West Tisbury special takes up dogs, horses on the beach

Alas, no more.

West Tisbury voters will take up an interesting mix of issues when they gather for a special town meeting Tuesday. Questions include proposals to acquire ownership of the Mill Pond Dam, to place a solar array at the town landfill, to create a new lieutenant’s position in the police department, and a ban on dogs and horses at beaches in the summer.

The special town meeting begins at 7 pm in the West Tisbury School on Old County Road.

The issue expected to generate the most debate is a proposed amendment to the town bylaws regarding the hours and use of Uncle Seth’s Pond and Lambert’s Cove Beach.

Regulations now prohibit people from being at Seth’s Pond from May 15 to September 15, between the hours of 9 pm and 7 am. The proposal would change the restricted use from June 15 to September 15.

The proposed amendment would also ban dogs and horses at both Seth’s Pond and Lambert’s Cove Beach from June 15 to September 15, at all hours, and impose a $50 fine for pet owners found in violation.

In recent years, residents have complained about out-of-control canines and dog droppings at Lambert’s Cove Beach. But the amendment is certain to upset some town residents and pet owners who frequent Lambert’s Cove Beach with their pals.

The topic has been the subject of several discussions before the parks and recreation committee, where pet owners have repeatedly given assurances they will take care of the problem themselves.

But after seeing little progress this summer, the parks committee voted on September 14 to place the question of a summer-long ban on dogs at both beaches before voters.

Committee members endorsed the policy because they said they worried about the dog droppings on the beach and the possibility of the town being liable if a dog bit someone at the beach, according to the minutes.

An article that may be less controversial asks voters to agree to accept transfer of the Mill Pond dam from the ownership of the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club to the town.

For years it was thought the town or state owned the dam and roadway in front of the Old Mill. But after a specially appointed Mill Pond committee questioned that assumption earlier this year, civil engineer Kent Healy investigated.

Mr. Healy found that the portion of the property that contained the dam and the mill was conveyed to the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club many years ago, while the remainder of the pond was deeded to the town.

Despite not owning the dam all these years, the town has still performed maintenance and paid to insure the dam.

Earlier this year, members of the Garden Club voted 154-3 to allow the town to take ownership of the dam, and the selectmen have since agreed to continue to maintain and insure the property.

The article would raise and appropriate $7,000 to pay the costs associated with the transfer.

Another article would spend $1,000 in conservation funds to purchase “No ATV” signs to be placed at the Margaret K. Littlefield Greenlands, a 380-acre parcel of town-owned land between Old County Road and the State Forest.

Voters agreed to buy the land at town meeting in 1982 at a cost of $450,000. The land sits over the Island’s sole source aquifer, at the point where the lens of the aquifer is closest to the surface of the ground.

In recent years the area has been a popular place for people to ride dirt bikes and ATVs, upsetting many abutters who complain about noise and safety and raise environmental concerns.

Steve Maxner, a resident on Great Plains Road, said the number of dirt bikes and ATVs has increased since the dirt bike track at the Nip ‘N Tuck farm was closed earlier this year. He said he worries the vehicles will do permanent damage.

“The area has been dug up and decimated. It’s a serious conservation issue,” he said.

Mr. Maxner conceded the signage won’t solve the problem, but said they are important steps in the right direction.

“I believe this issue has been neglected or forgotten about, and now at least the town is aware of the problem and are showing support for a plan to curb it. The signs are an indication of that,” he said.

Another article would raise $10,000 to evaluate a project sponsored by the Cape and Vineyard Energy Cooperative to build a solar photovoltaic array at the town landfill to provide power to town buildings.

The article is sponsored by the town energy committee.

Voters will also be asked to amend the town personnel bylaw to allow on-call police officers to be compensated $75 per shift and allow them to be credited for actual time worked in one-hour increments at the officer’s overtime rate. Another article would add the position of police lieutenant.

Voters will also decide whether to transfer $3,652 in unexpended funds for the purchase of a boat, motor, trailer and other equipment for the shellfish committee.