West Tisbury voters will take up beer, wine, dogs and more

— File photo by Mae Deary

West Tisbury voters, when they convene for their annual town meeting on Tuesday, April 10, must decide, again, whether to allow dogs on Lambert’s Cove Beach during the summer months. Among dollar-denominated questions, there is a proposal to spend $2.6 million to repair some town roads.

The jam-packed warrant also asks if voters want to take the next step to build a new police station, adopt more energy efficient building codes, and renovate and enlarge the public library.

At the annual town election on Thursday, voters will face the question of whether to allow the sale of beer and wine in restaurants.

Voters will also consider a new bylaw regulating the construction of large solar photovoltaic projects and take a non-binding vote on the roundabout project at the Blinker intersection in Oak Bluffs.

Oh, and then there is the $14.38m-illion budget for fiscal 2013.

Town administrator Jen Rand says she is unfazed by the packed agenda. “I learned long ago not to try and make predictions on what will be the big issue at town meeting,” she said.

The annual meeting begins at 7 pm at the West Tisbury School. The election is on April 12.

Money Matters

The $14.4-million budget for fiscal 2013 is 4.5 percent greater than the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends at the end of June.

Town accountant Bruce Stone said the biggest increase is the regional high school assessment, which jumped $255,000, or 11 percent. Up-Island Regional School District spending increased only 3.3 percent, after the school board agreed to draw $190,000 from the district’s excess and deficiency balance to reduce the assessments charged to the three member towns.

The budget includes a wage increase of 2.5 percent for town employees, as well as several one-time appropriations and debt exclusions: including $36,380 to purchase a four-wheel-drive vehicle for the police department and $24,000 for a new tractor, with loader and mower.

Another article asks to appropriate $85,000 for the development of construction documents for the construction of a new police station at the Public Safety Building site. This will not be the final vote on the new police station; plans will need to prepared and approved at a future town meeting.

Another article asks voters to spend $2.615 million to repair town roads. The sum will be borrowed and paid off over 15 years.

Town officials believe making all the road repairs now — instead of spreading the repairs out over several years — will save the town money because of the cost of asphalt and borrowing, both of which are expected to increase substantially in the coming years.

The plan has been approved by the capital improvement planning committee and the finance committee, although selectmen split 2-1 on the plan.

Mr. Stone said town departments, as a general rule, budget conservatively. He said the town has also taken steps not to take on too much debt.

“For the past several years we have been very successful at controlling costs. We also try to plan ahead with capital projects so that our debt service does not skyrocket – the thinking is, we only take on new debt when we are retiring older debt,” he said.

Final library vote

The first article on the agenda deals with the renovation and expansion of the West Tisbury Free Public Library.

Voters will be asked to exempt the town from the provisions of Proposition 2.5, for the bonds to be issued during the construction of the new library and appropriate $1.5 million for the project.

The total cost of the new library project is above $6 million, but the cost will be split among a $2.98-million state grant, $1.57 million in private donations to the Library Foundation, and the town’s $1.5-million share. The vote to borrow the money — the final step for the long-gestating library project — will require a two-thirds vote at town meeting.

“I think we have done everything we can do,” said library trustee Dan Waters. “We did monthly forums, we sent out a mailer to everyone in town, we held a big forum last week with the architects that was televised on MVTV, and we printed renderings of the project in the newspaper.”

New bylaws

Voters will also consider an article to adopt a more environmentally friendly building code called the Stretch Code, that requires higher levels of energy efficiency in new buildings and major renovations than is required by the base code.

The state Department of Energy Resources developed the Stretch Code as an addition to the state building code, in response to a desire by several towns and cities to require greater efficiency in local construction while also creating a uniform set of energy efficiency standards.

The Stretch Code is optional and can only be implemented by a town meeting vote. It was placed on the warrant by the town energy committee.

Building inspector Ernie Mendenhall said the change would require builders to take extra steps during construction, including bringing in a third party to perform some inspections. He said the town already has an energy-efficient building code, and he has stayed neutral on the Stretch Code question. “It’s an optional thing, and it’s up to the voters to decide,” he said.

Voters will also consider a separate bylaw to regulate the construction of ground-mounted, solar photovoltaic installations with a 250kW or larger capacity. The bylaw would provide standards for the placement, design, construction, operation, modification, and removal of installations to address public safety and minimize the impacts on scenic and natural resources.

“We don’t have a bylaw to regulate these types of projects right now,” Mr. Mendenhall said.

Beer and wine

At the annual town election that follows the town meeting, voters will consider a ballot question to grant licenses for the sale of beer and wine in restaurants, provided those beverages are served with a meal.

The same ballot question would allow selectmen to grant one-day licenses for the sale of beer and wine at fundraising events where the service of such beverages is considered incidental.

If approved, selectmen would be authorized to issue licenses for the sale of beer and wine to restaurants with 50 seats or more, which currently applies only to State Road Restaurant, the Lambert’s Cove Inn, and the Plane View Restaurant at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

There are some people in town who support allowing one-day beer and wine licenses for fundraisers, but do not support the sale of beer and wine in restaurants. They do not believe the two issues should be combined onto one ballot question, so another article was placed on the warrant by petition that would allow beer and wine to be served at fundraising events but not sold in restaurants.

Finally, voters will consider an article to rescind a policy approved at a special town meeting last November to ban dogs from the popular Lambert’s Cove Beach from June 15 to September 15. The dog article is the second to last on the 41-article warrant.