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Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, West Tisbury town meeting tonight

Jun 07, 2023Jun 07, 2023

From a light pollution article to funding for a new fire station to banning nips Island-wide, there is plenty to debate at three town meetings scheduled for Tuesday, April 11.

Town meeting in Edgartown will take place at 7 pm at the Old Whaling Church; West Tisbury’s meeting will be held at West Tisbury School on Tuesday at 6 pm; and Oak Bluffs will welcome voters at 7 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard High School Performing Arts Center.

On all three warrants, voters will be asked to burrow money for a $2 million feasibility study to plan for the renovation or reconstruction of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) has accepted the project into its program, and could pay for a significant portion of the building project; but the authority’s process requires the feasibility study.

Aside from the high school, here’s a look at what’s on the agenda in the three towns:

Edgartown warrant

The warrant for the annual and Special Edgartown Town Meeting is 93 articles long, and includes a 5½ percent budget increase from last year.

The $42.6 million budget is higher than last year largely because of the rising costs of services and salaries seen across the Northeast and country, according to town officials. “It’s the same forces that are affecting Massachusetts and the rest of the VIneyard,” Hagerty said. “Inflationary costs are driving up the costs of goods and services.”

At the same time, the town meeting warrant has a number of requests to store away funding for projected capital projects, like the high school renovation or rebuild, wastewater management projects, upgrading municipal wells, and a new Council on Aging facility.

But likely to get the most attention on town meeting floor Tuesday are the current capital requests, like the new fire station and improvements to the North Wharf. Both will require an affirmative vote at the town election as well.

The town is requesting $21 million for the fire station rebuild. The proposed station’s footprint will be roughly double the size of the current one. Plans call for a three-bay garage and auxiliary space behind the station, and there will be enough space for training.

The current fire station is pushing six decades old, and town officials say that the department has outgrown the building.

The town is also asking for $2.6 million to fund renovations at the North Wharf. Town meeting in 2019 already approved nearly $1 million for the project; the town has also received funding from the state. But project costs climbed over the past few years, Hagerty said.

The plan is to replace the bulkhead, timber pilings, and additional other work on the commercial marine hub.

Other capital projects include more than $1.5 million in upgrades at the town’s wastewater treatment plant. That’s funding to replace a number of parts, including a water effluent pump system and sludge belt.

In a slightly smaller request, the town wants $700,000 to demolish and rebuild the animal control officer’s facilities. Hagerty says the current kennel hasn’t been updated since the 1980s, and many of the services provided have to be outsourced to veterinarians, at a cost to the town.

The town is also looking to replace the playground at the Edgartown School, and build an outdoor classroom. The total for the project is estimated at nearly $1 million.

Voters will be asked to consider a study to find the best management practices for ferry service to Chappaquiddick, whether that would be a town-led or nonprofit operation.

And town meeting will also be asked to consider a zoning provision dealing with light pollution. Edgartown resident Norma Holmes put in the request. The idea is to “maintain the traditional character of Edgartown, including the unique quality of the nighttime sky,” the article’s explanation reads. The article recommends such changes to zoning as requiring outdoor lights to “not be offensive” to neighbors.

“In all zoning districts, any private outdoor lighting fixture, whether temporary or permanent, shall be so directed, placed, and shielded so that the light shall not be offensive to other residents. All outdoor lighting must be shielded and pointed downward. All outdoor lighting shall be placed or mounted so that no lamp is higher than the eave line of the structure,” the article reads.

Town meeting will also consider banning the sale of nips, along with Oak Bluffs, the only two towns on the Island with the sales.

Oak Bluffs faces 9 percent budget increase from two years ago

O.B. voters will consider an eight-article special town meeting warrant and a 49-article annual town meeting warrant, in addition to a $37.6 million budget: a 6.1 percent increase from last year, and a 9.6 percent increase from 2021.

Some of the largest expenditures include $250,000 for improvements to the Harbor East Chop bulkhead, $325,000 to fund the second phase of the Farm Pond Culvert replacement, and $200,000 for the acquisition of a replacement loader for the highway department. All three are contingent upon a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion ballot vote approval.

Voters will consider allocating the town’s share of $457,800 to conduct an Island-wide feasibility study regarding the replacement of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, per the regional school agreement; $75,000 for the installation of security cameras and fiber network upgrades throughout town; $50,000 to help fund the annual Oak Bluffs summer fireworks, and $15,000 for repairs, upgrades, and harbor maintenance.

Other warrant articles include the request of $20,000 to fund costs associated with the town’s holiday light displays, $20,000 to purchase new computers for the town library, and $80,000 for dredging around Little Bridge, in order to aid in the flushing of Sengekontacket Pond,

At the request of the Oak Bluffs Police Department, voters will consider allocating $75,000 for a feasibility study of the town’s police station, to determine how to move forward with building upgrades or possible replacement, along with $50,000 for immediate repairs.

OBPD will also be asking for $30,500 to fund equipment and lockers, which will, for the first time, introduce lockers into the women’s locker room.

Voters will also take up the so-called nip ban, along with proposed amendments to the town’s cemetery regulations, which will allow for the option of “green burials” — where the deceased is buried in a casket made of softwood or other biodegradable materials, along with the current cement or bronze interment containers.

Added to the warrant by the select board, an article that would prohibit acting members of the select board from holding more than one elected office at a time will also be up for consideration.

West Tisbury considering “no Sunday construction” bylaw

West Tisbury voters will need to consider some big-ticket items during the upcoming annual town meeting on the 49-article warrant.

The $1.2 million in planned repairs to the West Tisbury library’s HVAC system is one of the more expensive requests at town meeting. For this project to proceed, voters will need to approve a Proposition 2½ override, which will be on the ballot during the Thursday, April 13, town election.

Another expense the town will ask of voters is approving the appropriation of $208,995 from the Community Preservation undesignated reserve fund to pay off the debt from the Scott’s Grove affordable housing development.

The town will also be asking voters to approve using $25,000 in free cash toward hiring a professional to moderate a community visioning process. The idea is to hold a forum with town residents to determine what path West Tisbury should take for its future. The last time the town underwent a visioning process was 25 years ago.

West Tisbury is considering a number of zoning amendments, the most notable being an updated use table. The table lists what type of events are allowed to take place in each of the town’s districts, such as in the rural or village residential districts.

Another bylaw the town is considering is the prohibition of “non-public, outdoor construction and landscaping activity” on Sundays and holidays. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as homeowners working without heavy equipment, or with tools that don’t make “repetitive sound alerts.”

Resident Marc Rosenbaum pitched the proposal to the West Tisbury select board last August. At the time, the board expressed concerns over enforcement and how resources could be drained, but they ultimately told Rosenbaum he could try getting voter approval.

Meanwhile, the West Tisbury budget is expected to see an increase from $22.17 million in fiscal year 2023 to $23.3 million in fiscal year 2024.