Plans for a town-run fuel facility at the Oak Bluffs harbor met with some resistance at a Martha’s Vineyard Commission hearing last week, with some abutters to the potential facility questioning why the town needed to be involved, and voicing concerns that the fuel dock will lower property values and cause safety concerns.

Oak Bluffs has plans for a fuel facility at the harbor master’s shack in the Oak Bluffs harbor, with the 10,000 gallon gas tank stored under the parking lot. Boats would be able to fuel up at a floating dock between May and October.

The tank would be 60 per cent diesel and 40 per cent gas, according to a Martha’s Vineyard Commission staff report, and would be operated by Oak Bluffs harbor staff, who would have to be specially trained.

At April’s special town meeting, Oak Bluffs voters will be asked to vote on spending $426,000 to design and construct the facility.

Since 2009, Mark and Mike Wallace operated a fuel facility at Church’s Pier. A July 4, 2012 fuel spill led to the fire chief shutting down the operation until new fuel lines designed to withstand effects of fuel additives and a leak detection system were installed. Mr. Wallace said he’s reluctant to perform necessary repairs if the town is going to be opening its own fueling dock.

In a narrative about the project, harbor master Todd Alexander said that the town looked at other locations, including near Our Market or the East Chop landing, but found that there was not enough town-owned land for the tank or that the alternatives were too congested. “A state-of-the-art, fully-functioning fuel system is imperative for any harbor,” Mr. Alexander told the commission, saying the town has had issues in the past with the reliability of fuel access. With more than 10,000 boats coming to the harbor during the course of a summer, he said, “It’s not the best situation to have a marina this busy without a fuel dock.” The town estimates that they would lose $100,000 from slip and mooring fees if the harbor does not have a fuel facility, the commission said. Additionally, “Yes, the town is looking for new revenue sources,” Mr. Alexander said. “That’s not the only reason, but it’s a part of it.”

According to commission staff, the project would also require a special permit from the planning board, and likely require a Spill Prevention Plan and a Vapor Recovery Plan approved by the Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Fire Safety, testing and certification done by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a wetland permit from the Conservation Commission, and approval by the fire chief.

Town administrator Robert Whritenour said the town could hope to have the fuel station operational during the upcoming boating season.

Selectman Michael Santoro told the commission that the selectmen unanimously approved the budget for the operation and putting the issue on a town meeting warrant. Right now, he said, diesel trucks come to the harbor to fill some boats, a practice he called “more invasive” than the town’s system.

“We’re taking the initiative, we need it,” he said. “We ask the board to think positively on this and support us on this issue.”

But Mr. Wallace, the owner of the fuel dock that was closed after the spill, said he did not support the plan, telling the commission that he had asked to be invited to discussions, but the commission meeting was the first time he’d been part of a public discussion about fuel on the harbor.

“There’s no question that it’s a benefit for the town to have fuel,” said Mr. Wallace. He said that he still has 10 years left on the mortgage on the tanks, and that his fuel facility would cost about $20,000 to $40,000 to repair, an expense he said he would not take on if the town proceeds with their own plans.

“I spent a lot of money trying to provide something the town needed,” he said. “I do want to make it clear that there is an alternative, and the alternative can involve just me, it can involve me and the town, it can involve not bothering the neighbors . . . we have everything to pump fuel in Oak Bluffs harbor.”

Attorney Martin (Skip) Tomassian Jr., speaking on behalf of abutters Kenneth and Barbara Gallison, asked to be qualified as a party to the issue, a request that the commission said they’d have to refer to counsel.

“The commission is charged with protecting the harbor environment and economy,” Mr. Tomassian said. “I don’t think this is happening and let me tell you why.”

He said there are homeland security issues with the installation of a gas tank, and questioned the necessity of the facilities and the presence of additional traffic and odor.

“Does the commission really think the town should be in a business?” he asked. “I think this is going to have a significant impact on the neighborhood, and ask the commission not to approve it.”

“We now live in a post 9/11 world,” Mr. Gallison wrote to the commission. “The idea of this facility in front of our house causes great alarm.”

Anne S. DeBettencourt, who lives across the street from the proposed site, said she felt the proposal would impact her property values. “I do not believe the town should be in the gasoline business . . . rather than selling gasoline and disregarding the rights of its citizens to enjoy where they live and for which they pay taxes, they should consider the best use of the resources they already have.”

The commission was scheduled to discuss and potentially vote on the matter at their meeting Thursday.