Last weekend in Hull was “a perfect storm,” with some residents choosing to stay home rather than face the traffic congestion in their neighborhoods due to various activities coupled with unseasonably warm weather that drew people to the beach like a magnet.
“People are anxious to get out post-pandemic,” Select Board Chair Jennifer Constable said during Wednesday’s three-hour remote meeting. “We’re anticipating a very busy season in Hull, especially now that the governor has lifted all COVID-related restrictions.”
Constable was appointed by the other board members to serve a second year as chair and was praised for her hard work and for fostering collaboration during a very challenging time.
Police Chief John Dunn explained that because high temperatures arrived earlier than expected, there were not enough officers to help manage the traffic and related issues associated with the large crowds last weekend. Starting on Memorial Day weekend, full staffing will be in place.
“Hull has traffic in the summer, and there will be delays,” he said.
Both Dunn and Deputy Police Chief Neil Reilly assured the board that plans are in place to deal with the expected significant amount of traffic during peak times this season. The state police also will be available to provide assistance.
Dunn also reported that five seasonal police officers will begin their service Memorial Day weekend – Michael Sampson, Kenneth DeWolfe, Tucker Johnston, Keighla McAloney, and Richard Davis.
“They will be working with us all summer, and there may be some more candidates in the next couple of weeks,” Dunn said.
Ensuring that residents are able to enter and leave their own town and that emergency vehicles have the necessary access is top priority, Reilly and Dunn emphasized.
Select Board member Domenico Sestito repeatedly expressed concerns about the impact that so much traffic is having on residents, and also the number of Ubers and other transportation services that are dropping off people at the beach “and all over town.”
Sestito said he received numerous text messages from residents over the weekend about people having parties, relieving themselves on the beach, and the amount of trash they left behind.
“It was mayhem,” he said. “This is part of our new world, and in my opinion it’s very difficult for residents living along the beach. I feel for them. Their world is completely different now” due to the over-the-top amount of traffic in their neighborhoods and on the beaches.
“Can you put your trash in an Uber?” Sestito asked. “There were reports and photos of a group of 40 kids dropped off at the beach in Ubers who left three bags of trash that neighbors took away. If this becomes the norm, what are we going to do?”
In addressing Sestito’s concern, Town Counsel James Lampke said he talked briefly about this issue with Town Manager Philip Lemnios and that they are trying to think of ways to address the issue.
“There are some hurdles to doing this effectively,” Lampke said. “There are a lot of legal and technical issues. How do you single out a particular car and not the others?”
He noted that Hull’s roads are partially funded by the state and that as a result, members of the public generally have the right to use them “subject to reasonable conditions.”
Dunn said in no uncertain terms that the HPD “will not be stopping any vehicle other than when there’s a crime in progress or a moving violation. We have no right to stop any vehicle dropping people off. We would get ourselves in trouble if we did, and most of Hull’s beaches are open to the public.”
Select Board member Donna Pursel noted that Ubers are likely to be more prevalent since trolley service is no longer available.
The board declined developer Steve Austin’s request for a parking permit for 32 cars at 163 Nantasket Ave., where a residential project is underway, even though he has received a permit for the past five years. That’s largely due to the fact that it’s currently a construction site, even though parking would have only been during weekends and holidays when no construction would be taking place.
The board granted permission to the Knights of Columbus to allow 40 cars to park at 440 Nantasket Ave. from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend, with some conditions.
John Saunders, representing the Nantasket Beach Hotel, was given a nod of approval to park five additional cars at 115 Nantasket Ave., contingent on receipt by the board of a drawing of the layout.
Sestito voted “nay” to all three requests, due in part to his concern about traffic, impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods, and the high number of beachgoers being dropped off and picked up from those and other areas that offer beach parking.
In other business at the meeting:
* Lampke was reappointed as town counsel for another year. Constable commended his commitment to the job and called his work for the board “second to none.”
Longtime Select Board member John Reilly recalled the times he has worked with Lampke over the past 30 years. “There has never been a time when you were unwilling to take on any project or task,” he said.
* There was a lengthy discussion between the board and Craig Wolfe about his proposal to hold the traditional annual car show on June 13. The event was cancelled last year due to the pandemic. Traffic is a concern, but Wolfe pointed out that during the many years the car show has been held, there have been no major issues.
The board voted in favor of the event, subject to final approval by the police chief and town manager. More details will be available soon.
* Superintendent of Schools Judith Kuehn’s request to close M Street from Central Avenue to Cadish on June 17 between 9 and 10 a.m. for a half-hour outdoor Memorial School graduation ceremony was granted.
“This will mean a lot to the families,” she said. “We’re excited about it.”
Constable said she is pleased “to see in-person graduations again.”
* The board authorized Lemnios to make offers of just compensation to property owners who will grant easements or agree to other land transactions related to the major Atlantic Avenue road and sidewalk reconstruction project. Lampke noted that some residents have donated their easements, while others expect just compensation.
“We need to keep this process moving,” Lampke said. “We are hoping to put the project out to bid at the beginning of August.”
Construction funding is available through a combination of state and federal dollars, while the town is responsible for all costs associated with the design, environmental permitting, and right-of-way acquisition for the project.