West Tisbury voters will return to their annual town meeting warrant Tuesday in an effort to complete town business following a failed attempt to reach a quorum on the second night of town meeting last week.
Voters passed a record-breaking $17 million operating budget on April 14, but found after four and a half hours that there was still work to be done, and the meeting adjourned at 11:25 pm with seven warrant articles left on the town meeting floor.
Voters returned last Wednesday night to complete their work. However, at 7:20 pm moderator Dan Waters announced with regret that a quorum had not been reached. Only 100 voters were present, and the meeting was rescheduled for Tuesday, April 28, 7 pm at the West Tisbury School.
Some keen town observers suggested that many town meeting regulars opted to attend the Béla Fleck–Abigail Washburn concert at the Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night.
Irrespective of the reason, seven articles remain.
Voters will be asked to tighten up the language of the zoning bylaws and eliminate regulations already covered by state law, and authorize selectmen to enter into an inter-municipal agreement with the county to provide services for the elderly.
Among the remaining articles is a request to require the posting of street numbers on buildings, and on roads in cases where the buildings cannot easily be seen. The regulation would carry fines for noncompliance.
Voters will also be asked to designate as special ways parts of Pine Hill Road, Red Coat Hill Road/Motts Hill Road, Shubael Weeks Road, and Old Coach Road. The special way designation prevents the way from being paved or blocked, according to planning board administrator Jane Rossi. Subdividing land over which a special way runs can only be done with a permit from the planning board.
Ms Rossi said that the intent of the special way designation is to maintain the ways’ historic character. According to the town bylaw, “development and use shall not block or prevent non-motorized means of travel … along a special way.”
A proposed zoning bylaw change would increase the size of permitted guest houses from 800 square feet to 1,000 square feet, and accessory apartments from 500 to 800 square feet. Tucker Hubbell, a West Tisbury builder and chairman of the zoning board, said that the proposed bylaw change is the result of the realization that the smaller sizes are just too small for comfortable living spaces, and that more people are using the structures to house relatives.
School budget unresolved
West Tisbury taxpayers may have no option but to come up with $300,000 of the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) budget voters rejected in a Proposition 2.5 override vote at the town election last Thursday. If the other two district member towns pass the UIRSD budget, West Tisbury will have no choice, according to Selectman Richard Knabel, who said that the budget must pass by both a two-thirds vote of the school board as well as a two-thirds vote of the towns.
“If Chilmark and Aquinnah pass their budgets, we will have to find a way to pay,” he said.
The town budget, which contained the school budget, was approved at town meeting, but the increase in the school budget required an override vote at the polls, and it failed, 246 to 147.
Selectman Richard Knabel said he was not surprised. “I think that if many school issues were decided on the town ballot, they would not pass,” he said. “Many people have expressed concern about the rate at which the school budget has increased and the amounts of money that are involved. This is something that has been coming for a long time, and this is the first time that a school issue has appeared on the ballot as an override question, and the results are not surprising at all. The school committee seems to think that no amount of spending is too much.”
A ballot question to fund the rebuilding of the school playground also failed, but the question was made moot when the school committee pulled it from the warrant on the town meeting floor. UIRSD Chairman Michael Marcus said at the time that there is reason to believe the board can find private funding for the project.