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Planning Board Minutes 06/03/2009

P.O. BOX 602
(508) 696-4270


DATE:                   June 3, 2009    

TIME:                   7:00 P.M.

PLACE:                  Town Hall Annex

ATTENDANCE:             Aldrin, Peak and Stephenson
ABSENT:                 Duart


7:00 PM Public Discussion Re: Owen Little Way Beach

The discussions were opened with a power point presentation by Henry Stephenson recapping old issues plaguing Owen Little Way, such as:   
a.~~~~~~ the dangerous intersection at   Main Street  and Owen Little Way,  
b.~~~~~ short sight line at the intersection,  
c. ~~~~~~ the absence of sidewalks,  
d. ~~~~~ parking and parking regulations
e. ~~~~~~ absence of clearly defined boundary lines distinguishing the town’s beach from the yacht club’s beach, ~  
f. ~~~~~~~ the conflicts in sharing the public waterfront with a private entity, and
g.~~~~~~ the need to improve the public beach to make it more hospitable for the swimmers.
Mr. Stephenson added that in studying the area, the Board concluded that they could improve the sight lines if they moved and cut down the hedges at both corners of the intersection, removed or relocated the one large mailbox on the road, and eliminated the parking spaces from the intersection.  
Mr. Stephenson did not think the parking issue could be resolved with additional parking. It was his impression that existing parking spaces had to be shared equitably, and yacht club members had to be discouraged from using the public parking area while attending yacht club functions. He suggested closing off the access going directly to the Yacht Club from the public parking area to make it less convenient for yacht club members.  
Mr. Stephenson further noted that the yacht club’s use of the town beach was making it somewhat dangerous for the swimmers, who complained of fatal encounters with novice boaters. Town residents further complained that the yacht club’s activities were encroaching on the beach making their stay uncomfortable.~ Photos in the power point presentation confirmed the town owned beach littered with boats used by the yacht club’s patrons. ~ It also demonstrated how the location of the town’s beach relative contributed to the problem, especially when the boundaries were not clearly delineated.~ ~
Mr. Stephenson noted that the town attempted to address the issues through an informal arrangement with the yacht club years ago, but the agreement failed at town meeting. He recommended revisiting the arrangement to consider an “exchange in the use of the beaches”. Mr. Stephenson clarified that he was not suggesting an exchange of land, title or ownership, so that town could use the beachfront property to the north of the storm water outfall for swimming, and the yacht club would be able to consolidate its activities to the south of the storm water outfall. The proposed arrangement would create a safer environment for both parties.  
As part of the exchange, Mr. Stephenson noted that the town would have to remove the rocks along the shoreline, nourish the beach, improve the storm water outfall, and construct a swimming pier.  
Ann Metcalf, a resident on  20 Daggett Ave.  indicated that she attended the Planning Board’s meeting in 2007, and noticed that the only improvement the town implemented to date was the crosswalk and sign She thanked Mr. LaPiana for the improvements, but wanted to know what the purpose or goals were for holding these discussions, if the majority of the improvements were never implemented.  
Mr. Stephenson acknowledged Ms. Metcalf’s frustration, and directed the inquiry to Mr. LaPiana and Mr. Bugbee. He asked them if the town’s considering or planning on acting on any of their recommendations.  
Mr. LaPiana replied that he could relocate the parking sign down the road to eliminated the parking spaces at the intersection, and believed they’ve done as much as they could, until the town developed and approved a plan for the area. ~Apart from the private property issues they had to be negotiated, the town had to decide if they wanted to change the designation of the beach, which required a number of improvements, including a sidewalk. If they were pursuing this route, Mr. LaPiana believed they had to begin  ~addressing the increase in vehicular and pedestrian traffic associated with a public beach.~   
Mr. Stephenson inquired if the DPW would pursue the improvement, if the private property owners were willing to have their hedges relocated. Mr. LaPiana noted that they had to address how the changes in the streetscape were going to impact the sight lines.~ But they had to arrive at an understanding beforehand about the area’s future use, and anticipated traffic flow.  
Rebecca Busselle, an abutter on 30 Owen Little Way noted that they did not have any issues with the sight line distances at the intersection until the town moved the centerline further east. It was her belief that it was to sole contributor to the safety hazards observed at the intersection. She recommended addressing the problem by installing sign(s), blinking lights, etc. to slow down the cars coming down the hill.
Mr. Stephenson asked Mr. LaPiana about the process for installing a stop sign. Mr. LaPiana replied that it would require both the Board of Selectmen’s and the Mass. State Highway’s approvals.  
Mr.  Israel , a Selectman of the Town of  Tisbury  did not think a sign at the was a solution, and recommended exploring other traffic calming strategies with ~Mr. LaPiana.
Renata Hejduk, a town resident at 86 Fairfield Ave. noted that the public buses contributed to the situation, because they too traveled at high speeds down the road. She was advised to call Angie Gomper at the MV Transit Authority to lodge a complaint.  
