The Oak Bluffs select board voted Tuesday to eliminate long-term overnight mooring and slip use in the marina during the off-season.

The change applies to all vessels except commercial fishing boats registered with the harbormaster, and will be in place annually starting Dec. 1 through April 1. Vessels that remain in the harbor for more than 72 hours will be subject to removal and fees. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, Mike Santoro, chair of the harbor committee, said that the new rule is a result of the committee’s long-standing concern about the marina’s lack of off-season staff and inappropriate use of free electricity and other harbor resources by boat owners. 

At an earlier meeting on Nov. 14, Mr. Santoro also stated that boats staying long-term in slips or mooring spots have broken away in inclement weather and damaged parts of the harbor. 

“At the end of the day, it’s a liability,” he said. “And it’s the town that has to make up the costs of electricity usage and damage.” 

The change received some pushback from Tuesday’s meeting attendees. 

Resident Lynn Vera said that the overnight harbor closure goes against the town’s rich maritime history. 

“This whole thing has made me think a lot about harbors and maritime history in Oak Bluffs,” she said. “I would really beseech the committee to work on this more so that we have an active and open harbor in the winter… if we want people to come downtown and we want them to come to Oak Bluffs.”

Other attendees argued that the rule would unfairly displace people who live on boats in the harbor. But the board agreed that keeping the harbor open in the winter puts too much strain on the town. 

The four present members of the select board voted unanimously for the change. Board chair Emma Green-Beach was absent. 

The marina will also be revamping its annual lottery slip policy in an attempt to decrease competition for the spots. 

Starting Jan. 1, 12 harbor slips will be available to Oak Bluffs residents with a 20 per cent discount off the non-resident price. If more than 12 residents apply for the slips, the harbor committee will then hold a lottery. 

Later in the meeting, the select board approved a menorah display in Ocean Park. The menorah will be installed and removed in conjunction with other holiday decorations by the parks department next month. Its lights will be lit on the eight days of Hanukkah beginning Dec. 7. 

Select board town administrator Deborah Potter also announced a Dec. 1 deadline to submit articles for the 2024 annual town meeting and special town meeting warrants.