Oak Bluffs is working to recover payments owed to the town for parking mitigation following the discovery of lapse in collections for the account.
A town bylaw in effect since 2004 allows B1 businesses to pay into an account in lieu of providing the required off-street parking spaces for their customers.
The town has identified five businesses that were notified in written planning board decisions that annual payments were required, but they never paid their contributions forward. The businesses include four dining establishments and a professional office. A day spa that opened this year will also be assessed going forward.
“We are going to conduct some outreach with those specific businesses to try to bring them into compliance,” said town administrator Robert L. Whritenour at the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday.
The account currently holds $8,201, but would contain $33,125, if the regular contributions from the businesses had been collected in recent years.
Mr. Whritenour said to his knowledge, no money has been spent from the account since it was set up.
Under the bylaw, when businesses apply to the town for a permit to expand or change the use of their building from residential to nonresidential or multifamily use in the primary business district, they are required to provide additional parking. If they cannot provide the off-site parking required by the bylaw, they can opt to pay into the mitigation fund.
Still, it is not yet clear how the town will collect the required fund contributions. Mr. Whritenour said assessing the contributions along with tax bills may be an option.
Also, in cases where the use of a space changes but does not trigger a building permit, it is not yet clear how the business will be referred to the planning board for a parking assessment.
The bylaw does not specify how the fund would be used for parking mitigation purposes. Selectman Gail M. Barmakian, who has been researching the issue for a few years with the help of the Cindy Noyes, the assistant town accountant, said the account might be used to purchase a shuttle to transport visitors from an out-of-town parking lot to the downtown area.
The planning board has taken a new interest in the issue, and has committed to resolving it, Ms. Barmakian said.
“Once we get the fund rolling it is hoped that it could be used to support some parking initiatives,” Mr. Whritenour said by phone Wednesday.
The town’s off-street parking zoning bylaws are profiled on the state’s website as a case study in smart parking strategies.
“With its relatively dense center and the tradition of being the site of institutions that serve the Island-wide community, Oak Bluffs has elected to use two innovative smart parking approaches to accommodate its parking needs while maintaining its small village setting,” reads the description of the town’s use of smart parking regulations.
In practice, however, town leaders say there is more work to be done to implement them to their full extent.