Daniel Harman, a resident at 24 Tashmoo Ave. indicated that he lived close enough to Owen Little Way to walk to the beach. He complained that the town did very little to make the beach appealing. He noticed that no one maintained the footpath leading to the beach, which was difficult to navigate on occasion.~ Mr. Harmen was not aware of the parking issues, but thought the Town could open a dialogue with the Yacht Club to discuss the town’s issue with their boats. It was his impression that there were a few things the town could do without having to negotiate an easement or formal arrangements to make the beach a bit more appealing to the end users.  
Robert Rogers, a town resident at 18 Spring Street wished to readdress the suggestion for a sign, and thought the only way to deal with speeding was to raise the level of concern among the motorists, and thought a stop sign(s) would do that.
Holly Stephenson, a town resident on  Midland Ave.  commented that a stop sign would benefit everyone on the road (i.e. library, church) because it was intended to slow down traffic. She favored having stop signs on both sides of the street.  
Mr. Peak asked Mr. LaPiana and Mr. Bugbee if they knew what the posted speed limit was in that section of Main Street. Mr. LaPiana replied that there wasn’t any.  ~Board members were advised that speed limits were posted on two roads in town i.e. ~Edgartown and State Roads.
An unidentified female spoke in favor of Mrs. Stephenson’s recommendation for stop signs on each side of the street to slow down traffic.  
Melinda Loberg, a town resident and town official agreed that speed presented a problem for the area, but noted that the discussions focused on the two busiest months of the year i.e. July and August. She wondered if by chance they would consider implementing an intermediate step, such as placing a cardboard cut out of a policeman at the intersection to slow down traffic. It was a device used in the Town of Falmouth.   
Mr. Harman has observed first hand that a stop sign will not stop people. He’s seen people come to a halting screech at a stop sign, then skid into the middle of the intersection until they come to a complete stop or simply run through them. He thought it would be the same on Main Street.   
Mr.  Israel  invited the Planning Board and town residents to schedule an appointment with the Board of Selectmen to submit a request for a stop sign. He also noted that the Board of Selectmen have petitioned the state in the past to change the speed limits on town roads, and forewarned them that it was cumbersome process, that could take some time.
Harriet Barrows inquired if the local populace could request the use of speed bumps ~without having to petition the state, and if it was an effective way to deal with the problem. Mr. LaPiana did not know for certain if the speed bumps were state controlled devices, but worried about replacing them every time they plowed their roads. He did not have the funds or manpower to replace them. There was also a matter of liability, which the town had to address. Mr. Peak added that there was quite a debate in the Town of Falmouth about placing speed bumps in one location, in which they ultimately decided not to pursue, because they noticed that it did not reduce the speeding, and it presented liability issues.  
Darren Petrucci, an abutter on 86 Fairfield Ave. understood that the primary issue at that intersection dealt with visibility. Whereas the suggestion for a stop sign was an interesting idea, one that he would potentially support, he questioned whether anyone considered implementing a traffic “chicane” (traffic calming strategy). He explained that it was a simple matter of changing the lines on the road to swerve traffic to one side than back in an effort to slow down traffic. He thought they could curve the road towards the west before they approached the intersection at Owen Little Way, then curve it back to the east just past the intersection before it straightened out heading towards town. Mr. Petrucci submitted a hand sketched drawing illustrating the concept of a traffic “chicane” and its application at the intersection of  Main Street  and Owen Little Way (see attached).   
Ann Metcalf indicated that she has been using the crosswalk ever since Mr. LaPiana installed it, and noticed that motorists in general have not slowed down at the walk. It was her impression that motorists will behave much the same way on Main Street, and just ignore the stop sign.~  
Holly Stephenson thought Mr. Petrucci’s proposal presented a viable option, and inquired if it was a concept the Town would investigate and pursue.  
Mr. LaPiana thought it could be done, if the town agreed to lose 5-6 trees, and build out the curb to increase the “triangle of visibility” from the intersection on Owen Little Way.   
Harriet Barrows noted that they would have to consider the design’s impact on the parking accommodations for the properties along that section of Main Street . She mentioned that the street was the inn’s only parking accommodations.
Mr. Stephenson thanked Mrs. Barrows and the members of the public for sharing their comments, noting that the Planning Board members were going to review the information to move forward on the recommendations.  
Robert Rogers thought it important to implement some of the recommendations as soon as possible, because many were disappointed with the Town’s response to their concerns.  
Mr. Stephenson understood and initiated discussions on the need to include a sidewalk as a component of the town’s overall plan for the area.

