Tisbury voters put off safety building question
At a special town meeting Tuesday night a handful of Tisbury voters postponed decisions about a new multi-million dollar emergency services facility until this spring, approved the location of a connector road system that would link Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and State Road and wrangled for some time over an easement on town land.
On an unseasonably warm evening, only 135 of Tisbury's 2,721 registered voters, or just 5 percent, turned out to tackle a 21-article special town meeting warrant and approved more than $1 million in spending items, including a $150,000 steel pre-fab garage for the town's new 40-foot fire truck.
Unlike most Island towns, Tisbury takes up warrant articles based on a drawing as a means of keeping people in their seats, and maintaining a quorum, until the end of the meeting.
At the start of the meeting Deborah Medders, town meeting moderator, told voters that as soon as one of four warrant articles having to do with a proposed emergency services facility (ESF) and an access road to the DPW came up for discussion all four would be brought before the voters at the same time.
As it turned out, article three, a site proposal, was one of the first picked.
Springing into action, selectman Tristan Israel made motions to take no action on articles which asked voters to approve either a site on High Point Lane or one on Evelyn Way as the location for a new ESF. Last week, town officials had learned that the High Point Lane location contained water pipes and presented site problems. Mr. Israel said more study was needed, and voters agreed.
The article regarding the DPW access road was also set aside, since it was tied to the development of the High Point Lane site.
With the facility site choice in limbo, Mr. Israel asked voters to amend an article seeking $400,000 to fund a project manager and procure an architect/design firm for the ESF. Mr. Israel asked voters to cut the requested amount to $40,000 to procure a project manager to start the design process.
"By approving a project manager, although we haven't approved we want this facility yet, it allows the town to get the ball rolling, so we can do more in the spring," Mr. Israel said. The voters approved the amended request.
In a corresponding article, voters approved spending $150,000 to construct a steel pre-engineered garage facility, with heating and lighting, at the department of public works (DPW) site to house the town's new ladder truck and an ambulance. The 40-ft., $800,000 vehicle, due to arrive in early 2006, will not fit in the current fire station.
The building's escalating cost drew a sharp comment from Jamie Douglas, a planning board member and former candidate for selectman. "At last spring's town meeting, it was first proposed spending $90,000, and now it's up to $150,000," said Mr. Douglas, a Tisbury businessman. "That means the cost of the new fire truck is now up over $950,000. I think the town's municipal departments should do better planning."
Mr. Israel explained that the cost of steel almost doubled since the town received estimates for the building.
Short cut approved
Setting up a major change to town roadways, voters approved the location of a proposed connector road system on town-owned land between Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and State Road.
Henry Stephenson, a planning board member, explained the purpose of the connector system is to reduce traffic at the intersection of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road with State Road, improve State Road traffic circulation, and increase access to mass transit at the Park and Ride lot.
The connector road system would utilize three entrances off State Road, on Evelyn Way, High Point Lane and Holmes Hole Road, and a single entrance off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road near Island Food Products.
"There are over 200 registered trucks on Evelyn Way," pointed out Clarence ("Trip") Barnes, whose business, Barnes Moving and Storage, is located on Evelyn Way. "Where are all the trucks supposed to go?"
Tony Peak, chairman of the planning board, assured him the board would "create ways to accommodate vehicles" and develop areas for parking.
Mr. Barnes also took the opportunity to chide the selectmen for not informing him that one of the two possible sites proposed for the ESF could involve his property. "You can make more room for traffic, but I am very disturbed that the town is interested in taking my place by eminent domain. I received no letter, no phone call - nothing. I don't see how you can park the police and fire department questions and pull this," he said.
Marie Laursen, who said she served on a Martha's Vineyard Commission traffic committee, called the connector system "predict and provide planning." Providing a shortcut for Vineyard drivers would only serve to increase traffic, she said, and in addition to the initial costs, the roads would require maintenance and services.
Safety was the issue for Dave Willoughby, a member of Tisbury's Finance and Advisory Committee: "If I'm having a heart attack, I want an ambulance to be able to go an alternate route than the congested Edgartown-Vineyard Haven and State roads."
At the end of the lengthy discussion, voters approved the location of the connector system and authorized the board of public works commissioners to begin negotiations for easements and property required for construction.
One of the only articles defeated also generated the most discussion — a request for an easement to access the Manter Fund Trust property off Old Holmes Hole Road.
Town and school officials clashed over the implications of the easement request. The triangular wedge of land that straddles both Tisbury and Oak Bluffs, located near an aquifer that recharges the Manter well, is surrounded by Land Bank and Tisbury-owned land.
In 1915, Ellis Manter wrote a will which left his property to the town of Tisbury to establish a permanent fund in memory of his parents, the Henry and Mary Manter Tisbury Public School Fund. Since his death in 1933, most of the 24 acres of land were sold, with the income generated from the equity put into the Manter Fund Trust for use by Tisbury School.
Maureen DeLoach, Tisbury School principal, explained that instead of selling the last seven-acre piece of the Manter property, the Tisbury School advisory committee has proposed building affordable housing for teachers on one of the seven acres. Access to the land-locked parcel would require an easement on Tisbury-owned property while the land upon which the housing would be built is in Oak Bluffs.
However, several people expressed concern that by granting the easement, it could open the area to development if the land was ever sold later.
Mr. Peak said it was his board's opinion that development of the parcel would undermine the town's planning principles, especially in maintaining open space, as well as habitat and aquifer protection.
Ken Barwick, building and zoning inspector, added that development of the road system was never approved, purposely to prohibit development that might harm the aquifer. He urged voters to reject the article.
Voters defeated the article 84 to 35.
In other business, one of the big-ticket spending articles, a request for $600,000 to develop a replacement well at the Sanborn station, passed without any explanation or comment. Voters also approved the expenditure of $300,000 to buy parcels of vacant land for aquifer protection and $10,000 to assess the condition of the Spring Building, the former pumping station at the Tisbury Water Works.
While voters agreed to adopt a bylaw establishing a Community Preservation Committee, they rejected an amendment which would have required 50 percent of the funds to go to community housing, electing to leave the funding process flexible.
An article that would have brought Vineyard Haven's Main Street business district into the historic district fold was soundly rejected. Although Mr. Peak said the article's wording was insufficient and incorrect, none of the petition signers who submitted the article stepped forward to defend it.
For those interested in the old avocado green chairs from the Katharine Cornell Theatre, voters bid a fond farewell to them, designating them "surplus."