Chilmark annual takes up budget


Chilmark voters will gather Monday in their annual town meeting to consider a $6.8 million budget and 29-article warrant as spare as the dim Chilmark Community Center in which they meet.

Although the annual town meeting is at 8 pm, it will be preceded by a two-article special town meeting called to clarify affordable housing regulations and stall wind turbine construction until new regulations are in place. That meeting begins at 7:30 pm.

Wednesday, voters return to the community center between noon and 8 pm to elect town officers. There is one race, a head-to-head battle between two well-known residents for a seat on the three-member board of selectman. Jonathan Mayhew and William Rossi seek the seat now held by J.B. Riggs Parker, who decided not to seek a third term (Interviews with the candidates appear nearby).

In a telephone conversation with The Times, Mr. Parker, chairman and outgoing selectman, described the annual warrant as pretty straightforward. “We’ve held the line as best we could,” he said.

Two articles to discuss

Mr. Parker said he expects the two zoning amendments on the special meeting warrant to generate some discussion. “Any alteration of Chilmark’s zoning bylaws will have its proponents and opponents,” he said.

Mr. Parker said the request to delay issuing special permits for the construction of windmills is intended to provide for a thorough review of existing regulations and new information about wind turbines. He said it is a way to coordinate the town’s efforts with an Island-wide review by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to regulate turbines.

“It will provide some breathing room to get the facts,” he said.

The special town meeting warrant also includes a proposed bylaw change that would allow the resale or transfer of homesite affordable housing lots to a spouse or child who does not meet the income limits for eligibility under affordable housing guidelines — 150 percent of Dukes County median income. All other restrictions would remain.

The lots in question are one-acre parcels split off from larger land holdings and developed without respect for Chilmark’s three-acre zoning restriction by applicants who meet affordable housing requirements.

The proposed change would not affect the six one-acre homesites in the Middle Line Road affordable housing development leased for $20,000 to qualified applicants chosen by lottery. Martha’s Vineyard Commission approval came with a 99-year ground lease that prohibits an owner from passing the house on to a descendent who does not meet income eligibility.

Selectman Frank Fenner, a supporter of the bylaw change, said there are many requirements in the town’s affordable housing by-laws including ground leases and covenants that restrict the property for affordable housing. “I believe this is good and with the difficulty to obtain these properties we need to preserve them,” Mr. Fenner said. “Sale and ownership transfer are controlled in many ways to keep the properties in our affordable housing pool. My concern is for the ability of a spouse or child, especially a minor child, to stay in the family home after the death of the recipient. The recipient through town authorized lottery or sale could be a single person and then later marry, or a single parent created by divorce. I feel that the family structure is at the core of our town and Chilmark’s affordable housing program. I do not want to see a family who through a death in the family must move out of their family home. Why are we working so hard for affordable housing in Chilmark if it is not to give families the ability to join and prosper in our community.”

Mr. Fenner said it iis very difficult to write a by-law that covers every imaginable circumstance. He said the town would benefit from an open discussion and vote.

Ewell Hopkins, executive director of the Island Affordable Housing Fund, the nonprofit money-raising arm of the housing trust, discussed his concept of permanent affordability in a telephone conversation with The Times Friday.

Qualifying his answer by noting that he does not administer any housing, Mr. Hopkins said, “The intent of creating affordable housing on the Island at a high level is to ensure that it stays affordable for generations to come, as a common theme.”

Mr. Hopkins said rental housing and affordable house lots allow a transition, in which the person gains stability and then moves on to the American dream of unrestricted home ownership. “It is not the intent of any of the programs that I see that those programs follow the person,” he said.

The community need must be balanced by the personal need, he said. The critical issue is how best to balance those two needs.

Budget up 2.64 percent

The fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget reflects a 2.64 percent increase over the budget approved at town meeting last year. The budget includes no cost of living adjustments but does include pay raises for town employees based on an eight-step compensation plan.

The budgets of several departments will decrease, due to the departure of veteran employees at higher pay grades.

The total cost of general government, which includes the office of the tax collector, selectmen, treasurer and various boards is $929,247, a decrease of .74 percent.

The total cost of public safety, which includes the police department, fire department, harbor department and ambulance service, is $1,084,763, a 1.06 percent decrease.

Chilmark taxpayers will pay $2,383,600 for education, a 3.69 percent increase. Chilmark’s share of the Up-Island Regional School District Budget is $1,896,019, which includes the cost of the Chilmark School, $637,095.

Total human services, which includes the board of health and council on aging, will increase by 5.07 percent to $166,252.

The largest budget increase is in employee benefits and insurance costs. Those will rise by $68,294, or 8.32 percent to $889,583.

Warrant is spare

The town meeting warrant (available at includes a request for $30,000 to fund the cost of bonding for three affordable housing rental duplex units at Middle Line Road and $55,000 to continue funding of the year-round rental conversion program.

There are requests for $100,000 to fund employee post employment benefits; $34,525 for repairs to the West Tisbury School; and $9,000 to replace the emergency siren on the roof of the town hall.

Dukes County will also ask Chilmark taxpayers to pick up an additional $26,427 in costs. This is on top of the town’s FY11 county assessment of $128,024, which is not subject to town meeting approval.

Taxpayers will be asked to fund an increased share of the costs of operating two county departments, previously included in the Dukes County budget: $4,949 to pay for the pest control department, and $15,933 for the Dukes County Health Care Access program.

The county has also asked taxpayers for $5,545 to help replace windows in the county courthouse in Edgartown.

The lengthiest article would create a Chilmark affordable housing trust fund named for Molly Flender, a housing advocate, to promote the creation and preservation of affordable housing.