Aquinnah rejects DCPC, will try again
More than enough Aquinnah voters appeared Thursday, and the town, on its fourth attempt, did its business.
A total of 65 voters, 16 percent of the 396 registered voters in town, attended, according to the town clerk.
Voters rejected proposed regulations for a town-wide energy District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC), by a vote of 23 to 17. A two-thirds vote was needed for approval. Proponents were four votes short.
A DCPC designation provides for special regulations that are enforceable by the town and backed up by the powerful permitting authority of the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC).
The vote was to have been the last step in a process that began last December, when the Martha's Vineyard Commission accepted the energy district nomination from the selectmen.
The town then had one year to craft regulations, bring them back to the Martha's Vineyard Commission for approval at a public hearing, and seek voter approval at town meeting.
Town leaders said this week that the effort to approve the town's newest regulatory district would not end with last week's vote. The proponents plan to try again.
Jim Newman, chairman of the three-member board of selectmen, said the plan is to call a special town meeting the first week in August and present the DCPC regulations to voters. The strategy would be to use the intervening weeks to better explain the regulations to voters and contemplate possible changes.
"I think we will try to make the regulations less onerous and less complicated," said Mr. Newman.
The vote does not end a development moratorium that was put in place by the Martha's Vineyard Commission when it approved the regulations at a meeting on May 8. The moratorium was expected to be short lived, but will not be lifted until the DCPC is approved or expires in December. If town leaders fail to win voter approval, they may return to the MVC and ask that the DCPC nomination be rescinded.
Camille Rose, selectman and chairman of the planning board, said this is the first time town voters have rejected a DCPC. She said the town has done too much work on the proposed DCPC to abandon it for the lack of four votes.
Ms. Rose said one problem evident at the town meeting was that many people did not fully understand the regulations.
"The main problem was that many of the people who voted against it," said Ms. Rose, "had never come to any of the public meetings or hearings and wanted to be educated on the floor of the town meeting, and they had concerns because they did not understand what the regulations were about."
She said town leaders would try to use the time before the next town meeting to address some of the points those who voted no found most objectionable, including the requirement for an energy audit, and simplify the more technical language.
"It was so much work, six months of a lot of work, and we don't want to abandon it," she said. "So I think we will try one more time."
Ms. Rose said it is possible some voters might see it as an attempt to reverse a vote that did not go the way the selectmen wanted, but the closeness of the decision and the lack of understanding on the town meeting floor is reason enough to revisit the issue.
Because the entire town of Aquinnah already is designated a DCPC, the selectmen could choose to pursue new regulations as changes to the zoning regulations, bypassing the moratorium requirement. Ms. Rose said the DCPC offers another layer and something less tangible. "It was the concept of having an energy district. It was something that the people in town asked us for," she said.
In other business voters rejected a request to reduce the number needed for a quorum from 10 percent to 5 percent of the electorate. A rental property registration bylaw was tabled indefinitely.
Voters approved all other articles on the warrant. The meeting ended at 10:40 pm.