O.B. questioning public events in neighborhoods

Changes coming to the O.B. harbor; Shifts with Our Market ownership 

The Martha's Vineyard Black Book Festival is hoping to hold its event at the Island Inn in Oak Bluffs. —Eunki Seonwoo

The Oak Bluffs select board is expressing reservations allowing public events to be held in residential areas in town, citing concerns about traffic and the impact of noise on neighborhoods.

The most recent event under review is the Martha’s Vineyard Black Book Festival to be held inaugurally on August 10 at the Island Inn, an event that has already begun selling tickets. 

Festival organizers approached the town on Tuesday for approval of an amplified sound permit to have music playing up to 9 pm, but the board agreed that more information was needed on what kinds of activities were allowed at the space before a decision was made. 

The festival would consist of author meetups, refreshments, and music with around 150 people estimated in attendance.

“The goal is to have conversations and for people to connect and learn from one another,” said Traci Smith, who owns one of the Island Inn units and plans to be host of the event.

Board members and neighbors raised concerns overparking with that many guests in attendance in a residential area.

Kharma Finley-Wallace, who manages the space at the inn, said there is space for up to 50 cars. However, the priority would go to guests staying at the inn. She added that there is some parking shared with the nearby Nomans restaurant. “For most of our events, we ask [organizers] to provide transportation or just clearly let their guests know parking is very limited,” she said. 

Board member Jason Balboni said he wanted to see a site plan showing where tents and parking would be laid out. He also pushed for an earlier closure.

Several neighbors of the inn came forward with concerns regarding people parking where they shouldn’t, noise problems, and about an event being proposed in a residentially zoned area. 

“This is an issue that keeps coming up,” Oak Bluffs resident Sam Low said. Some of the residents recommended taking the event to the Featherstone Center for the Arts. 

In other news, the board unanimously approved converting two slips by Our Market into a floating drop-off dock with an upweller underneath — which acts like an incubator for shellfish.

The board also unanimously approved creating a 10-pass discount card for daytime use of moorings in Oak Bluffs Harbor. The pass would cost $300 each.

Meanwhile, the board voted 3-2 to approve a $200 resident fee for boat slips registered with the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby during the duration of the competition. The fee would be waived for individuals enrolled in the town’s resident slip program. Board members Jason Balboni and Dion Alley voted against the motion. 

The select board unanimously approved the transfer of an annual all alcohol and package store license from to Our Market Liquors MV LLC after a public hearing. 

Toniann Belmosto-Borges, a representative from the LLC, said there would be no operational changes under the new ownership and the current manager will continue to be employed at the market. He also said despite none of the new owners living on-Island, they will be accessible in case any issues arise. 

The only public comment was from Oak Bluffs resident Jean Loud, who pushed for improving safety at the Our Market parking lot, saying it gets particularly dicey during the summer months. 

Also, the select board was not in favor of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) plans to add a crosswalk at Seaview Avenue and Lake Avenue. 

Some town officials expressed concerns the proposed crosswalk could cause traffic problems, although there are limitations to what Oak Bluffs can do to stop a state project. 

Oak Bluffs town administrator Deborah Potter said the department was making a request “last minute” for feedback, so the town could still ask for compromises from the state in creating the crosswalk. 

Potter will be writing a letter addressing concerns to the state. MassDOT will be submitting designs starting next month.


  1. Every year there’s an application for an event at the Island Inn, and every year the neighboring residents have to remind the Select Board that the Inn is not zoned for such use. Then there’s feigned ignorance, descriptions of economic harm due to the selling of tickets in advance of permits issued, and a request to grant a permit “just this one time”. Town counsel reviewed the matter, and the “one time” permit approved by the board on 8/3/21 was supposed to be the last time – and yet, here we are again.

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