~Mr. Israel expressed a concern at the loss of several parking spaces , and asked if the Planning Board had considered where they intended to accommodate the overflow.

Mr. Stephenson did not believe it was a question that could be resolved with more parking spaces. He felt they had to find a strategy or informal understanding that would keep a handful of parking spaces open for the public at all times.   

An unidentified woman inquired if there had ever been a sign at the parking area that specifically stated that the parking spaces were for public beach access only.
Judy Federowicz, a town resident and member of the yacht club indicated that she did not think there was a clear understanding about the public parking. She felt new members were not aware that they were separate parking facilities, and recommended the use of signage. She acknowledged that part of the issue was that yacht club did not have sufficient parking for its members.
Holly Stephenson noticed that yacht club’s members utilized the public parking area on attending yacht club functions, because the~opening in the gate provided them with a much more convenient means of access to the club.~ She’s observed occasions where the public parking area was full of cars when the yacht club had ample parking. She thought they could remedy the abuse by closing the opening with a 10 ft. fence to eliminate the short cut.  Mrs. Stephenson also inquired if there was sufficient room for a second row of parking spaces. Mr. Stephenson replied that there was space for additional parking but that they had to develop a parking plan to know for certain.

Mr. Stephenson understood that there was an issue with the footpath leading to the waterfront, and thought the town could trim it back and cut down the poison ivy without offending the Conservation Commission.

He also thought the town could start having conversations with the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club to see if they can come to an understanding or arrangement that would allow the town to use the beach to the north of the storm water outfall for swimming and yacht club’s activities to the south of the town’s waterfront property. The arrangement will stop the club’s pattern of abuse, and give town residents a beach where they can swim safely.

Mr. Stephenson noted that the Planning Board was aware that the yacht club’s beach to the north of the outfall pipe was not thought of as a fair exchange. They were aware that there were a number or large rocks sticking out of the water or that the beach could use improvement. They were prepared to remove the rocks and to augment the beach. He advised the public that the town periodically deposited dredged sand to their beaches as part of the harbor’s maintenance plan, so that it would not be an issue. The improvements however would have to wait until there was an agreement in place. Photos of the improved beach were displayed as Mr. Peak explained the legalities preventing the improvement of a private beach with public resources.   

Charles Felder, town resident and manager of the Vineyard Have Yacht Club commented that the photos in power presentation did not accurately depict the club’s property lines, so that the boats on the beach are not on town property.

Matthew Mara, an abutter on Daggett Ave. was not aware of the location of the town’s   beach, but thought the Planning Board’s proposal was a great idea. He just wanted to know what the next steps were to move the project forward.  Mr. Stephenson  replied that the Board of Selectmen had to initiate the process by contacting the Yacht Club’s Board of Directors  to see if the were still interested, and to what extent. Once there is an agreement, they’d have to obtain the necessary permits from both the state and local agencies.

Mr. Israel indicated that the Board of Selectmen have had casual conversations with yacht club in the past, and learned from the experience that if they were to succeed, the town had to assure its citizens that the beach was going to be improved.

Mr. Peak believed that it also depended to town’s sentiments on “exchanging the use of town property”.

Mr. Kenneth Beebe was of the opinion that the town’s last effort failed at town meeting because it was perceived as a land swap.  He thought it important to clarify to the town voters that it was solely “an exchange of land use”.

An unidentified female thought the proposal was an elegant plan, but was interested in learning about the town’s liability.

Mr. Stephenson thought the town would be covered, and clarified for the record that it was an issue that had to be pursued by town counsel to protect the town’s interests.

Bill Coggins, a town resident on Main Street and father of four (4) children thought the plan had merit, but was concerned that they had not addressed the conflict between the swimmers and the boaters, the latter of whom posed a danger to the swimmers. He mentioned that he stopped going to the town beach six years ago because of the boat activity, and noticed that it still remains an issue, especially when “ you break those jetties because boaters come flying by”.  He asked the Board if they could  cord off  the swimming area to protect the bathers.

Holly Stephenson noted that the Town of Tisbury had the least amount of swimming beaches in the entire universe for a beach community, and thought Owen Little Way was too small for a “public beach” when you had to start accommodating public restrooms, sidewalks, etc.  She thought the town should perhaps the development of neighborhood beaches, where similar town owned waterfront properties throughout the town could be improved to create small swimming areas, and 2-3 parking spaces, such as at the end of Grove Street, Lake Tashmoo and Owen Park. She thought neighborhood children could be protected while they swam if the sectioned off the swimming area with the use of floating buoys. She complained that there were no swimming beaches other than at Owen Park.

