Chilmark special will take up farmhouse and pond repairs

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File photo by Tim Johnson

Chilmark voters will gather for a special town meeting on Monday where they will be asked to spend $550,000 to restore the Tea Lane Farmhouse and $25,000 for site improvements to the newly completed Middle Line Road housing project.

Voters will also consider a request for $5,000, initial funding for a plan to improve Chilmark Pond. The Chilmark Pond Association has agreed to match the $5,000 request.

The special town meeting begins at 7:30 pm at the Chilmark Community Center.

This would be the second time voters will consider plans to renovate the Tea Lane farmhouse at the corner of Middle Road and Tea Lane. A special town meeting last September effectively rejected the work of a seven-member Tea Lane farm committee selectmen appointed in April 2010 and turned down a request for $300,000 to repair the historic farmhouse. Voters cut the amount to $30,000, which was used to hire an architect to prepare a new plan.

Selectmen appointed a new three-member committee to oversee plans to renovate the farmhouse. The committee was poised to present its plans at the annual town meeting in April, with a request for $150,000 in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to pay for a portion of the project.

But at the urging of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC), the farm house committee agreed to postpone the article and come back later with an article covering the entire cost of the project.

The new article would transfer $60,000 from the CPA historical preservation fund, $120,000 from the CPA undesignated reserve fund, $120,000 from the CPA budgeted reserve fund, $100,000 from available funds in the Treasury and $150,00 from the general stabilization fund.

Selectman Frank Fenner, also a member of the farmhouse committee, said the new plan will shore up the structure of the old farmhouse and make it more energy efficient, but will not change its overall appearance.

“It will still look the same when you drive by on Middle Road or Tea Lane. We worked with the Chilmark Historical Commission and the Preservation Society, and we were careful to keep everything looking the same,” he said.

The town and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank jointly purchased the property in 2001 for just over $3 million, with a life estate provision for Robert J. Silva.

As part of the deal, the town took ownership of the farmhouse and the three acres around it, while the Land Bank took ownership of the 50 surrounding acres. After Mr. Silva passed away in February of 2010, selectmen appointed the initial seven-member farmhouse committee.

The plan is still to renovate the farmhouse and lease it to a resident farmer, who will have the right to use the surrounding lands owned by both the town and the Land Bank.

The new plans call for replacing all the rotten floor joists and sills, expanding the first-floor bedroom and a mudroom off the kitchen and adding a bedroom on the first floor and a bathroom on the second floor.

All the old wiring will be replaced and the first floor will be torn up and repaired.

Mr. Fenner said this was the best plan for the town. “I really feel voters can support this; this plan has taken care of all the concerns, and it bring this house to a point where it is a real asset to the town,” he said.

“The house needs a lot of work, and this takes care of everything. I would rather fix it once and fix it right than just patching things up and having to keep going back,” he added.

The $5,000 to start the Chilmark Pond restoration plan would set money aside to hire a professional to study the pond and surrounding areas, but would also be symbolic of a new partnership between the town and the Chilmark Pond Association to restore the pond.

Stephen Lewenberg, a member of the pond association, said the association regularly cuts out an opening between the pond and the ocean to maintain the proper salinity.

But in recent years silting has made it harder to get a good opening, and the association believes that a large-scale dredging project, which will likely come with a hefty price tag, may be necessary in the future.

Although the article was placed on the warrant prior to Hurricane Irene earlier this month, that storm caused major damages to the shoreline and Lucy Vincent Beach, and much of the spillover ended up in Chilmark Pond.

Mr. Lewenberg said this only made the need to start the restoration project more pressing. “It doesn’t have to be done this week or even this month, but definitely within a few years. It should not simply be ignored,” he said.

“The first step is to let a professional figure out what should be done and what can be done. This is open beach and nature tends to take its course . . . but we want to protect the pond as much as we can,” he added.

Voters will also consider:

An article asking for $25,000 to fund landscaping and site improvements at the Middle Line Road affordable housing project, and another article asking for $29,000 to pay for bonding and/or short-term borrowing costs associated with repairs to the Menemsha Pier Connector and West Dock.

Another asks voters to transfer $5,000 from funding set aside through a previous article at the 2007 annual town meeting regarding Triennial Revaluation, to pay the costs of participating in a statewide upgrade of mapping.

Voters will also consider a spending $2,700 from the CPA housing reserve fund for the town’s share of an Island-wide affordable housing needs assessment, and an article asking for $6,500 to repair the rigid inflatable boat operated by the Harbor Department.