The fate of summer moped rentals in Oak Bluffs remains in limbo after attorneys sparred Wednesday in Dukes County superior court over whether newly-enforced town regulations amount to an effective ban on mopeds.

The Hon. Cornelius J. Moriarty, associate justice of the superior court, said he would decide soon on a motion for an emergency injunction filed last week on behalf of the three moped companies in town, which have not yet been granted licences for the coming season.

Oak Bluffs town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport. — Mark Lovewell

Arguments in court during a hearing that lasted nearly an hour ranged from technical points of law to a town bylaw requiring an on-site training track, which has gone unenforced since it was enacted in 2004. Selectmen early this month turned down a request for a waiver to the test track requirement from the three companies in town: Ride On Mopeds, King of Rentals of MV, and Island Hoppers. As a result, the companies still do not have valid licenses for the coming season.

Last Friday attorneys for the moped dealers Jason Leone and Aguimar Carlos went to court, seeking among other things an emergency hearing for a preliminary injunction ordering the town to grant the licenses. Mr. Leone and Mr. Carlos were in the courtroom for the hearing Wednesday afternoon, along with town selectmen Gail Barmakian and Kathy Burton and a few onlookers.

“I understand it’s an important matter to both sides,” Judge Moriarty said. A chief issue, he said, centers on whether there is a conflict between a town bylaw allowing moped rentals and state statutes. “One of the factors I have to consider is the public interest,” the judge said. “Yes of course there’s a public interest in public safety. But on the other hand, isn’t there also a public interest in seeing that the rights of the public that are guarded by the statute are upheld.”

New Bedford attorney Philip N. Beauregard, representing Mr. Leone and Mr. Carlos, said the selectmen’s actions have effectively prevented his clients from opening for business this year, and perhaps indefinitely. Mr. Beauregard said his clients do not have the space to provide on-site test tracks. Selectmen have said an alternative training program proposed by the dealers that includes driving on town streets is insufficient.

“The fact of the matter is that either way what the board of selectmen has tried to do, administratively in this case, with this particular ordinance, is to deny my client’s ability . . . . to operate,” he said.

Mr. Beauregard further argued that the town was effectively trying to ban mopeds, pointing to statements made by some selectmen that he said indicated that they no longer wanted to rent mopeds at all.

“He could open now but he’s not operating because he doesn’t have a license,” Mr. Beauregard said of his client. He added that under the town bylaw, failure to renew a license for one year equals a permanent license loss. “There goes his business,” he said. “It’s his livelihood.”

Moped dealer Jason Leone. — Mark Lovewell

Mr. Beauregard acknowledged recent accidents, but added that “certainly those things, they happen. And I don’t think they can say they happen with frequency here that creates a dangerous situation. He added that from the public point of view, people who come to the Vineyard also want access to mopeds. “That’s the situation, whether the town can tell them they can’t use mopeds on this Island,” he said.

Town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport rebutted the idea that the town was targeting the moped rental businesses or that the licenses were forfeited. “They fail on every level in terms of the injunction,” he said, raising legal arguments about the action sought by the dealers in court and whether the state Attorney General should have been approached to decide whether the bylaw and state law are in conflict.

Mr. Rappaport pointed to a part of Mr. Leone’s request for a test track waiver that called for a 90-day period before implementing any changes. “We’re talking public safety, they want 90 days,” he said. “That’s basically their season.” He added that it wasn’t clear whether the companies were legitimately unable to provide test tracks.

He noted that the selectmen had invited Mr. Leone to come back with another waiver request. “Why did they wait 10 days to file a lawsuit with the court and then say ‘emergency’ with the Memorial Day weekend?” Mr. Rappaport said. “Frankly that’s self-inflicted emergency.”

He continued: “We’re not trying to hold anybody up . . . nor are we here trying to ban these three companies from operating. If that was our motive we would have said they forfeited their licenses. These are reasonable public safety regulations.”

Judge Moriarty said he felt it wasn’t the court’s job to determine the quality of the test track proposal. “What’s really before me is whether or not this whole requirement of a test track could stand,” he said.

“Why have the selectmen overlooked it for 12 years in a row?” Judge Moriarty asked.

“I can’t explain that but they did,” Mr. Rappaport said.

“The purpose of the statute seems to be to guarantee every licensed moped operator the right to operate a moped on the ways of the commonwealth,” the judge said earlier. “So does this bylaw frustrate that purpose, that right, given to every citizen.”

Mr. Beauregard appealed to the judge to allow the business to open for business just for the Memorial Day weekend. Mr. Rappaport countered that the companies should pursue a new waiver from the training track requirement.

Judge Moriarty took the matter under advisement.