Edgartown votes to buy 2.18 acres to expand New Westside Cemetery
With little discussion at a special town meeting Thursday night called only for that purpose, Edgartown voters unanimously agreed to authorize the selectmen to take a 2.18-acre parcel of land by eminent domain in order to provide for future cemetery expansion.
By a voice vote, Edgartown voters agreed to spend $1,650,000 to take the Willey parcel on Robinson Rd. adjacent to the New Westfield Cemetery by eminent domain.
The decision to use the town's powers of eminent domain was made after the Edgartown cemetery commissioners learned that the Edgartown Methodist Church, owners of the land, had reached an agreement to sell the property for $1,550,000 to Paul Donovan, a Florida-based developer, who planned to subdivide it into four house lots.
Prior to the special town meeting, town leaders were concerned that they might not be able to muster the needed quorum in the middle of the summer. But a concerted get-out-the-vote effort obviously worked.
The needed number was147 registered voters. By the time 304 people had officially checked in to the Edgartown School cafeteria, town officials stopped counting. The cafeteria was so crowded that many voters were forced to stand, but not for long.
Town moderator Phillip "Jeff" Norton began the meeting by reading the only warrant article. Selectman Michael Donaroma then requested that the article requesting $1,550,000 for the purchase be amended by adding $100,000 to the purchase price. Following the meeting, town leaders explained that the additional $100,000 would be used to reimburse Mr. Donovan's costs, including legal fees.
Alan Gowell, chairman of the cemetery commission, then provided voters with an explanation of why the property was important. In quick order voters approved the warrant article. A victorious roar from the crowd followed.
Walter Bunge, treasurer of the Methodist Church and chairman of the committee that had engineered the deal to Mr. Donovan and raised the ire of town leaders, did not speak. "This was a case of a town in a democratic way making a decision and it's the decision that everyone agreed on," Mr. Bunge told The Times Tuesday.
The purchase will be financed with $100,000 from the cemetery's sale of lots fund, in addition to $400,000 from the Community Preservation Act (CPA). The remaining $1.1 million will be borrowed.
The new space will provide as many as 800 graves, a welcome addition, given that the New Westside Cemetery has only enough grave space to last another 12-20 years, according to Mr. Gowell. It is the only Edgartown cemetery with remaining space.
"I was very pleased to see so many townspeople turn out for what I thought was an important piece of town business; adding to and protecting the cemeteries," said Mr. Gowell.
While there is no immediate plan for the parcel, Mr. Gowell notes, "The important thing is that we now are insured for the inevitable future growth."