Chilmark selectmen fine tune Tea Lane Farmstead lease


Chilmark selectmen have again reviewed the lease for the Tea Lane farmhouse.

One week after voters at town meeting approved a plan to lease the Tea Lane farmstead to a resident farmer, selectmen Tuesday considered the 64-page ground lease for the property that requires the farmer to perform certain renovations on the historic farmhouse.

The lease period is 75 years, and the town would sell the farmhouse, barn, garage and two outbuildings to the resident farmer for $1. The lease allows the farmer to take ownership of the value of any renovations he or she makes to the farmhouse. Voters last week also approved another article authorizing $100,000 in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to be used for renovations to the farmhouse.

Selectmen Tuesday agreed that issues remain that need to be cleared up before they put the lease to a final vote. Former town treasurer Judy Jardin asked how value would be assigned to future renovations. “How exactly do you measure something like sweat equity?” she asked.

Selectmen agreed that sweat equity — labor performed by the resident farmer — could not be paid through CPA funds. They also said the added value of renovations, including sweat equity, would need final approval of selectmen.

Police Chief Brian Cioffi, also a member of the farm committee, said there is no value formula. “There is really no formula, it’s a broad topic, and it is something that needs to be sort of narrowed down,” he said.

At their Tuesday meeting selectmen also agreed to an in-town route for the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) bus service, and discussed protocols for the Code Red emergency alert system.

Selectmen unanimously approved VTA bus Route 12, a seasonal in-town bus route that serves the guests of multiple inns and bed and breakfasts and takes guests to and from town beaches and Menemsha.

Selectmen approved an updated Route 12, which provides a shuttle connection between Menemsha and Chilmark center to a newly created satellite parking lot at the old landfill off Tabor House Road.

VTA administrator Angie Grant presented selectmen with two options for Route 12; one with a pull-in at Squibnocket Beach and another that drives by the top of Squibnocket Road and uses the overlook to turn busses around instead.

Ms. Grant said the town beach committee has advised against the pull-in at Squibnocket Beach, because they didn’t want to give up parking spaces for the busses to turn around. But she said the pull-in should not require too many parking spaces to be sacrificed.

“On some days people are going to park really well and it will be a piece of cake,” Ms. Grant said. “Other days you might have someone parking wrong with a trailer hitch sticking way out… I think we can make it work without sacrificing too much parking.”

In the end selectmen agreed to send the bus to Squibnocket Beach.

Selectmen also reviewed draft protocols for the Code Red emergency notification system, a countywide system administered by the Martha’s Vineyard Emergency Management Director’s Association.

The draft protocols establishes four threat levels for the use of the system, which uses a reverse 911 system to send automated phone messages to Island residents.

At the first threat level, labeled convenience notifications, only the chairman of the board could authorize the activation of the system, and any non-emergency use of the system would incur expenditures from the bank of free minutes.

The second threat level requires a phone caucus or meeting of the Emergency Management Committee.

The third threat level requires an authorized user “where possible” to inform selectmen, consult with another member of the Emergency Management Team and seek authorized activation from the chairman of the board of selectmen.

The fourth and highest threat level would authorize the fire chief, police chief, health agent, town administrator and emergency management director to activate a townwide alert, provided they seek authorized activation from the selectmen chairman. If no selectmen are available, the authorized user shall notify selectmen “as soon as possible.”

Selectmen did not vote on the draft protocols, but they agreed that the system should not be used unless absolutely necessary. They also agreed that they — the selectmen — should have the final say when the system was used.

“There are some real good benefits to this system . . . but when you cry wolf every time you use this, then when you really need it they might not be listening to you,” Chairman Frank Fenner said.