News in Brief
West Nile virus in Edgartown
West Nile virus has been confirmed in a dead crow found in Edgartown, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the Edgartown Board of Health. The dead bird was shipped to state authorities for testing on August 21, and town officials received word of the positive test on August 25. State officials say the disease has also been detected in mosquito pools or dead birds in several southeastern Massachusetts towns, including Barnstable and New Bedford. The last confirmed case of West Nile Virus in Edgartown, also in a dead bird, was reported in 2005.
Infection is rare in humans, and symptoms are usually mild, but it can cause life-threatening conditions including encephalitis or meningitis.
"Eighty percent of all infected humans have no symptoms," said Edgartown health agent Matt Poole. "Less than one percent develop severe illness. However, it's important for the public to know about the potential and also how to reduce risk."
West Nile Virus is spread from the bite of an infected mosquito. Health officials say the best way to prevent infection, is to wear clothing that covers arms, legs, and feet, apply insect repellent while outdoors, reschedule activities at dusk or dawn when mosquitoes are most active, and drain any standing water pools where mosquitoes might breed.
There have been no reported cases of West Nile Virus in humans or horses in Massachusetts in 2008. Last year there were six confirmed cases in humans, none of them fatal.
The disease is usually detected from testing mosquito pools, or dead birds. To report a dead bird to state health officials, call 1-866-MASS WNV (1-866-627-7968).
Oak Bluffs development to include affordable homes
In another confrontational hearing before the Martha's Vineyard Commission, Donald Muckerheide submitted a significantly changed proposal to develop his Dukes County Avenue property into residential condominiums.
"I have decided to offer a more accepted and understood method of extortion by changing my offer," said Mr. Muckerheide, a frequent and vocal critic of the commission. Mr. Muckerheide said he is removing restrictions on short-term rentals, which were a central component of his original proposal.
The new proposal increases the number of units in the building from nine to eleven. Mr. Muckerheide said three of the homes would be sold to families with incomes below 80 percent of the average median income for the Island, and administered by a local affordable housing agency.
Mr. Muckerheide submitted a list of 20 property owners who signed a petition supporting his project.
A number of neighborhood residents spoke about the proposal at the August 28 hearing. Most said they did not oppose the development, but urged the commissioners to require more details about materials, building plans, landscaping, and traffic impact.
The public hearing was continued to September 18.
Oak Bluffs ZBA reopens Bradley Square hearing
The divisive and often bitter debate over the Bradley Square affordable housing project is expected to continue when the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals (ZBA) reopens a public hearing on the controversial project. The hearing is scheduled for 7 pm, Thursday, September 18.
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC), the Island's regional permitting body, approved the project on June 19. It then returned to the ZBA.
ZBA chairman Kris Chvatal said that following Martha's Vineyard Commission approval the ZBA held two public sessions. After hearing from everyone who wanted to speak, the public hearing was closed.
Since then, however, the ZBA has received more requests to be heard, and more correspondence on the issue, according to Mr. Chvatal. At a scheduled meeting last week, he announced that, after consultation with town counsel, the public hearing would be reopened.
The applicants in the joint project are The Island Housing Trust, The Island Affordable Housing Fund, and West Tisbury builder John Early. The project, at the corner of Dukes County and Masonic avenues, would include 11 homes, a meeting space, and an office on two parcels, totaling just less than a half acre. Nine of the homes would be classified as affordable housing. The right to purchase the homes would be drawn by lottery, according to average median income guidelines. The project would also preserve the Island's first African American church.
Opposition to the project has centered on parking and traffic issues. While the project has many supporters in the informal arts district neighborhood, an organized and determined group of residents has campaigned against the three-building Bradley Square project, fearing that it will strain public parking in the neighborhood.
Ritz Café cited for liquor violations
The state alcoholic beverage control commission (ABCC) has suspended the liquor license of the Ritz Café on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs for five days.
According to the ABCC suspension notice received by The Times, investigators observed a bartender serving an intoxicated patron. The report described the patron as someone who was unsteady on his feet, staggering, holding onto the bar for balance, and had difficulty attempting to sit down on a bar stool.
At the administrative hearing, representatives of the Ritz Café agreed that the facts in the report were accurate, but said that the bartenders knew the person as someone who does not drive.
The commission report noted that the Circuit Avenue bar was cited for previous violations in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
The bar has 30 days to appeal the August 12 ruling. If there is no appeal, the suspension will begin Wednesday, September 24.
West Tisbury town hall takes up temporary quarters
Renovation work is about to start on the West Tisbury town hall. As a result town hall offices will be closed at noon on Thursday, September 18, and reopened on Tuesday, September 23, in trailers in the back yard. Questions can be directed to executive secretary Jen Rand at 508-696-0102.
Martha's Vineyard Commission approves Edgartown cash-for-lots swap
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) last week voted unanimously to approve an offer from the developers of the Field Club to pay $1.8 million to the Edgartown Affordable Housing committee. The money is in lieu of donating three undeveloped housing lots for affordable housing in the exclusive membership Katama development.
The lots were a condition of the permit the Martha's Vineyard Commission originally issued to the club.
Edgartown plans to use the money to purchase or subsidize existing homes for five or more families.
The cash-for-lots swap had wide support from Edgartown officials and received a recommendation by the Martha's Vineyard Commission's land use planning committee (LUPC).
Early last month the Martha's Vineyard Commission decided to hold a public hearing on the swap, angering Edgartown officials who said it would delay their plans.
Much of the testimony at last Thursday's hearing included discussion on how the housing committee negotiated the price of $600,000 per lot.
