Chilmark votes land purchases
Chilmark voters overwhelmingly approved the purchase of two plots of land and agreed to move the existing entrance to Middle Line Road in a special town meeting Monday night.
The land purchase will allow the town to create safer vehicle access to the town's planned Middle Line Road affordable housing development by moving the entrance further south on Tabor House Road.
The vote to purchase the property came with a last-minute twist that required a proposed amendment making both purchases contingent upon an archeological assessment.
Preliminary results of an archaeological survey, a requirement of the Martha's Vineyard Commission, conducted by University of Massachusetts researchers, revealed "40 quartzite flakes from stone tool making, and a large quartz core (possibly also used at one time as a hammerstone)." Researchers said they would expect to find more artifacts if more test pits are dug. The location sits between two known archaeological sites.
Andy Goldman, chairman of both the community preservation committee and the housing committee, said if more important artifacts are not discovered, the project can move forward. But if a significant discovery, such as a burial ground or a settlement is found, it could halt the project in its tracks.
Researchers are evaluating how best to progress with a site survey. As a precaution, language was inserted into both articles making the project contingent on an archaeological survey that satisfies selectmen there are no obstacles to constructing the roadway.
The three warrant articles, which represent expenditure of $500,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the land, and an undetermined amount for road construction, are another major hurdle cleared for a 12-unit affordable housing development off Middle Line Road.
The vote follows nearly two years of negotiation with the landowners.
"All three of the selectmen have worked very hard negotiating these agreements," said Warren Doty, chairman of the selectmen. "We've come to a common agreement. It's something that everybody wants to do."
Voter Dan Greenbaum questioned the cost to make the entrance safer. "The price of a half-million dollars is a very big price to address a very small problem," he said.
"We have been mandated by both the [Chilmark] planning board and the Martha's Vineyard Commission to move the entrance," said selectman J.B. Riggs Parker.
Several questioned language in the articles authorizing the town to take the two parcels by eminent domain, if necessary.
Town counsel Ron Rappaport explained that the standard language was a precaution, in case problems arise with titles to the land. Selectmen assured voters that the purchase agreements were negotiated at market values.
A total of 71 voters attended the special town meeting. Only four voters opposed each of the first two articles on the warrant concerning the land purchases. These required approval from two-thirds of the voters to pass. The third article, to move the road entrance, passed unanimously on a voice vote.
The project has now progressed through five town meeting votes, and an extensive permitting process. Prior to the meeting the housing committee distributed a seven-page report that described the purpose, history and expenditures for the project (available here).
The report described how much money has been spent to date, $1,007,400, and estimates that the remaining costs to complete the infrastructure and site development will total $1,516,300, or $126,358 per unit. Most of the money will come from CPA funds, which means Chilmark effectively pays half of the costs. CPA funds come from a property tax surcharge, which is matched with state funds.
The eventual owners of the lots, who will be awarded the right to purchase the land from the town by lottery, will build six of the planned homes. The town does not expect any further expense for those homes. Three other duplex units are planned, with a total of six apartments. The town plans to retain ownership of the rental units, but hopes to hire a not-for-profit developer to build them, at an estimated cost of between $1.6 and $2 million.