Bradley Square, water worries face Oak Bluffs voters
Oak Bluffs voters are asked to act on matters both routine and controversial next Thursday, December 11, in a special town meeting. The meeting is scheduled for 7 pm at the Oak Bluffs School.
Twelve articles are on the warrant, including a measure that would rescind $400,000 in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds for the Bradley Square affordable housing project. Also to be decided is a measure to take the first step toward buying property for a future trash district, a transfer of funds to study and fix problems with treated wastewater surfacing in Ocean Park, and an article authorizing an engineering study of the town's crumbling beach and coastal wall.
"I think it's going to be pretty routine," said Ron DiOrio, chairman of the board of selectmen.
Bradley Square is the first article on the warrant, submitted by petition of more than the required 100 registered voters. The effort to take back the funds is led by Donald Muckerheide, a property owner in the Dukes County Avenue neighborhood where the Bradley Square project is planned, and a vocal opponent of the project. Voters at the annual town meeting in April approved the $400,000 expenditure of CPA funds overwhelmingly in a voice vote.
Mr. Muckerheide contends that voters were misled by Mr. DiOrio, who spoke in support of the article at the annual town meeting. Mr. DiOrio declined to respond to that allegation, preferring to focus on other issues.
On November 20, a compromise committee - made up of housing organizations that are the applicants for the Bradley Square project and concerned citizens who opposed the project - announced an agreement on a revised plan that reduces the number of affordable units, and reduces the overall mass and height of the buildings.
"Based on the fact that they've reached a compromise, I'm not sure that will generate that much interest," said Mr. DiOrio.
A series of articles would authorize the town to lease, with an option to purchase, land at 27 Watcha Path in Edgartown, next to the Martha's Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Discovery District transfer station. Though no agreement is in place, the town hopes to join with Tisbury and Edgartown to create a new joint refuse district.
The article would authorize $100,000 for the first year of a lease of the property, which could eventually accommodate expansion of the transfer station facilities. A purchase and sales agreement for the property is in place, with a purchase price of $1.4 million. The agreement calls for Tisbury and Oak Bluffs to lease the land for three years, and then purchase it outright. Mr. DiOrio views the plan as the first step in creating an Island-wide refuse district.
"It's to give us time to find out what the ramifications are going to be, in working out an agreement with Edgartown," said Mr. DiOrio. "This is step one in the process. This is really a good faith attempt to start working cooperatively with other towns, in doing together those things that are more efficient and easier to do than doing them separately."
The wastewater district will ask voters to transfer $250,000 from a wastewater district savings account "for the purpose of completing investigative work in Ocean Park and to begin the engineering and development of an alternative effluent disposal site on the town property abutting the wastewater treatment facility." That land is commonly known as the Leonardo property. The issue is expected to spark controversy on the town meeting floor. Selectmen Kerry Scott has repeatedly criticized the article.
"I continue to be disturbed that the wastewater article is vague," said Ms. Scott at a selectmen's meeting on November 25. "I will be asking them to be much more specific."
Conservation commissioners will ask for $100,000 from the town's free cash account to fund an engineering of the town beach and coastal wall, according to the published warrant. That amount may be amended at the town meeting reduce the request to $75,000, after an agreement by selectmen that also reduced the amount of two other warrant articles.
Voters will also be asked to put $50,000 into the town's stabilization fund, spend $75,000 to fund future health benefits for town workers, decide whether to allow restaurants to sell takeout food until 1:30 am, and transfer money to transition wastewater system alarms to wireless technology.