Third time no charm: voters reject Tisbury connector road

Tisbury voters met at special town meeting Tuesday. — Photo by Janet Hefler

For the third time, Tisbury voters rejected a connector road system that would allow motorists to avoid the intersection of State Road and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, one of the most congested intersections on Martha’s Vineyard during busy summer months.

The vote came at a special town meeting Tuesday evening, where voters took action on 12 articles, three of which pertained to the connector road. Despite a majority in favor of the three articles, the votes on two articles fell short of the necessary two-thirds majority required to borrow money.

Neither snow nor slushy roads deterred voters, who exceeded the required quorum of 100 by 98 when moderator Deborah Medders began the meeting in the Tisbury School gymnasium at 7:13 pm. A total of 254 voters attended, which is about 7.8 percent of the town’s 3,224 registered voters.

Before tackling the warrant, selectman chairman Jeff Kristal and board of public works commissioners Dave Ferraguzzi, John Thayer, and Denys Wortman took the opportunity to congratulate department of public works director Fred LaPiana on his imminent retirement and to thank him for a job well done over his 20 years of service to the town.

As is Tisbury’s tradition, Ms. Medders drew numbers to determine the order in which articles would be taken up. No one objected to the selectmen’s request that voters take action on the connector road articles as a group, and that article one, which requested borrowing $1.3 million for the road system’s construction, be considered last.

The connector road system would have offered motorists the option to cut over from Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road along the access driveway now used by Island Food Products near the Edgartown National Bank branch and use one of three legs — Holmes Hole Road, High Point Lane, or Evelyn Way — to connect to State Road.

Voters approved the location of the proposed connector road system at a special town meeting in 2005. At a town meeting four years later they approved borrowing $2.5 million to fund the connector road’s design and construction.

The town sought state funding and was turned down twice before asking voters to foot the bill. Voters subsequently rejected two pared down versions of the project.

The first round came when voters took up a request for $18,789 to take an easement by eminent domain on Evelyn Way, Olga Road, and Lyle Lane, as needed to construct the connector road’s Evelyn Way leg.

High mileage discussion

Clarence “Trip” Barnes, who runs a trucking business on Evelyn Way, was the first to voice his objections in an hour-and-a-half long discussion that followed a presentation about the connector road by planning board co-chairman Henry Stephenson.

“We’ve got to do something about the backup and I think we definitely need the main road going to Holmes Hole Road,” Mr. Barnes said. “But as far as this piece, if you drive down Evelyn Way and see all the businesses and all the congestion, adding more to it is going to be a nightmare.”

Planning board co-chairman Tony Peak said he disagreed that the Evelyn Way leg would be a disadvantage to Mr. Barnes and other business areas on the road, because it would relieve them of the responsibility of maintaining the road. “I would urge you strongly to consider this as a very large step in the long-term planning of Vineyard Haven and actually of the Island as whole,” he said, which brought applause from the audience.

Barbara Lamson, however, said she was concerned about safety issues involving businesses on the street, such as Angel’s Auto Body, which frequently moves cars from one side of the street to the other all day long.

“It seems to me we have one bad intersection we’re trying to alleviate, and are talking about trying to create three new problematic intersections,” Karen Scott said. “Maybe it would make sense to put up a light at the intersection [State and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven roads] we already have.”

On a standing vote, the borrowing article failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for approval, with 122 for and 109 against. Its defeat made it necessary to amend article two, which asked voters to allow the town to spend state Chapter 90 funds to construct the connector road’s High Point Lane and Evelyn Way legs.

Voters continued their debate for another 45 minutes. Ms. Medders called for a voice vote but couldn’t determine the outcome. She called for a standing vote, and the article passed 141 to 93.

That left article one, which turned out to be anticlimactic. Voters, apparently weary of the long debate, were silent when Ms. Medders called for discussion. In a standing vote only eight minutes after the previous vote, the borrowing article was defeated 147 to 77. Based on that outcome, at the end of the meeting voters reconsidered and defeated the article for the High Point Lane connector road leg, since it would be useless without the Holmes Hole Road leg.

Voters were unanimous in their approval of two school-related spending articles, however. They agreed to spend $305,000 to repair and replace the roofing system at Tisbury School. Sitting just across the street from the aging building the school superintendent wants to replace, voters also approved spending $36,544 as the town’s share of architectural design fees for a new one to be located on the regional high school’s campus.

Voters also voted yes on several housekeeping articles, as well as ones to allow the town to transfer $20,000 from the Waterways Fund to build shoreside pump-out facilities at Owen Park and the Lake Street landing, and to purchase a used cab and chassis for a road sander for $35,000 from the stabilization fund.

At the request of the selectmen, voters agreed to pass on articles asking them to approve a $1.3 million property purchase at 14 Pine Street and the transfer of the town’s partial ownership of a parcel in Oak Bluffs to the conservation commission. Mr. Kristal told The Times in a phone conversation yesterday that town counsel said there are remaining details to work out regarding the Oak Bluffs parcel and suggested the selectmen bring it back to voters for consideration at town meeting in April.

In regard to the property purchase, Mr. Kristal said, “We felt we hadn’t sufficiently put a proposal together and had communication with all parties involved with this property, and [we] thought that $1.3 million is a lot of money for people to put trust in us to move forward with, without a complete plan.”