Edgartown selectmen will ask for $3 million to buy downtown property

Selectmen will add Yellow House articles to the warrant, applaud VTA move to electric buses.

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Edgartown would like to buy the "Yellow House" property on the corner of Main and South Summer streets. —File photo, Michelle Gross

Edgartown selectmen agreed this week to add articles to the April town meeting warrant that will ask voters to fund the purchase and modification of the Yellow House property on the corner of South Summer and Main streets. The town’s Community Preservation Committee (CPC) addressed the purchase last week. Selectmen shaped the articles suggested by the committee to combine the purchase and the rehab of the long-discussed property, along with permission to lease the property. The total cost voters will be asked to fund is $3 million.

In addition, selectmen agreed to establish a committee to work with the Benjamin Hall family, current and longtime owners of the property, who have objected to the town’s plans, to shepherd the project through negotiations, should voters approve the spending.

Voters will see two articles

The selectmen plan two articles concerning the long-vacant property. One will present two requests to voters: to appropriate $1.5 million of Community Preservation Act funds to buy the house and a small portion of the land, and to approve another $1.5 million to buy the adjoining parking lot. A second article will ask whether the town may lease the property.

Selectman Michael Donaroma, looking forward to negotiations for the purchases and having in mind the objections of the Hall family, struck a conciliatory tone.

“I think it’d be a great idea to put a committee together and hold some public meetings, get the public involved,” he said.

Pam Dolby, town administrator, told the selectmen the articles would be ready for review at their Feb. 13 meeting.

VTA move applauded

Angela Grant, administrator of the Vineyard Transportation Authority (VTA), told selectmen her organization has made plans to go electric. The VTA board met a few months ago and endorsed a transition from diesel buses to electric. The VTA leadership based the decision on research to decide whether electric buses make sense for the Vineyard.

Ms. Grant described a demonstration of electric buses, which were run quietly for four to five hours. The batteries’ power loss, she said, was only 25 percent. “The batteries have gotten significantly better,” she said.

VTA representatives traveled to California as part of their research, observing a fleet of 80 electric buses, touring the operation of the fleet and the factory where the buses had been built. Though costs are comparable for diesel and electric buses, Ms. Grant said she expects that the electric buses will have a longer life and lower maintenance costs, estimated to be as much as 70 percent less than costs to maintain diesel buses.

Ms. Grant has applied for several grants to help pay for the project, one to expand the infrastructure for the VTA, installing electric charging stations and other equipment that will allow the buses to charge while they stop along their routes.

“This really has the potential to change other things we can impact on the Vineyard,” Ms. Grant said, adding that after charging stations are set up for the buses, other electric vehicles may use them.

“I think it would be great if I could sit down with the selectmen, planning boards — a working group to get everybody’s perspective on the table,” Ms. Grant said. “There’s a lot of pieces to this puzzle.”

In other business, two Chappaquiddick residents, Peter Wells and William Brine III, asked for information about an Eversource request to add a new 40-foot utility pole on Litchfield Road. Mr. Brine is an abutter, and wrote to the selectmen, complaining, “The proposed location for the new pole will be at the corner of my driveway and in full view from my entire property, an eyesore.” Mr. Wells said he didn’t know why the pole was needed. A representative from Eversource said the pole would accommodate new service that could not be managed using the existing poles.

The selectmen tabled any action on the request, asking Eversource to return with a solution that would address the residents’ concerns.

“They have to at least explain to us why they need it,” selectman Arthur Smadbeck said.