Selectmen approve Berry Beach Trust plan
At their regular weekly meeting on July 28, the West Tisbury selectmen approved the gift of a conservation restriction on a private North Shore beach property to the Sheriff's Meadow Foundation (SMF). The Berry Beach Trust owns a narrow two-acre parcel in a fragile coastal area just east of Cedar Tree Neck. The conservation restriction ensures that the spot will never be developed in any way, though the trustees and their families will continue to use it as a beach access.
Selectman John Early was concerned that the public will get no direct use of the land in return for the town's approving the restriction. Liz Jones, representing SMF, said that the restriction allows for a yearly tour conducted by SMF. She reminded the selectmen that the covenants list several public benefits, including maintaining views, wildlife habitats, and the rare ecology of the parcel and other lands abutting it, some of which are already owned by SMF.
Selectman Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter wanted to know what the reduction in taxes on the property might be as a result of the conservation restriction. Chairman Glenn Hearn replied that according to Jo-Ann Resendes, principal assessor, there is no way to know until the board of assessors meets. The property was taxed at $5,001 last year. Ms. Resendes told The Times last month that the valuation of the property has already been somewhat reduced because the shape of the lot and its topography make building there unlikely. It is even possible that the conservation restriction will not reduce the taxes at all.
After the meeting, Mr. Manter told The Times that although the cost to each taxpayer will be miniscule, he was questioning the matter on principle.
The selectmen voted unanimously to approve the conservation restriction.
In other business, the selectmen signed off on the sale of $2.9 million in town bonds. Lynne Ludwig, who has been managing the sale for the town, reported that luckily West Tisbury was the only town in Massachusetts offering bonds on July 20, the day they went on sale, and there were 10 bids, unusually competitive for a small village's bonds. Ms. Ludwig also credited the new Standard & Poor's rating (AA-minus) for the town's obtaining an interest rate a full percentage point lower than had been anticipated. The winning bid, at 2.980361 percent, was by Eastern Bank, a Boston underwriter. The town will use the money to pay for highway repairs and the remaining balances on the purchase of the Goethals property at Lambert's Cove and the North Tisbury public safety building.
The selectmen commended town treasurer Kathy Logue and Ms. Resendes for their ongoing efforts in improving the financial health of the town, including preparing for the bond issue, the tax amnesty program, and the review of the town's financial software.
At the same meeting, the selectmen briefly convened a joint meeting with the planning board to appoint Leah Smith to replace Ginny Jones, the board's former chairman, who is on an extended sailing voyage. Ms. Jones is reporting on her experiences from time to time in The Times.