Mill Pond rehab question lingers
The West Tisbury selectmen have for a second time deferred a decision about dredging the town's historic Mill Pond. Rather than accept the findings and recommendations of two of the three members of the town committee appointed a year ago to study the preservation needs of the Mill Pond, the selectmen insisted that the committee hold its first meeting and issue a report reflecting the views of all the members.
A week ago, at the selectmen's meeting, committee members Craig Saunders and Bob Woodruff said that, based on their research, dredging is needed to preserve the Pond. Mr. Woodruff and Mr. Saunders also recommended that application be made to the town's Community Preservation Committee for approximately $30,000 in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding for further research and design of the dredging plan.
Although the deadline for a CPA funding application is October 31, the two selectmen on hand at the October 7 meeting deferred any decision on the funding application until this week's meeting, when selectman chairman Dianne Powers will attend.
On October 14, committee member Kent Healy, who had not attended the October 7 selectmen's meeting, read from a prepared statement calling into question the need to dredge the pond.
"There has been no measured change of depth of the pond. The weeds started growing when the pond was low in 2002. While pulling weeds last spring, I was impressed with the wildlife present throughout the pond. Dredging the pond... would disrupt the existing habitat, make a mess downstream, interrupt flow to Maley's Pond fire hydrant, and consume diesel fuel while emitting nitrous oxides into the environment," Mr. Healy stated.
Selectman Skipper Manter said that he is "not one hundred percent in favor of spending money for dredging... No one has enjoyed the Mill Pond more than I have, but the weeds are thinner and more of the pond is exposed now than it has been for years."
Resident Mike Colaneri warned that the dredging project is moving "much, much too fast forward. I do not want to see CPC funds spent on this. It is much too premature."
On the other hand, Glenn Hearn, a former selectman and a member of the Community Preservation Committee, reminded those in attendance that the application for funding "is only going for design and permitting and that is how you will know how much it will cost."
And Nancy Dole, representing the historic district commission, said, as she had a week earlier, that the town citizens at an annual meeting in 1982 included the Mill Pond among 14 specific sites and buildings in the town that are to be preserved.
Selectman Richard Knabel reminded those in attendance that "we are not talking about approving dredging, we are talking about going to the CPC for design funding." he said that by accepting the committee's recommendation that application be made for CPC funding to further study the need for pond dredging "we are going forward and living by the nature of our town bylaws to protect the Mill Pond."
Mr. Knabel also stated that the selectmen had received a petition with 40 signatures on it asking the selectmen to act to preserve the Mill Pond. "It took ten years to get agreement on the town hall," he said. "The fact that we are not talking with one voice is no surprise."
From the audience, Prudy Burt, chairman of the town conservation commission, told the selectmen that they "do not have a report from the committee because they have not all three met as a committee." And Mr. Manter agreed that how the committee has functioned "is another issue."
All three members of the study committee were questioned regarding the committee's apparent failure to hold any official meetings since its creation more than a year ago. Mr. Woodruff told the selectmen that "miscommunication" rather than a difference of opinion has precluded the committee from meeting.
The committee members were told by the selectmen that until they meet in accordance with the state public meetings law, which requires official notification as well as minute taking, and then generate a report summarizing their findings, the selectmen will not move forward with any decisions regarding the future of the pond. Chairman Dianne Powers also instructed the committee to appoint a chairman at the required meeting.
In other business, the members of the affordable housing committee as well as the selectmen discussed the first draft of the request for proposals (RFP) for the development of three single-family affordable homes on Bailey Park Road. According to Alice Boyd, a principal in the consulting firm of Bailey Boyd Associates of West Harwich, retained to develop the RFP, the town must decide whether it wishes to sell the land to a prospective developer, for $120,000, or create a 99-year land lease for the developer.
Mr. Knabel said that he does not wish to sell the land to the developer, preferring a ground lease arrangement that permanently restricts the land use to affordable housing. As chairman of the affordable housing committee, Mr. Colaneri said, "The committee has spent a lot of time talking about this issue, and we want to go with the ground lease model."
The three homes to be built include one two-bedroom home at a price of $179,500 (for an eligible household earning at or below 80 percent of median Dukes County income) and two three-bedroom homes at a price of $249,500 (for families with median incomes not to exceed 100 percent of median income for Dukes County).
"We are not looking to do big fancy houses here. We want good, quality homes to be built at a minimum cost," said Mr. Colaneri, acknowledging that to build the homes and keep the price affordable will be a "tight fit" for any developer and there may be the need to return to the town's Community Preservation Committee (CPC) for additional funding.
Mr. Manter expressed concern regarding the language that required the developer to be experienced in the development of affordable housing.
Ms. Boyd suggested that an inexperienced developer would be eligible to bid on the project by "partnering up" with an experienced developer.
"A first-timer will work hard to get it right," Mr. Manter said.
Ms. Burt asked if the RFP would preclude an eligible family from building their own home. "People building their own home can do it for a lot less than a builder," she said. "A lot of people would rather build their own home."
Mr. Colaneri stated, "all options are still on the table."
Bob Wheeler, representing the Island Affordable Housing Fund, said the fund would compete for the job. "We will be bidding on the RFP and coming back to the town for CPC funds," he said, adding that the fund would turn the homes over to the Island Affordable Housing Trust after construction.
In a telephone interview with The Times, Mr. Colaneri said that he hopes the RFP is issued for bid by mid- to late November. But, he said, "these projects always seem to take a bit longer and cost a bit more than expected. And there are always surprises."
Instead of still working on the RFP, Mr. Colaneri said, "I wish we were now offering these homes to families."
There was no meeting of the selectmen on October 21. Regularly scheduled meetings will resume on Oct. 28.