Edgartown leaders blast Martha’s Vineyard Commission money request


Updated Thursday, June 16, 1pm

Edgartown selectmen sharply criticized, but did not decide on, a request from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) for $4,000 to fund a housing needs study. Selectmen said Edgartown taxpayers already funded the regional planning and permitting agency.

MVC affordable housing planner Christine Flynn appeared before selectmen at their Monday weekly meeting to say that a housing needs study completed in 2001, and updated in 2005, is now outdated.

She said the MVC wanted each Island town to contribute $4,000. The MVC planned to contribute $6,000 from its budget and hire a consultant at an estimated cost of $30,000.

“It’s really important to have this information, to make sure the towns are monitoring their land use efficiently,” Ms. Flynn said. Island housing advocates, including representatives of the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Fund, the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, and Habitat for Humanity, attended the meeting to support the request.

The Edgartown Housting Trust voted 3 to 2 to withdraw money from the trust to fund the study. Under the rules of the trust, Edgartown selectmen have the final say on expenditures, according to selectman Margaret Serpa.

“So many things have changed, economically,” said Mark Hess, chairman of the affordable housing committee, and a trustee of the housing trust. “We don’t have anywhere to go for recent data. It’s very short money, we felt, between all the towns.”

The request met stiff resistance from selectmen.

“They (MVC planners) should be doing it and not coming to the towns for more money. This is what we give the commission money for,” chairman Art Smadbeck said. “Those dollars are going to be lost forever for us to subsidize a rent, subsidize a mortgage, buy a piece of land. We could spend all our money on studies.”

“We just finished giving extra money for the Island Plan,” selectman Margaret Serpa said. “Why, if this was so important, wasn’t it included in the Island Plan?”

Ms. Serpa was referring to a multi-year, planning effort that cost Island taxpayers, private individuals and foundation donors, and federal and state taxpayers in the form of grants, $341,000 over three and a half years.

Island Plan contributions from the taxpayers of the six Island towns included $120,000 for fiscal years 2007 through 2009, paid by Island towns, in addition to each town’s annual assessment.

“I think you’re going to do a study and find out Edgartown’s doing pretty well,” selectman Michael Donaroma said. “We have strong committees working on this. There are times when I personally feel the MVC just gets in the way.”

The request for funds came too late to be included on the formal agenda, so selectmen delayed a vote on the request until next week’s meeting.

The MVC fiscal year operating budget for fiscal year 2012 is $1,167,265. Salaries account for $957,515.

The regional permitting and planning agency employs an executive director, an administrator, an administrative assistant, and seven planners.

The bulk of MVC funding comes from assessments to Dukes County towns, based on equalized property valuations. Edgartown contributed $291,486, or 25 percent of the total budget in FY 2011.

Landing standing

Selectmen also addressed complaints about construction equipment blocking access to the Cottage Street Landing, off North Water Street, previously taken by eminent domain to provide boat access to Nantucket Sound.

Selectmen told contractor John Nugent, president of Cedco Inc., they want assurances that the roadway will be restored, that construction machinery does not block the public way, and that the property owner for whom Cedco works seek an opinion from the planning aboard as to whether he may use part of the road as a driveway.

Selectman Art Smadbeck said he observed machinery in the middle of Cottage Street when he visited the site on Monday afternoon with town administrator Pam Dolby.

Mr. Nugent said he has already addressed the construction machinery issue. “We’ve made huge efforts to keep that right of way open,” Mr. Nugent told selectmen. “Inadvertently, sooner or later, everybody forgets to remove the machinery.”

Mr. Nugent also questioned the visit by town officials.

“I’m a taxpayer in this town,” Mr. Nugent said. “Maybe the selectmen could enlighten me the last time a town employee visited a job site.”

“That happens quite frequently, believe it or not,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “We have many, many occasions where it is important to go to a place that’s going to be under discussion. I’m not sure what you’re getting to.”

“I’m getting to my taxpayer dollars being wasted,” Mr. Nugent replied.

Ms. Dolby said she visited the site on her lunch hour. “We were actually trying to reach a resolution that would work for everybody.”

Public path

Also Monday, selectmen discussed a referral from the zoning board of appeals, asking the board to work with the conservation commission to preserve access to a public easement along the waterfront beginning in front of the house at 1 Starbuck Neck and continuing along some of the town’s most valuable properties.

Conservation agent Jane Varkonda recommended that the owners trim back shrubbery to open the full 10-foot easement and remove three signs that say private property.

“It’s clearly not a ten-foot path,” selectmen Margaret Serpa said. “It should be, so you’re not having to avoid the bushes to get in there.”

Selectman Michael Donaroma said he did not think the issue warranted action from the town.

“I went by there, and I think it’s fine,” Mr. Donaroma said. “It’s an open path for residents to use. If you know it’s there, it’s a little hidden gem, and I kind of like that feeling.”

Valet parking

Selectmen also discussed use of loading zones in front of the Atlantic, and The Colonial Inn, for valet parking. Selectmen authorized a trial of the service last summer near the Atlantic and were asked to continue the arrangement and add another location this year.

Cape Cod Valet, operated by Mathew Speight, operates the valet parking. It is available to anyone, not just customers of the inn and restaurant. Ms. Dolby also pointed out that the loading zone spots are open to any valet parking company.

“Any valet business that happens to be in business can use it,” Ms. Dolby said. “We can’t just say we’re doing this for one business.”

Representatives of the Square Rigger restaurant asked permission to tunnel under Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road to connect to the town sewer. The project will not require cutting into the street. Selectmen granted the request, and asked that the work be completed before the end of June.

Selectmen also accepted the resignation of Ned Southworth from the library board of trustees. After advertising for applicants, selectmen will appoint a trustee to serve until the next town election, when the appointee can run for the remainder of the term.

This article was changed to reflect a correction. The company that operates valet parking in Edgartown is Cape Cod Valet, not Prestige Parking.