Fees are going up for over-sand vehicle permits at Norton Point beach, as the Trustees of Reservations work to enhance stewardship and generate more revenue for managing the constantly-changing barrier beach.
After discussion with Trustees superintendent Christopher Kennedy this week, the county commission approved hike to annual permits this week, but held off on approval for daily pass increases.
The county owns the beach at the eastern end of Katama in Edgartown and contracts with the Trustees to manage it. In spring, summer and fall plovers, terns and other nesting shorebirds share the beach with fishermen, birdwatchers and picnickers, most of them driving and over-sand vehicles.
Mr. Kennedy’s original proposal, which includes hikes to both daily and annual permits, would generate $31,000 in additional revenues for the Trustees, he said.
With the vote, the annual resident pass for Norton Point will go up from $70 to $90. The nonresident pass will go from $120 to $140. A permit for both Norton Point and Chappaquiddick will go from $235 to $250, while the nonresident version goes from $285 to $300.
The permit fees have been the same for four years, Mr. Kennedy said, while costs have increased. The beach, which has been disconnected from Chappaquiddick since the breach occurred in a storm six years ago, has grown by three-quarters of a mile, and more shorebirds are expected to occupy the beach. Mr. Kennedy said he plans to hire additional personnel this summer.
His initial proposal would also double the fees for daily passes for residents and nonresidents, closing the gap between the daily and yearly passes. A resident day pass would go from $24 to $50, and the nonresident pass would increase from $35 to $60 per day.
“The goal here in having a sizable increase in the pass is to try and urge people to become annual pass holders,” Mr. Kennedy explained. He said the pass was never intended to be a bargain day at the beach. “The hope has always been trying to get people to become true stewards of the property, so this is really an attempt to try and get that to happen,” he said.
He said daily pass holders are typically people who cause the most issues for the Trustees.
“We are finding that increasingly the complaints we get, involving lewd and lascivious behavior, potential drug use, parties involving alcohol, inevitably involve the day pass people,” he said.
But county commissioner and board chairman Leonard Jason Jr. voted against the increases. “I think the local residents are taking it on the chin,” he said. “I think we are making a terrible mistake.”
The commission will discuss the day pass hikes at a meeting on May 14.
In other business at their meeting Wednesday, the commission voted to recognize the county manager’s ex-officio membership on the airport commission, which is spelled out in the county’s administrative code.
Mr. Jason said he had learned last week that county manager Martina Thornton had been denied access to at least one executive session at the airport. The vote was an attempt to underscore her place at the table as a nonvoting commission member.
“She shouldn’t be banned from attending a meeting,” Mr. Jason said. “She should be sitting at a meeting like it always was.”
Commissioner Tristan Israel agreed but said he wasn’t sure a vote was necessary since Ms. Thornton’s position on the commission was already official. He said he had no interest in micro-managing the airport.
“Obviously we have had some issues in the past couple of weeks and I have expressed my opinions about past events on the airport commission but I have no interest in us being involved in how that commission conducts their airport business,” Mr. Israel said. He said Ms. Thornton already attends the meetings. “I think it stirs up things that are not necessary at this point. I don’t think we should inject ourselves into the running of the airport. I am comfortable with the arrangement as it is.”
Two weeks ago the county commission ousted two members of the airport commission and replaced them with new appointees.
Commissioner Thomas Hallahan said Ms. Thornton had been admonished at an airport commission meeting for attempting to speak quietly to another person. “It was not necessary and I think it rather embarrassed her position so the position isn’t always respected,” he said.
Ms. Thornton was not present at the meeting. Later, county treasurer Noreen Mavro-Flanders said by phone that Ms. Thornton had been denied entry to more than one executive session and had not been granted copies of airport meeting materials in advance of the meetings.