Oak Bluffs mulls requirement change for harbor slip lottery

The slip lottery drawing is slated for March 8.

The Oak Bluffs select board voted to approve moving up the application deadline for the resident slip lottery. — MV Times

At Tuesday’s Oak Bluffs select board meeting, Mike Santoro, chair of the Oak Bluffs harbor advisory committee, relayed a recommendation from the committee to move up the lottery application deadline for slips in the town’s harbor for the season. 

Out of the 10 resident slips available via the lottery — which are rentable at a reduced price — the marina typically receives 12 to 14 requests, Santoro said.

Approving the committee’s recommendation to change the deadline from May 1 to March 1

would allow those who are not picked in the lottery to obtain slips, although not at the reduced price, he said.

In anticipation of receiving more than 10 resident applications, Santoro also asked that two full-price slips be held for residents, pending the finalization of this season’s lottery.

Next year, he said, the goal is to begin the application process even earlier, in January. 

Santoro proposed a few verbiage changes in the lottery application, which would further specify that harbor slips be awarded only to residents who live on the Island year-round. 

“We’re stressing any way we can, that it’s got to be [for] year-round residents,” he said. 

“The biggest complaint I’ve heard,” select board member Gail Barmakian said, is that a number of people who enter into the lottery “aren’t really year-round [residents].” 

Likewise, Barmakian said, there seems to be a trend where some year-rounders who are awarded the slip at the reduced price of $85 per foot per day allow others to take over that slip. 

“We know a lot of people have a car registered here, and they don’t live here,” she said. “We all know that some of those people don’t have their driver’s licenses [registered] here.”

Barmakian advocated for making the requirements “more onerous,” and suggested an even stricter rewording of the resident slip application “to prevent that from happening.” 

Select board member Brian Packish raised the issue about using taxpayer dollars to “subsidize” resident slips. He said he’s been approached often by residents who share that concern.

“We have taxpayers who are paying more taxes because we’re giving away $75,000 worth of slip fees,” he said. 

Those concerns, Santoro said, are what prompted last year’s $10 increase from $75. He added that the fee will be revisited in 2025. 

Select board member Emma Green-Beach stated her support for the lottery program, specifically the idea of holding full-price slips for two additional residents — but questioned how to gauge which full-time residents should be able to qualify. 

“What if a resident can’t afford [renting at full price],” she asked, “and what if a resident who can afford that makes it through the lottery?” 

She inquired whether it would be useful to restrict the slips to a certain vessel length, as currently there is no maximum. 

Barmakian argued that the size of a boat, or a resident’s financial situation, shouldn’t determine ability to qualify for the slip lottery, and doubled down on her stance. “Local is local,” she said, “whether you have $100 million or $100.” 

The select board ultimately approved the change of the application deadline to March 1, the saving of 10 slips for the resident lottery, and two additional slips to be put aside for year-round residents who may rent them at full price. The board also approved altering the language to stress the year-round requirement.

The slip lottery drawing is slated for March 8, and will be officially approved at a subsequent Oak Bluffs select board meeting.