Chilmark voters turn down money for Tea Lane farmhouse


Chilmark voters, at a special town meeting Monday, indefinitely postponed a proposal to spend $550,000 to renovate the historic Tea Lane farmhouse, at the corner of Tea Lane and Middle Road.

Former town treasurer Judy Jardin moved postponement, arguing voters were not aware of the long-term financial implication when they agreed to purchase the property for $250,000, at a town meeting in 2001.

“My concern is the rest of us didn’t know what was in the agreement in terms of public ownership [in 2001],” Ms. Jardin said. “I don’t think anyone knew we would be buying and maintaining that property in perpetuity.”

This was the second time in a year that voters rejected a plan to renovate the Tea Lane farmhouse and lease the property to a resident farmer. Last September voters denied a plan to spend $300,000 to repair the farmhouse.

Voters approved the motion made by Ms. Jardin by a standing vote of 48-15. All three selectmen voted against the motion to postpone the article.

A total of 84 voters, or about 10 percent of the town’s 863 registered voters, attended the special town meeting.

In other business, voters agreed to appropriate $5,000 to start a plan to restore the Chilmark Pond. The plan calls for hiring a firm to study the pond and surrounding barrier beaches.

The article was placed on the warrant by the Chilmark Pond Association, which by state law has stewardship over the pond and also opens the pond to the ocean several times a year to flush it and maintain a satisfactory salinity level.

In recent years, silting in the pond has made it more difficult to create openings to the sea, and the Pond Association wants to hire professionals to review options for restoring the pond, including dredging.

The funding question led to spirited debate Monday, as some argued the pond and surrounding area is an important asset to the town and must be protected at all costs.

Others questioned the logic of trying to wage a lengthy and costly battle with natural changes. “That beach is going to continue to shift and move northward, nothing we can do is going to stop that,” Chris Murphy said. “If you have some legal mandate from the state to project the pond, then go forth with our blessing. But don’t ask us to pay for it.” The spending article passed by a wide margin.

In other business, voters agreed to transfer $25,000 already approved at the annual town meeting in April 2010, to fund the costs of landscaping and site improvements at the Middle Line Road affordable housing project.

Selectman Warren Doty said the bonding costs for the project were lower than expected, and the money was being moved from financing to landscaping. “The houses are done and tenants are ready to move in November 1,” Mr. Doty said.

Voters also agreed to appropriate $29,000 to pay for bonding and short-term borrowing costs associated with the Menemsha pier connector and West Dock reconstruction project.

Voters also agreed to spend $5,000 to participate in a statewide upgrade of mapping, $2,700 to participate in an Island-wide affordable housing needs study, and $6,500 to repair the rigid inflatable boat operated by the harbor department.