Mr. LaPiana replied that floating buoys changed the designation of the waterfront property into a public beach, which would then require lifeguards, public restrooms, etc.

Mr. Stephenson thought they would be able to come to town meeting by next spring with a detailed proposal, a projection of the costs, etc.  if both the Town and the yacht club were receptive.

Harriet Barrows was still concerned that the current situation was dangerous for the various people using the beach.  She felt there had to be some form of protection for the swimmers during the summer, before the yacht club encroached on the public beach. She supported the proposal for a “land use swap”, noting that the last informal arrangement between Mr. LaPiana and Arnold Brown worked well.

Greg Williamson inquired if the yacht club could confine their boating activities to the south side of the pier, so that the bathers could swim safely on the north side of their pier.

Charles Felder replied that the winds in the summer came from the northwest. If the  8 yr old novices were sent out from the other side, they’d end up on the dock  

Nancy Hal, a town resident and yacht club member added that the club’s porches were on the south side, where the younger families congregated.  She doubted the yacht club would approve.  

Mr. Felder explained that the motorboats were on the north side of the pier because state law prohibited them within 150 ft of a swimming beach.

Ann Metcalf complained that the storm drain was unsafe, exposed and cracking. It upset her that when she raised the issue at the Planning Board’s meeting in 2007, she was given the assumption that it would be addressed. Two years later and it’s still exposed and cracking. She inquired if the topic of a sidewalk was going to be part of the discussion. Mr. Stephenson replied that he wanted to address the topic tonight.

Daniel Harmen inquired if there was any way the town could delineate the beach’s boundary lines so that he does not trespass on yacht club property. Mr. Stephenson asked Mr. LaPiana if he could think of a solution. Mr. LaPiana thought there was an easy solution, but had to approach the Board of Selectmen. Mr. Stephenson clarified that he did not referring to a physical barrier on the beach, he preferred a visual marker

Holly Stephenson recommended placing a fence from the rear parking lot that ran out to the beach.

Nancy Carroll, a town resident commented that the yacht club members were not the only ones to leave their boats on the beach. She asked the Board if they knew who was liable when a swimmer was struck by a boat.   Mr. Stephenson only knew that the town was not liable.

Harriet Barrows thought it terribly important for people to understand that there was a sense of urgency in the protecting the swimmers.  She knew of a few instances where people have been struck by boats, and have decided not to use the beach because of that very reason. She wanted to protect the club from lawsuits, and have the town “very carefully spell out that swimmers will be safer” and the yacht club will not leave themselves open to any liability.

Mr. Felder noted that he has never received a report of an accident. Harriet Barrows replied that Mr. Paul VanGould, and Nancy Carroll had been struck by boat at the beach, and there were others present at the meeting who could attest to this situation.

Arlene Harkness, and abutter thought they should pursue a neighborhood beach that does not require all of the amenities for a public beach. There were too many issues with a public beach.

Mr. Stephenson returned to the subject of a crosswalk, explaining that it had to connect to a sidewalk. It had to be handicap accessible, comply with state regulations, and required a safe and proper location on the street. The sidewalk did or did not have to lead all the way down to the water, if they opted not to have a public beach.

An unidentified female commented that the safety hazard at the intersection on Main Street and Owen Little Way would be resolved if they slowed down traffic on Main Street.

Rebecca Buselle commented that the side street Owen Little Way was precisely that, a small road. She wanted to go on record that state that the expansion of the yacht club has impacted the lives of her family and that of the immediate abutters irrevocably. The improvements or gentrification observed has altered the character of the neighborhood, so much so that it has become a great concern of hers. She therefore agreed with the previous speaker, and noted that she too was in favor of having the traffic slow down or stopped on Main Street.

Mr. Israel announced that he heard sufficient testimony to recommend to the Board of Selectmen that they hold a public meeting on the subject of a stop sign at the intersection of Main Street and Owen Little Way by next month. He encouraged everyone to attend the meeting. He subsequently departed at 8:55 PM.

Mrs. Brown, Mr. Arnold Brown’s widow thought the yacht club could drop people off at the club, but that there had to be alternative sites available. She also noted that the yacht club had always separated the motorboats from the sailboats, but changed the pattern several years ago. Perhaps it was something they should reconsider.

There being no further comment, Mr. Stephenson thanked the attendees for participating in the discussions.  The meeting ended at 8:59 PM

PRO FORM        Meeting opened, conducted and closed in due form at 9 PM P.M.           (m/s/c  3/0/0)          
Respectfully submitted;
APPROVAL:       Approved and accepted as official minutes;