting?
      Quaint,,charming,,Martha’s Vineyard…. exists only for that short period of time when you “come of age” on the Island, no matter how old you are.
      It is such a fleeting experience.
      I remember when the Island was magical.
      The day I got here.

  14. I am confused.
    Did the general population vote for this or was it voted on by just the select people?
    This project should be put on the ballot in the next general election.

    The last “great redesign” of downtown Oak Bluffs resulted in a significant reduction of parking spaces for cars and a plethora of additional commercial parking spots.
    This plan to change the parking on Circus ave is a “communist plot” by Edgartown to drive summer people out of OB and into Edgarville.
    Oak Bluffs, don’t drink the koolaid!
    This crazy project must be stopped.
    It’s not needed and any benefit will be greatly overshadowed by the negatives aspect of losing more parking.
    Wait, maybe I am being obtuse.
    I get it! The next step will be to cover all of downtown Oak Bluffs and make it into a jumbo-covered shopping mall. We could fit all of the parking we need up on the roof of the mall.
    We could call it “Shopper’s World”.

    • Yes the townspeople voted for the project at town meeting last year. It was properly vetted with several meetings to explain the project. People need to start paying attention to what is going on in the town.

      • No, the project was not voted on by the people. The 2.7 million to get the project moving forward was voted on, not the actual plan, that was explained at town meeting it was only a “conceptual plan.” Next time please pay attention to what actually happened

  15. Seriously? It was always so easy just to drive up Circuit Ave. And pull into a space.
    Now these nit-wits want parallel parking. Most people have no clue how to park, not to mention the time each driver will spend jamming into a space that’s too small.
    Parking is tough enough without adding parallel parking into the mix.

  16. Terrible idea.
    When was in OB early this summer I noticed the very nice matured landscaping in I guess it is Healy Square? Where the PO is. That is to be destroyed? Outrageous.

    Why destroy mature plantings and cut down established trees?
    It will all looks like a featureless mall.

    The parallel parking is a nonstarter. Most people can’t do it, especially nowadays with large SUVs and darkened windows. The current parking regime is easy for everyone. It is quick to pull out and traffic has to stop for just a few seconds to allow a car to get out. I foresee a lot of frustration and angry words in OB. Heck, I am pretty good at parallel parking and my car is relatively compact, but I sure wouldn’t look forward to it in the summertime with traffic backed up behind me. I can hear the honking now . . . Then to get out of the car you have to open the door on the sidewalk side and maybe scrape the door on the sidewalk. Or the sidewalk is too high to step onto comfortably.

    Why cut down trees? What is it with people who think this way? Maybe they have spent too much time in the Falmouth Mall.

    The sidewalks are fine the way they are. Part of the charm of Circuit Avenue is governed by the proportions. The sidewalk is in proportion to the height of the buildings. Widening the sidewalks will ruin the look, diminish the buildings, and make the whole place look more like Mashpee Commons than Oak Bluffs. .

    Don’t do it. There must be a way to put a STOP to this madness and waste of money. An injunction of some kind.

  17. It seems like there is some daylight between what the business owners want and what a vocal portion of Times readers want. Let me take it one step further: Circuit Ave should be walking- only. Many other tourist towns do this.

    • People love to whine online, project has been discussed and voted on. It is happening and I’m fine with it(We have a business on Circuit Ave.) but would prefer it being converted to pedestrian only, no vehicles at all. Pedestrian malls work great all over the country and would be great here as well. People are just scared of change.

  18. Thank you Gail for being a voice of reason. Also, if you ask the year round population their thoughts on parallel parking, 95% would say no.

  19. I don’t agree with this plan and voiced it at a zoom meeting by chiming in on chat several times. We need more spaces on Main Street and to keep the diagonal parking. Can’t imagine parents with car seats and children trying to get them out on Main Street while cars are trying to drive by them. Never mind the back up from the boat traffic coming up Main Street while people are trying to parallel park. I applaud Gail for voting against this and I feel this needs to be voted by the townspeople in a ballet vote. I have seen so much more negative towards this then positive – I think the townspeople should be listened to and our tax dollars are going to climb as every project has cost overruns.

  20. We’ve had parallel parking on Main St in Edgartown for as long as I can remember and the sky hasnt fallen, traffic isnt backed up and it works just fine. This sounds like another “the roundabout is gonna ruin the island” kind of hysteria.

    • actually. Carla– if you go into Edgartown on a Saturday night in the summer, traffic is backed up for quite a ways. I have seen people trying to park oversized SUVs while dozens of cars wait for them to learn how to park. Edgartown doesn’t have a choice. Ob has a fine configuration.

