West Tisbury selectmen discuss affordable housing

Affordable housing committee chairman Mike Colaneri told the West Tisbury selectmen last week that Sovereign Bank has reviewed the latest proposed ground lease to be entered into by homeowners of the units at 250 State Road and found it sufficient for private lending and acceptable under requirements of the federal government’s Fannie Mae mortgage guarantee program.

However, the questions of income eligibility, reselling, and inheriting of the units were revisited, this time by recently elected selectman Cynthia Mitchell.

Ms. Mitchell asked if the income test is done on people as they live in the house, and Mr. Colaneri said that this occurs only at the time when the prospective buyer wins a chance to purchase the home through the lottery. Mr. Colaneri also said that if an heir takes possession of the property, he or she must be income-eligible at that time.

Mrs. Mitchell said that when an owner wishes to resell the property, the language of the 33-page proposed ground lease allows the next buyer to be chosen by the seller.

“I am disappointed that the unit does not have to be sold to a West Tisbury resident,” Ms. Mitchell said.

Richard Knabel, chairman of the selectman, said, “I believe that the West Tisbury preference goes forward on those units built using West Tisbury Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds.”

At 250 State Road, four of the five units were partially financed with CPA funds.

The selectmen unanimously approved the proposed ground lease.

West Tisbury taxpayers got a tiny bit of good news at last week’s selectmen’s meeting. If voters approve the creation of a new “floater” staff position in town hall, the salary will be $2,000 less than estimated earlier. The new position is the subject of one of five articles that will appear on the warrant of a special town meeting, June 8, at 7 pm, at the West Tisbury School.

A week earlier, town administrator Jennifer Rand told selectmen the request would be for $9,000 to cover additional FY 2011 payroll costs associated with the new job. The added staff member would be able to fill in for other staffers on vacation and lend extra assistance during short-term rush assignments. Selectmen approved the proposal. A savings in assessors’ office personnel costs allowed for a reduction in the new position’s requirement to $7,000, Ms. Rand said.

The selectmen approved a proposal to install equipment at Tisbury Great Pond to nurture the growth of oysters at no cost to the town. Chilmark shellfish constable Isaiah Scheffer, who for the past two summers has been responsible for both Chilmark’s and West Tisbury’s allotment of seed oysters from the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, told the selectmen that the effort has been unsatisfactory. He requested permission to put a 8×20-foot floating upweller system at the end of the Fischer dock in Tisbury Great Pond, to allow oysters to “grow like crazy.”

In a written report, Mr. Scheffer explained that the device can be used to grow shellfish by pumping water quickly through components that deliver more food and oxygen to the shellfish.

The floating upweller “decreases the need for all of the lantern nets and grow-out bags that have been used in the past two summers. It reduces the amount of labor by housing all the shellfish among the eight silos. There are also fewer losses when handling and cleaning seed,” according to his report.

Prudence (Prudy) Burt, chairman of the conservation commission, told the selectmen that the conservation commission would have to issue a permit for the structure because it is a dock, but, she added, that permit “should not be a big deal.” The selectmen, learning that there is no need for the town to purchase the equipment because it is owned by Chilmark and currently is in Menemsha, quickly — and unanimously — approved the request pending the issuance of the permit.

In other business, the selectmen accepted the resignation of Jim Powell from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. They will advertise for a volunteer replacement for Mr. Powell, as the selectmen’s representative on the MVC.

To date five residents have volunteered to serve on the search committee that will propose a permanent replacement for retired police chief Beth Toomey. They are Glenn Hearn, Norman Perry, David Merry, Robert Wasserman, and Mike Colaneri.

Mr. Knabel said “it would be nice if there was a female-type person on the committee.”

Ms. Rand said that there is still time for others to volunteer.