Chilmark takes up Middle Line plans
Chilmark selectmen will ask voters to move ahead with plans to develop affordable housing off Middle Line Road, make timely repairs to the Chilmark Community Center, and spend money to save money on town roads at a special town meeting on Monday, Sept. 25.
Voters will confront a healthy special town meeting warrant containing 24 articles - one more than the number presented to voters at the annual town meeting last spring - which when totaled exceed $690,000 in spending from various sources. The meeting begins at 7:30 pm in the Chilmark Community Center.
Middle Line Road returns
The first article on the special town meeting warrant provides an opportunity for town officials to review with voters the status of the retooled Middle Line Road project.
Riggs Parker, chairman of the board of selectmen, said the article is intended to inform voters of the change in the process. He said that the new plan calls for the town to do most of the preliminary work, including permitting and infrastructure development.
"It is just a refinement of the project with some changes," said Mr. Parker. "The town will do more and the developer will do less and we hope we will save money in the process."
Warren Doty, selectman and the board's point man on the project, said it is important that the town be aware of the changes made to the project and how the selectmen would like to proceed.
The town began the effort last year to build 12 affordable housing units consisting of six privately owned houses and six rental units on 21 acres of town-owned land off Tabor House Road.
In December 2006 the town issued a request for proposals. A consortium led by the Island Housing Trust (IHT) submitted the only proposal.
The IHT consortium included South Mountain Company of West Tisbury and the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority. Questions soon arose about the potential costs to the town, affordability of the units, legal issues surrounding the use of Community Preservation Act funds, and the extent to which possible conflicts of interest might affect the project.
After weeks of meetings and discussions, to the dismay of the town housing committee, in May the Chilmark selectmen unanimously voted to put aside the IHT proposal and start again, this time using a two-step approach designed to provide town officials with detailed plans tied to cost estimates they could present to voters.
The selectmen appointed a committee consisting of selectman Doty, housing committee member Andy Goldman, and building inspector Lenny Jason and gave them the job of determining what permits are needed and working with the various committees to craft a new process.
The warrant article that will be presented to voters next week sets out a process under which the Middle Line Road project would proceed. One important change is that an RFP would be issued only for a developer to build the rental units and those people awarded one of the resident homesites would be responsible for building their own houses.
The article asks that voters authorize the selectmen to seek approval from the planning board to subdivide the parcel into seven lots, six of which would be designated as resident homesite lots and one held by the town for the construction of six rental units. If approved, the article would also allow the selectmen to move forward with the infrastructure improvements needed to develop the site and approve a selection process for awarding the six homesites.
Future town meeting approval would be sought for the rental housing design and the funding needed to build the rental housing.
Voters will only need to look around when it comes time to take up spending on improvements to the Chilmark Community Center. In separate articles voters will be asked to spend $37,500 to replace the well-used building's windows and doors "consistent with the architectural design of the structure as determined by the Historical Commission," and spend another $37,500 on repairs and renovations.
Mr. Doty said the windows are approximately 50 years old and allow a significant amount of heat to escape in the winter. "New windows will help cut energy costs quite a bit," he said.
Another town building slated for repairs is the historic Menemsha Schoolhouse, now used as the town police station. The town is proposing to spend $20,000 to repaint the schoolhouse and make minor repairs to the belfry and windows.
Chilmark's reputation for wise money management is behind a request to appropriate $30,700 from available funds to help lessen long-term interest payments for the cost of improvements to the West Filled Dock from ten years to five years. Mr. Doty estimated the town would save $100,000.
Selectmen will also ask voters to add a five-percent fee to what the town now charges people requesting police details. Mr. Parker said it is only fair that the town receive some payment for the administrative costs associated with police details.
The warrant includes more than $158,000 in spending on town roads. Mr. Doty said the town expects that the price of asphalt will rise and doing the work now is one way to save money.
Looking at the warrant as a whole, Mr. Doty said it is a lot of money to spend for a small town but it seems to make sense at this time.
Additional warrant article spending requests include: $2,225 to upgrade the town office voice mail system; $1,600 to purchase and install a telephone system at the police station; $2,500 to upgrade the e-mail server at the town hall and purchase work-station backup software; $5,500 to purchase a digital document scanner and to start converting existing town records into a digital format for better public access and long-term storage; $24,790 to dredge that portion of Menemsha Harbor around the transient yacht and Dutcher Docks; and $25,000 to replace up to 30 pilings in Menemsha Harbor.