Oak Bluffs voters came out in favor of making the annual shark tournament catch and release only, and narrowly turned down a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries at a lengthy annual town meeting Tuesday.
The town moved quickly through some items, quickly approving a $25.5 million operating budget and a host of community preservation act projects. Voters also easily approved more than $900,000 for repairing about two dozen town roads that are listed in poor, incomplete or failed condition. The project still needs approval from voters at Thursday’s town election.
The assembly of 208 residents at the high school Performing Arts Center had dwindled considerably by the time some of the more controversial agenda items were debated. An amendment to town bylaws that would ban public consumption of medical marijuana was easily approved, but a proposed zoning bylaw calling for a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in town was defeated by a single vote. The amendment would have needed a two-thirds majority to pass; the vote was 79-42.
At the end of the meeting, selectman Gail Barmakian made a motion to reconsider the issue. Moderator Jesse (Jack) Law 3rd denied her request, and the meeting adjourned at about 10:30 p.m.
A nonbinding resolution submitted by petition calling for any shark tournaments in Oak Bluffs to be catch and release only was the last item on the agenda. Division over the tournament was evident in the discussion of the agenda item, as some said the town should not seek to regulate fishing and that the tournament brings in money, while others said the event has become a spectacle and brings the rowdy crowds to the town.
The event’s organizer has said that if the town requires catch and release only, he would take the tournament elsewhere.
“It’s not about fishing, it’s about us as a culture,” said Peggy McGrath, adding that she couldn’t take her granddaughter to the harbor during the tournament weekend. “I would like my town back.”
The vote was 64-50 in favor of making the tournament catch and release only. The same question is on the ballot for Thursday’s town election.
A proposal to spend $220,000 to buy a small piece of land on Circuit avenue to create a public park was defeated, and $45,172 for Oak Bluffs’ share of architectural fees for a new superintendent’s building was debated but ultimately approved.
At a special town meeting that started the evening, voters quickly approved $75,000 for design services for structures damaged by recent storms. After some discussion, a $426,000 project to construct a fuel facility at the harbor was also approved.
The meeting had moments of levity. During discussion about a proposal to grow oysters in Sengekontacket Pond, voter Dan Martino told residents to pick up a brochure describing the environmental benefits of oysters “after the show,” eliciting laughter from the assembly.
“What a show, huh?” Mr. Law said. “Only one night a year. Hell of a show, isn’t it?”