Tisbury voters say yes to connector road design


Voters paved the way for progress on a connector road project at Tisbury’s special town meeting Tuesday night. Voters approved all 13 articles on the warrant (see “Two tough weeks in Tisbury” in the April 1 Times.)

Town moderator Deborah Medders convened the meeting in the Tisbury School gymnasium at 7:10 pm, once a quorum of 100 was reached. The meeting took an hour and 22 minutes.

Using a lottery system to determine the order of articles, Ms. Medders drew numbers from a cream-colored pitcher.

Two connector road articles were grouped together, and came up as second and third. The connector road will offer motorists the option to cut over from Edgartown-Vineyard Haven (Edg.-V.H.) Road and exit onto State Road from either High Point Road or Holmes Hole Road, or vice versa. Plans also include a left turn lane off Edg.-V.H. Road to access the connector road.

Civil engineer David Giangrande, president of Design Consultants, and planning board co-chairman Henry Stephenson gave a presentation about the project and answered questions.

Voters subsequently approved the connector road and shared use path (SUP) design, authorized the selectmen to seek and accept funding, and gave the board of public works commissioners permission to construct the project. They also authorized the town to acquire necessary easements.

Based on the voters’ approval, the project team will now apply for a state-funded Public Works Economic Development grant to pay for the construction of the connector road and the SUP, at an estimated cost of $3.6 million.

A few seemingly benign articles provided some welcome moments of comic relief. In response to applause after reading a lengthy easement request from NSTAR and Verizon filled with technical jargon, Ms. Medders remarked, “That reminds me of my grandson’s erector set.”

In discussion about an easement for a proposed SUP that would cross Lagoon Pond Road near Maciel Marine, building and zoning inspector Ken Barwick suggested addressing storm drainage issues on the road first, so that bicyclists and pedestrians would not have to don scuba gear to get across every time it rains.

In other business, voters also authorized the selectmen to negotiate and grant a utility easement to GPCS Fiber Communications, in connection with a proposed project to run a fiber optic cable underwater from Fairhaven to Tisbury, via Woods Hole.

“This is a major decision on your part, which will bring high-speed fiber-optic capability from Fairhaven and provide competition to Comcast,” department of public works director Fred LaPiana said, which elicited many murmurs of approval.

As fate would have it, the liveliest debate occurred over the last article taken up. Although the article’s focus was on adopting penalties for violations of a town policy banning dogs from municipal buildings, it was the policy that brought a few howls of protest from dog-loving voters.

Ms. Medders announced that the selectmen had requested that voters take no action on the article, to allow them time to look at more options.

Animal Control Officer Laurie Clements, who had submitted the article, explained that the town policy approved at a public hearing on December 3, 2009, is difficult to enforce without any consequences. She proposed a written warning for a first offense and a $25 fine for second and subsequent offenses.

Selectman chairman Tristan Israel explained he was the one who requested pulling the article, in response to calls he received from voters upset by the policy. Margaret Wolontis, who said she considers her dachshund a beloved companion that should accompany her everywhere, including town hall, deemed the policy as “cruel and unusual punishment.”

James Norton said the real issue was giving Ms. Clements the ability to enforce the policy. He suggested that voters should act on the article, and then let the selectmen come up with alternatives.

Discussion resumed after a motion to take no action failed.

“We have had issues with some dogs in town buildings,” Mr. Israel admitted.

“A lot of dogs being brought into town buildings have repeatedly bitten people,” Ms. Clements reminded him.

“Could I bring my pit bull into town hall?” Gene DeCosta asked Mr. Israel.

“The problem isn’t usually with pit bulls, it’s with the people that own them,” Mr. Israel responded, prompting a collective “ooohhh” from the audience.

Selectman Geoghan Coogan brought the discussion to heel. “We already made the policy; all we are debating is the fine. The point is the fine,” he said firmly.

Voters agreed and passed the article. In a follow-up phone call yesterday, Mr. Coogan said Mr. Israel talked to him and selectman Jeffrey Kristal about pulling the article shortly before the meeting, which gave them little time to discuss it.

Mr. Coogan said their intention, although not well explained, was to postpone the article and hold another public hearing to set fines within the regulation, which town counsel had advised could be done without going through town meeting.

“Now we’ve got a fine, and we could always go back and hold a public hearing and set additional fines if we want to,” Mr. Coogan added.

Town clerk Marion Mudge said 124 attended the meeting, which is about four percent of the town’s 2,902 registered voters. Tisbury’s annual town meeting is April 13, 7 pm, at the Tisbury School gymnasium, and the annual town election on April 27.