The Oak Bluffs selectmen threw their support behind a pioneering aquaculture venture Tuesday, granting a license for an oyster farm off Eastville Beach.

Brothers Dan and Greg Martino plan to grow 50,000 oysters per year in bottom cages near the Vineyard Haven drawbridge beginning in spring of 2015 in the first operation of its kind in town. The farm will be called Cottage City Oysters.

The vote in their favor came at the end of a lengthy hearing which scrutinized the Martino’s proposal and sparked debate and controversy among abutters and members of the boating community.

The two-acre farm is planned for an area which has not seen aquaculture before, and concerns have been raised about the site’s vulnerability to the elements and its effect on navigation.

In response to concerns from boaters, the brothers have modified their proposal to mitigate the navigational obstacles, and have outlined a plan to hedge against storms.

But questions remained Tuesday.

Dan Pesch, a member of the junior sailing committee at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, said the farm would curtail the activity of young sailors who have traditionally used the area for summer races.

The Martino brothers won solid support from selectmen and shellfish committee for startup aquaculture venture. — Mark Lovewell

He said his group counts on the area around Eastville Beach as a place to start races and hold regattas, especially since use of the harbor is already restricted by the ferry channel and large mooring fields.

“This does represent a significant impact on our ability to run races, to do things and educate the youth of the Island that sail,” Mr. Pesch said. “We certainly have significant concerns.”

Selectman Kathy Burton had a different assessment, holding up a map of the site and pointing to the areas she thought would still be navigable.

“I have sailed there frequently this fall, and I think there’s a way,” Ms. Burton said.

In the end, Mr. Pesch agreed to meet with the Martinos to come up with a solution.

The plan is to have 10 oyster cages in place by next summer and 50 by December of 2015. Their boat will be moored at the state boat landing in the neighboring Lagoon, and a floating raft will allow the Martinos to wash and cull their crop.

The aquaculture license is valid for three years. At that point, they said they may try to expand the operation without expanding the farm’s area — perhaps using laser buoys or golf-sized buoys, they said.

“We are looking to innovate as well,” said Greg Martino.

Though neighbors have voiced concerns about the potential impact on the beach and their view of the Vineyard Haven harbor, Dan Martino said the operation would have limited surface visibility and would be far from shore.

“We are over a football field’s distance away from beaches and houses,” he said.

The town shellfish committee gave the project its backing earlier this year.

“They are being overseen by a lot of people and to have that many different people have the ability to shut you down, it’s a pretty scary venture they are stepping into, I think they want to do a good job,” said Mark Landers, a member of the shellfish committee.

Ultimately, the selectmen voted 4-1 in favor of the proposal and commended the Martinos on their flexibility and willingness to adapt their plan to mitigate possible detriments.

Selectman Gail Barmakian cast the dissenting vote, saying she’d like more time to think about the proposal given new information that came to light during the hearing.

She also wanted to respect a request from the abutters’ lawyer, who had asked for an extension of the hearing.

Jack Ludwig, a resident, said a public resource was being taken away for a private use. He also said a vote was premature, given a lack of due process and transparency throughout the town’s review of the project. He said information was changed at the last minute.

The proposal has been in the works for some time.

The Martinos first proposed a farm in Lagoon Pond last year, which they said would help reduce nitrogen in the pond, but stakeholders objected to that plan.

In spring of 2013, the shellfish committee said the proposed area was too large and would interfere with commercial and recreational shellfishing, as well as other recreational activity. The board also voted 4-1 not to allow any private aquaculture in the Lagoon, and suggested that the town pursue sewering around the pond to reduce nitrogen.

But the brothers pressed on, seeking a location that would be more acceptable to the town.

Then this past March, selectmen gave preliminary approval for the farm off Eastville, pending permission from the state Division of Marine Fisheries, which arrived recently.

The current plan, though somewhat unorthodox, puts the oysters in a place where they won’t be competing with other aquaculture operations for food or space.

The Martinos must report back to the selectmen each year with a review of their activities.

In the case of negligence on the part of the Martinos, or some other failing, shellfish constable David Grunden assured the board that he had the power to force compliance with the terms of their agreement with the town.

“According to the regulations, I can shut them down without notice,” he said.

Mr. Landers said the farm would be a good thing for the town.

“We do have our fair share of bar rooms, dance halls, T-shirt shops, ice cream places,” he said. “We don’t have a fish market and it used to be a very beautiful fishing town with a great fishing industry. As a committee, we are trying to bring that back.”