Dog noise and the Mill Pond fill up West Tisbury selectmen’s agenda

SONY DSC — Tim Johnson

West Tisbury selectmen helped mediate an agreement between neighbors who said they were disturbed by the noise of barking dogs at Animal Health Care (AHC), the veterinary practice and kennel operated by Dr. Stephen Atwood. Selectmen made some progress in the negotiation, but did less well as they slogged through a debate about Mill Pond.

Dog noise was one of the first items of business at the August 28 meeting. Gary and Elaine Friedman of Edgartown, and several of their family members, presented a petition to selectmen seeking relief from what they characterized as “severe and pervasive noise nuisance due to excessive barking from dogs boarded at Animal Health Care (AHC).”

The Friedman house is located across the West Tisbury-Edgartown Road, in the Coffins Field subdivision, approximately 1,200 feet, from AHC, which is off the entrance road to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. AHC provides boarding services and also houses dogs detained by the animal control officers of three of the Island towns.

Mr. Atwood arrived with his lawyer, and a sound engineer, who said he had conducted sound tests. Several neighbors from surrounding subdivisions downplayed any noise issues.

Following the hour long public hearing during which Mr. Atwood, through his attorney, offered to install sound dampening insulation in the kennel at his own expense, the two groups met outside the meeting. Mr. Friedman and Mr. Atwood told The Times that a tentative agreement was reached to resolve the issue within 60 days. The Friedmans will hire their own sound engineer to examine the AHC proposal before agreeing to the AHC recommendation.

Unsettled waters

Another hour-long discussion, this one occupying the second selectmen’s meeting in a row, began with a letter from Kent Healy. The focus was the Mill Brook watershed study and the Mill Pond dredging issues. All sides in the wrangle over the future of the pond and when or if dredging should occur aired strongly held views.

The discussion began after Mr. Healy, a widely known civil engineer with a deep knowledge of the watershed area, read a short letter to the selectmen that highlighted his concerns and observations of the pond.

“I worry that not everybody understands or remembers the hydraulics of the Mill Pond,” he said. After a brief description of the dynamics of the watershed, he said measurements of the water inflow and outflow need to be made before any plans are made to work on the pond.

“The water coming in has to be measured, that is the primary reason in my mind for the watershed study, to measure the flow. Where it is diverted. Is there some way to control or augment the means of diversion that occur? The town has a tremendous asset in the watershed and they should pay attention.”

Richard Knabel, chairman of the selectmen, asked, “What basically are you saying?”

“Pay attention to the water flow,” Mr. Healy replied.

Conservation commission member Prudy Burt, an advocate of removing the historic dam that created the pond and restoring the waterway to its natural course, said that a major part of the request for proposals, (RFP), issued in June for a study of the Mill Brook watershed, was to study water flow issues. “The last action of the Mill Pond committee in May was a motion by Craig Saunders to table any work on the Mill Pond until the watershed study was complete,” she said.

Ms. Burt said that the “last minutes of the selectmen’s meetings in August, September, and October of 2012 were that we were all just going to take a step back and get the watershed study done. I as much as anyone else would like to stop talking about the Mill Pond or a while.” She pointed out that two different experts said the water flow is sufficient into the pond and that it is not going to dry up before the study is complete.

“I am looking for a rational conversation about the best way to move forward,” she said. “We need to stick to a plan.”

Selectman Cynthia Mitchell said that the discussion held at the previous meeting about the Mill Pond might have been better kept to narrow issue of selecting a new member of the committee to seek a watershed study consultant.

“However,” she said. “there were a lot of people there who had something to say about the Mill Pond.” She agreed that the discussion should have been under the public comment section of the meeting, rather that as a public hearing.

“I think the reason people keep bringing up the Mill Pond Issue is, well, has anyone looked a the Mill Pond lately?” Mill Brook committee member Anna Alley said. “The growth is coming more and more at the north end and there are algae blooms all over the pond all summer long. There are many people in the town who would like to have it preserved. We know from the study that the only way to preserve the pond it to dredge it.” Referring to a study conducted by ESS, an environmental engineering firm, and reported last year. Ms. Alley asked for guidance from the selectmen.

In other business, the selectmen discussed putting the West Tisbury Library Foundation on notice for seeking event permits. They then voted to “retro- approve” a permit for a musical performance held August 27, at the Old Grange Hall with a food truck.