"We're all going to look pretty stupid if we approve this, and you guys cut a deal, and it turns out they're selling those for $750,000," said commission chairman Douglas Sederholm.
"I have actually said that to the developer, and I have also said to the developer they would look pretty stupid," said Sharon Purdy, a veteran real estate executive who is a member of the affordable housing committee.
"They would look stupid, but they would be able to laugh all the way to the bank," said Mr. Sederholm.
In the end, the commissioners agreed that the housing committee made a convincing argument, though there was still sharp disagreement over the need for the public hearing.
"I really fought to have this hearing," said commission vice chairman Linda Sibley. "I'm now persuaded that this is a fair number. I really wasn't sure."
Martha's Vineyard Regional High School Class of 1960 graduates wanted
In celebration of the upcoming graduation of Martha's Vineyard Regional High School's 50th class in 2009, Principal Steve Nixon invites graduates of the class of 1960 to contact him at 508-693-1033, ext. 163, about joining in some activities during the school year.
Getting the dirt on Veterans Memorial Park
Work began this week on reconstructing Vineyard Haven's Veterans Memorial Park. The yearlong project by Tisbury's department of public works involves rebuilding the playing fields to address irrigation and drainage problems, as well as adding new bleachers, scoreboards, nets, backstops, trash receptacles, and water fountains.
Last spring Tisbury voters approved using $96,750 from Community Preservation Act funds towards a new irrigation system and a Proposition 2.5 override ballot question to allow the town to borrow $493,250 to rebuild the park.
Joan C. Barbour services announced
Joan C. Barbour of Oak Bluffs died yesterday at the Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Oak Bluffs. Services will be held in Huntington, N.Y. Donations in her memory may be made to Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.
A complete obituary will follow in a future edition of The Times. Visit ccgfuneralhome.com for an online guestbook and additional information.
Advised to do so, Tisbury harbormaster returns building materials
At the regular Tuesday night selectmen's meeting last week, Tisbury harbormaster Jay Wilbur told selectmen in the course of his report that he had taken some stair railings, stairs, and doors discarded during the demolition of the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, now under reconstruction, to use at his house.
That information set off some head scratching among town officials who were surprised by what they heard.
Tisbury town administrator John Bugbee followed up by asking Mr. Wilbur to return the materials.
Mr. Bugbee told The Times in a follow-up conversation that Massachusetts law states that town officials cannot ask for or accept anything worth $50 or more from anyone with whom they have official dealings.
"The general law can be very confusing and somewhat overwhelming if you're not aware of it or don't have any experience in dealing with it," Mr. Bugbee said. He said that based on his interpretation of a number of general laws, he advised Mr. Wilbur to return the materials.
In a phone call yesterday explaining his actions, Mr. Wilbur said he consulted selectman chairman Denys Wortman about taking the materials, who advised him to inform the selectmen at the August 26 meeting.
Mr. Wilbur said he did not view the removal of materials from the yacht club as a conflict of interest.
"I wasn't trying to do anybody favors or gain favors," he said. "I was just trying to recycle material that would be in our landfill or shipped off-Island at great expense."
Mr. Wilbur said he called the State Ethics Commission a few days after last week's selectmen's meeting. "They don't have an issue with it in that it wasn't a direct gift to me - the materials were available to the public," he said. "It has nothing to do with my regulatory status, and that's the way the State Ethics Commission sees it, too. It makes me feel better, knowing that my sensibilities were correct."
Algae bloom mucks up Edgartown Great Pond
Unwanted marine life is thriving in Edgartown Great Pond. A green slimy algae identified by researchers at the Smithsonian Institution as Enteromorpha clathrata has spread across a significant surface area of the 850-acre pond, threatening to block the sunlight that eel grass beds need to thrive and harm efforts to restore shellfish.
Bill Wilcox, Martha's Vineyard Commission water resource planner, told the Boston Globe in a report published Tuesday that the likely cause is excess nitrogen. How to remove the algae and solve the problem is a dilemma that does not appear to have a quick solution.
Home septic systems and lawn fertilizer runoff are thought to be significant sources of the nitrogen entering the pond in the groundwater.
Permanent Endowment for Martha's Vineyard invites grant applications
The Permanent Endowment for Martha's Vineyard is accepting applications for its fall grant cycle. In a press release the Endowment said it welcomes inquiries from Island nonprofit organizations seeking funding for programs and initiatives that will benefit the Vineyard community. In the past, the Endowment has provided support for the arts and culture, civic affairs and community development, education, the elderly, the environment, health and youth.
Contact the Permanent Endowment at 508-338-4665 or firstname.lastname@example.org to request an application, or for additional information. All applications must be postmarked by September 15, 2008, and applicants will be notified of grant awards in October.
A story published in the August 28 issue of The Times, "Adam and Eve: In the beginning," incorrectly identified the date of the play's matinee. The afternoon matinee is today at 3 pm.
A story published in the August 28 issue of The Times, "A family affair at Old Sculpin," incorrectly identified the gallery hours. The Old Sculpin Gallery and Studio School is open Monday through Saturday, 9 am to 9 pm; and Sunday 12 noon to 8:30 pm, through mid-October.
A list of All-Island Art Show award winners, published in the August 28 issue of The Times contained the incorrect spelling Peter Dreyer's name and his winning photograph, titled "Feather #1."
An essay published last week, "Formerly secret documents tell of WW II Gay Head invasion," carried an incorrect byline. The author of the essay was Charles Pinck, son of Dan Pinck, a former OSS agent.