By Beth David, Editor
At its meeting on 8/13, The Fairhaven Selectboard tabled a discussion on parking fees at Hoppy’s Landing, but not until after it got testy between the board and members of the Marine Resources Committee. What seemed to be at issue was the MRC not getting the materials in time to have a recommendation ready for the board.
MRC Chairperson Frank Coelho said his committee did not get the materials, but Town Administrator Mark Rees said he sent the materials, but that Mr. Coelho made it clear his committee did not want to take it up. Mr. Coelho countered that he was unable to get a quorum and that is why he needed more time.
“I didn’t have a quorum, so I couldn’t bring it up,” said Mr. Coelho, adding that the Selectboard should not approve the new regulations “without going to the people.”
He said he wanted to make sure that everyone had a say.
The new regulations set parking fees for vehicles with trailers and vehicles without trailers at $50 annually or $7 “per day of use.” It also defines day of use as 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. and eliminates any parking fee for vehicles without trailers after 5 p.m.
In the past, the non-trailer vehicles were in a bit of a gray area, with no one really knowing if they should pay or not. There is also controversy over the night time parking, since it was pretty much a de facto freebie for non-trailer vehicles simply because the police did not go at night. Night time parkers were mostly going fishing off the causeway, or going across the street to the night club at West Island Marina, Off the Hook.”
Robert “Hoppy” Hobson, although not alone in his complaint, was the loudest voice against allowing free parking for patrons of the bar. He said more than once that he did not sell Hoppy’s Landing to the town to be free parking for the marina across the street.
At Monday’s meeting, Mr. Hobson said the problem was the double standard, either have parking be free for everyone with no trailers, or charge all the time. The after 5 p.m. rule was clearly meant to help a “special interest group,” he said.
Selectboard chairperson Daniel Freitas, who is also the board’s representative on the MRC, mixed it up with both Mr. Hobson and Mr. Coelho, with the three men speaking over each other, voices getting louder, and Mr. Hobson getting up to leave more than once.
Mr. Hobson said it should be free all the time for cars. He said it was not fair that someone who goes on a boat in the morning has to pay, but if they go fishing at night they do not have to.
“Just make it free for everybody,” said Mr. Hobson. “It makes no sense.”
At one point in the mix of the overtalk, Mr. Freitas asked Mr. Hobson if he wanted every single park in town to be paid, which, in actuality, was the opposite of what Mr. Hobson was advocating, that is to say, free for all non trailer vehicles.
As Mr. Coelho tried to get his point across and cross-talking, Mr. Freitas banged his gavel and called him out of order.
Selectboard member Charles Murphy told Mr. Coelho that he did get his email with an invitation to go to a meeting, but that it was a violation of the open meeting law for him to go because Mr. Freitas would be there as the board’s representative. He also said he had no problem with free parking at Hoppy’s for vehicles with no trailers. He said trailers should pay because they have designated spots that other cars cannot use.
Mr. Freitas called the MRC “dysfunctional,” and reiterated a past complaint that all discussion devolves into non productive arguments.
He said that what people saw that night, with people yelling, “that is a Marine Resources Committee meeting.”
He said the MRC is not supposed to tell the harbormaster what to do, and that the committee’s charge is more than Hoppy’s Landing. Mr. Freitas continued, saying the meetings were stressful, and not why he joined local government. He said he did not want to go to the meetings because they ended up being a “screaming fest.”
Board member Bob Espindola said he was still willing to be the board’s representative on that committee, an offer he made some months ago during another flare-up between Mr. Freitas on the one side and Mr. Coelho and Mr. Hobson on the other.
“We’ve got to try to find a way to make it work,” said Mr. Espindola.
Mr. Freitas reminded Mr. Coelho that the MRC was an advisory board that reported to the Selectboard.
Mr. Coelho asked if he was saying that the Selectboard was better than the MRC.
“I did not say better than you,” said Mr. Freitas, and reiterated that he had no desire to go to meetings that turned into yelling matches.
“I have two teenage daughters,” he said.
Mr. Rees suggested that the board vote on the signage and leave the issue of fees to the next meeting, to give the MRC a chance to make a recommendation.
The board passed the parking plan, with accompanying signage, but the parking fees will remain the same for now. It is $50 annually or $7 per day for trailers, and anyone’s guess if cars without trailers should pay or not.
In another matter, the board also seemed to come to an agreement about reimbursing Mr. Hobson for legal fees he incurred after the tie vote for his seat on the Board of Public Works in April.
Mr. Hobson reviewed the situation, noting that he got bad advice from Fairhaven Town Counsel Thomas Crotty and that is why the matter had to go to court. Mr. Hobson also noted that town counsel got paid for his services, that the town had to pay. He said that if the town did not reimburse him, he would sue again and it would cost the town more than the $1706 that he ows his attorney.
A letter by Mr. Crotty gave the opinion that the town could not reimburse Mr. Hobson.
But Mr. Hobson said that the letter was just an opinion and the board could still reimburse him. He offered to accept half.
In the end the board seemed to decide that they would submit an article at the special Town Meeting in November, but did not vote on it. The articles will be submitted at a later date, and, presumably, that will be one of them.
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