    • Traffic isn’t backed up? I take it you don’t go into downtown Edgartown between Easter and New Years Eve…

  21. Sorry, I’m here for the debate or the town voting for this project.
    Please help me understand.

    For the people of Oak Bluffs that live there year-round, what is the benefits for them?
    What is the plan for people from other towns that want to drive to Oak Bluffs and get an ice cream cone or eat at one of the great Curcuit Av restaurants?
    How to go to check mails?
    Is plan to put asphalt on glorious Ocein Park?
    Where are cars go to park?
    I am very sad for Oak BLuffs.

  22. Admittedly I’m only a summer person, but this plan seems fine to me. I agree there should be some consideration of where additional parking near Circuit Avenue might go when there are fewer spaces on the avenue itself. Or maybe there should be some permanent-resident-only spaces with high fines, so you’re not inconvenienced picking up your mail. But the narrowness of the sidewalks is a real problem in the summer and makes OB less appealing, not to mention dangerous or impassable for those in wheelchairs. As a lonely voice above notes, parallel parking works fine on Main Street in Edgartown, because people aren’t complete idiots — everyone’s looking for parking and everyone knows how to let people ahead get into a space. It’ll be the same on Circuit.

    • Parallel parking may work in Edgartown, but Edgartown doesn’t have a ferry boat disgorging cars every other hour during the day in the summer. People don’t have to be complete idiots, they just have to have zero patience and a “me first, dammit” lifestyle.

    • You may not live here year round but you get it better than most commenting here. Angled nose in parking is very dangerous for every pedestrian walking on the sidewalk as well, anyone remember the woman pinned to a building when a car jumped the sidewalk?

  23. If there is not already enough reasons to NOT implement parallel parking along the hill on Circuit Avenue, here’s another:

    When the unskilled parallel parkers begin their dance of bumper bumping, think of all the car alarms that will be going off all day and all evening! The customers can come an go throughout the day, but the business owners will hear those screaming alarms all day and all evening long. This cacophony will start on the day of the completion of this misconceived “Modernization.”

  24. Celeste Drouin is right on. I don’t understand how business owners can’t see the disaster-in-the-making here. The last redo in OB already created the Disnoid look (thank Mr. Uranker for that adjective). Edgartown is “quaint”, OB is FUNK: beautiful, comfortable, happy, soul-cheering funk. Seems as if all there will be left on the island soon will be tourists and business owners who will have to import workers, since the middle class employment pool is being priced out (another topic for another day). Believe me, as someone who has worked in the service industry 40+ years, I want businesses to be successful, just don’t turn a deaf ear on year-round people who are in more of a struggle now than ever to live here. And don’t hit me with the “if you can’t afford to live here, go where you can afford to” reasoning. Tell that to any of the seniors who lived and worked their entire lives here and created the fabric of this community when they can’t get to Reliable Market. But, as Mr. Axel and Mr. Patterson have said, the town voted for this. Perhaps the pedestrian access only idea would be an agreeable compromise. I think Arte Johnson on Laugh-In said it best: Very Interesting.

      • That comment wasn’t in reference to parking, Mr. Patterson. I’m happy that you see the benefit in this plan, nice to hear a positive voice about something on MV for a change. I agree something has to be done about the human congestion—a friend of mine was pushed off the sidewalk onto Circuit Ave. by the hordes and was scraped up badly. I’m not an OB voter so my two cents isn’t worth a hill of beans in this crazy world.

    • Actually, Jamie, “the town” really didn’t vote for this. To our shame, participation to this degree only happens when the barn door is being locked and the horse is sprinting down the road. Whether overwhelmed with trying to make a living, or trying to find housing or the hundreds of other things that distract us, we have not let our selectmen know how much most of us do not want this configuration on Circuit Avenue. Hopefully they can capture that horse and bring it back before it’s too late. I agree that the sidewalks need repair. Yes, it would be ideal if we could widen them without putting in the parallel parking, but apparently we can’t, so perhaps just repairing and leveling them would be enough.

    • As you said it has been decided by a town meeting vote. All the naysayer’s need to pay attention next time. And yes, if you don’t have the skills, fortitude, desire to work like hell in order to live here then move off to a place where your skills are more in line with your ability to afford where you live. Harsh, yes, the truth hurts sometimes.

  25. There are plenty of townspeople who agree with these plans for Circuit Ave. We are the ones who have been showing up at meetings and sending emails and making comments responding to the plans as they were presented. Everyone had an opportunity to weigh in. And often the plans were tweaked in response. Change is difficult.

  26. Wow, where was everyone when this project was being discussed over the years?? Apparently, not at the board meetings.
    I will admit I don’t attend nearly enough town meetings but if you don’t voice your opinion, how will the select board know??
    It’s too late now and it’s a shame.

  27. My family owns Phillips Hardware in Oak Bluffs. The change to parallel parking will hurt our business and many others. Parallel parking is more difficult and will cause traffic to back up. I already have customers that say they will avoid Oak Bluffs. JUNE 16, 2020 — TOWN MEETING. $2,774,000 was voted on to finish the work of Streetscape but it was not an actual plan This controversial issue of parallel parking should have been a ballot vote like the funding was.

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