In light of several renovation projects around the downtown area, the Oak Bluffs selectmen Monday reconsidered a longstanding town policy to prohibit downtown construction work from June 1 to Sept. 15.
At a special meeting, the selectmen adopted clarifying regulations to allow construction work inside buildings during the summer with several conditions, including no work on weekends and nights.
Last week the selectmen gave Edgartown National Bank a two-week deadline to finish work for the summer on their renovation of the former Oyster Bar at the top of Circuit avenue, allowing the bank to go two weeks past the June 1 deadline but halting all work after June 14.
The bank project has raised the ire of neighboring small businesses, who say the project has been unwieldy and hurt sales.
Building inspector James Dunn said in light of several construction projects — not just Edgartown National Bank, but work on the Island Theatre and a few other projects — the code allowed him to look at certain conditions when applying the 1993 policy prohibiting summer construction.
“I think we need to take another look,” the building inspector said, noting that a ban on work inside buildings was never enforced and asking for consideration of contractors and their employees.
Selectman Gail Barmakian said the bank project was bigger than past projects. “I do not remember ever where there was a building that was being totally renovated to this extent during the season . . . it has a much bigger impact on so many levels than somebody renovating the inside of their building.”
Mr. Dunn said future work on the site won’t be as visible. Selectman Michael Santoro, an owner of the now-closed Season’s Eatery and Pub, said he used to renovate his plumbing during the summer.
Mr. Dunn proposed, and selectmen approved, several conditions for summer work on permitted projects that are already in progress: no work on or around the exterior of the building; no work before 8 a.m. or after 4 p.m.; no work from 4 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Monday; no loud radios or excessive noise; no trucks or employee parking; and minimal deliveries made only between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Violations would result in an immediate stop work order, Mr. Dunn said.
Business owners and selectmen said that despite discussions during last week’s meeting about not working on the weekends, bank contractors put down cement on the sidewalk on Saturday.
Good Ship Lollipop’s David Cook said the sidewalk construction “disrupted the whole weekend,” and he further noted that there was no place for people to walk on that side of the street, and that safety barriers were not put up after the work.
“I’ve never seen a construction site that aggravated me as much as this one did,” said Kerry Scott, who owns Good Dog Goods. She said Saturday was the slowest June 1 she’s had in 30 years.
“This is having a really tough effect. I don’t think they’ve earned the right to disrupt our lives further,” she said.
“We’re trying to find a way at this point to minimize the damage,” selectman and board chairman Walter Vail said. “And obviously last weekend was not a good scene.”
“If this comes before us again, I’m done,” Mr. Santoro said. “I’m asking Jim to pull the permit and the project’s done . . . I have no more patience for this project.”
Ms. Barmakian said she felt uncomfortable with what happened Saturday. “I don’t know if they understand being a seasonal community,” she said, adding that every weekend matters. “It can kill your summer.”
“They’re obviously getting us to the point of being very short on temper here,” Mr. Vail said.
The selectmen then briefly revisited another controversial issue: whether to allow food trucks in town.
The issue has come to the forefront as local businessman Bill Coggins, who bought a piece of land on Circuit avenue, had plans to locate Irie Bites, a Jamaican food truck, and the Pick-A-Pearl jewelry stand on the property.
Selectmen last week deferred on the decision about the food truck but approved the jewelry vendor.
This week, town administrator Robert Whritenour said the town counsel told the selectmen that they have the authority to oversee food trucks, and the “board must reach a conclusion that the public good is served by the proposed food truck.”
He came up with draft regulations, which Mr. Whritenour said were based on regulations on towns including Wellesley and Falmouth. The draft rules would not allow food trucks to operate within 200 feet of a licensed common victualer without written permission from the business, with operations allowed between 7 a.m. and dusk and no later than 9 p.m. Mobile food vendors would be banned from Circuit avenue, Kennebec avenue, Oak Bluffs avenue and residential districts.
Last year, selectmen came up with regulations for food vendors at State Beach, limiting the number to three.
Some in the standing-room only audience, which included members of the business community, said they were uncomfortable with allowing food trucks, and also questioned the quick approval for the Pick-A-Pearl application.
Mr. Coggins’s attorney, T. George Davis, said the draft regulations amount to zoning changes, which ordinarily need approval at town meeting.
“The idea that you can restrict the zoning — I think it’s wrong, it’s inappropriate and it’s illegal,” he said.
Ms. Barmakian said she wasn’t ready to make a decision, saying that the selectmen needed to think about “not only the regulations but do we even want to allow [food trucks].”
Selectman Kathy Burton reiterated that her “concern was always competition with brick and mortar business, because I don’t think that’s a fair playing field.”
At Mr. Vail’s suggestion, the selectmen decided to hold a public hearing about the proposed regulations.