Oak Bluffs limits overnight harbor use

The town’s select board implemented changes to using Oak Bluffs Harbor. 

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Oak Bluffs placed limitations on overnight harbor use. —MV Times

The Oak Bluffs Select Board implemented changes to its harbor during its meeting on Tuesday, both limiting overnight harbor slip and mooring use during the off-season and amending its residential slip lottery program. 

These changes were also discussed earlier this month, but were sent back to the Oak Bluffs harbor advisory committee for further review. 

According to committee chair Michael Santoro, the recommendation would limit the off-season overnight harbor slip and mooring use to up to 72 hours, from Dec. 1 to April 1. The only exception would be for commercial fishing boats registered with the harbormaster. 

“Any vessel that stays over the 72-hour limit will be subject to removal and storage costs by the owner,” Santoro said. 

Santoro said there was one boat being used as a residence, but the harbor was not set up for residential use. Santoro said there were options available for this individual, offered by others who did not wish to be named, such as an apartment or sharing a house. The individual would be given 30 days’ notice to remove the boat once the limitation was approved. 

There were also issues that board members felt needed to be addressed, although amendments weren’t made to the recommendation. Board member Jason Balboni said he had issues with people using the town’s electricity at the harbor without paying. Board member Gail Barmakian questioned whether legal issues could arise from the harbor department coming in to remove vessels, although Santoro said it was within the harbormaster’s authority to do so. 

Several meeting attendees on Tuesday objected to the limitation

The man who stayed on his boat in the harbor, who did not identify himself, said it was sudden, and it wasn’t an issue while he was there during the previous winter. With the new rules, he said, he would be homeless, and doesn’t know where he could keep his boat. 

Oak Bluffs resident Lynn Vera pushed the town to have an “open harbor” with better amenities, since people still visit during the winter. Vera also said she has always seen a couple of boats in the harbor during the winter, and pointed out that there is a houseboat in Tisbury waters. “These are hardy people, and we should encourage them,” she said. 

Christopher Wright, a boat captain, questioned why the limitations were needed, and whether the exemption would also apply to other commercial maritime operations. 

Barmakian said the wintertime management of the harbor had been an ongoing issue that had been pushed down the line for over a year. In particular, she said, the town did not have the insurance, capacity, or finances to accommodate someone living on a boat in the harbor. 

Balboni said these are questions that should have been brought up to the advisory committee, and not the select board. Barmakian said those who had further questions or concerns regarding the regulation could get on the Oak Bluffs harbor advisory committee’s agenda and talk about it there. 

The board unanimously approved the overnight limitation, which begins this upcoming December. 

The slip lottery program was unanimously amended with little discussion. 

Santoro said the revised program would have 12 slips, instead of 10, for Oak Bluffs residents at a 20 percent discount, along with continued free electricity use for residents. 

“If there are more than 12 residents who apply for the slips, we will do a lottery,” he said. 

When Barmakian asked whether there would be any slips made even cheaper for residents who might not be able to afford the discounted price, Santoro said residents don’t have to commit to the full summer, unlike a nonresident. “They can do weeks at a time,” he said, adding that the 20 percent discount was only for those who commit to at least 30 days for a slip. 

The updated program will begin in 2024.

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