Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
On August 1 the Oak Bluffs roads and byways committee voted unanimously, over the protests of neighborhood residents, to recommend that the town selectmen retroactively approve new parking spaces and signs that weeks earlier had been installed on the residential end of Seaview avenue.
The arbitrary overnight switch from four-hour parallel parking to two-hour diagonal parking occurred mid-June without benefit of public discussion — indeed, the new stripes were painted without so much as a vote.
This ill-advised change to commercial use on a residential section of a street is dangerous to children, pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers, in an already intensely congested corner of the Island where ferries disgorge passengers dragging luggage, pushing strollers and pulling kid trailers on bikes.
My bicycling seven-year-old grandson, riding home from the beach with his dad and five-year-old brother, was nearly hit by a truck backing out — the driver just couldn’t see him. Luckily his father yelled loud enough for the driver to stop.
And now that we have two-hour parking, those trucks are backing out all the time — especially after 4 p.m.
When a similar change to angled parking was proposed on the other side of the harbor on East Chop Drive, neighbors objected and some of these same selectmen are seen on videotape pronouncing the idea dangerous. It was voted down. What’s different here? If anything, conditions on the North Bluff are far more dangerous than on East Chop.
Two-hour parking is fairly useless to people who would want to go to dinner and a movie in town, or who have guests over or who enjoy the beach — they could use four hours or more.
But two hours does work well for the Lookout Tavern on Seaview avenue, where food and drinks are served to people waiting for the ferries. The owner of the Lookout, Mike Santoro, happens to be chairman of the roads and byways committee and is a member of the board of selectmen, which voted to change the four-hour parking to two hours. He did not recuse himself. In fact, he robustly advocated for these changes and continues to do so.
Does anybody around here worry about conflict of interest or its appearance any more?
When selectman Gail Barmakian challenged the change at the selectmen’s meeting where it was finally discussed, but not voted on, saying commercial parking had been installed inappropriately into a residential area, she was roundly attacked by her colleagues. Selectman Santoro aggressively challenged her, selectman Walter Vail barked and snapped at her, and chairman Kathy Burton wielded her gavel and closed discussion, postponing the decision (which means things stay as they are until further notice).
Clearly this board is angling to leave things as they are until fall, when maybe a No Outlet or Children Crossing sign can be put up as a band-aid, along with some other patchwork ideas about sidewalks on the other side of the street (narrowing the road even more dangerously).
Let’s be smart and avert a tragedy. Nobody in this neighborhood wants to be in the grim position of being able to say to the members of this board: “I told you so.”