Chilmark annual tackles $9 million budget, housing bylaw

Voters will be asked to weigh in on a variety of topics, including amending zoning bylaws to allow for accessory apartments.

File photo by Susan Safford

Chilmark voters will gather in the Chilmark Community Center Monday, April 27, at 7:30 pm to attend to town business in the form of 37 warrant articles and a $8,925,163 operating budget for fiscal year 2016 (FY16).

Voters will be asked to begin the process of replacing the Cross Road fire station, provide a Chilmark Community Center facelift, build a path to Menemsha beach, take land needed to move the Squibnocket beach parking lot and move Squibnocket Road, and amend zoning bylaws to allow for accessory apartments.

On Wednesday, voters will go to the polls from noon to 8 pm to elect town officers. There are no contested elections, but there are two Proposition 2.5 questions to be answered related to expenditures for a new school administration building and the county purchase of the VNA building to house the Center for Living and its programs.

Chairman of the Chilmark board of selectmen Bill Rossi said he does not expect too long of a town meeting, but added a cautionary note: “We’ll see,” he said.

“The largest increase every year is for the school,” Mr. Rossi said. “Most of the other departments are pretty much in line.”

Taut budget

The operating budget will increase from $8,683,954 in FY15 to a proposed $8,925,922 in FY16, which begins on July 1, 2015, just under a 3 percent increase.

Chilmark taxpayers will pay less for education in FY16 than they did in FY15. Total education assessments will drop from $3,292,309 to $3,112,848.

Major departmental increases include the ambulance service expense ($197,508 to $265,062); employee benefits ($989,874 to $1,124,616); and property and liability insurance ($150,500 to $206,809).

The Tri-Town Ambulance increases are attributed to increases in staff and service coverage.

Chilmark voters will be among the last to weigh in on the county-engineered purchase of the VNA building to house the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living and its Supportive Day Program.

The center currently uses borrowed space at the Edgartown and Tisbury Council on Aging buildings, and has been searching unsuccessfully for a new home. The county is asking for $1.6 million to purchase, renovate, and equip the building. Under the county formula, Chilmark taxpayers would kick in about $160,000.

“I think there will be strong support for it, as there has been strong support from other towns — which is good,” Mr. Rossi said.

Chilmark taxpayers will also be asked to exempt the debt payments to help pay the costs of constructing a new school administration building on the grounds of the regional high school.

Mr. Rossi thinks there will be much discussion surrounding the proposal and the associated costs. Tisbury and Edgartown voters approved the expenditure. West Tisbury voters said no.

Squibnocket Road

In December, the Chilmark town committee on Squibnocket charged with finding a solution on how best to restore Squibnocket Beach and provide access to the Squibnocket Farm subdivision in the face of increasing storm damage and sea-level rise proposed the construction of a low, one-lane causeway set back from the shoreline, and parking along the road that leads to the popular beach.

The plan calls for removal of the current boulder revetment and beach parking lot, to allow the shoreline to return to its natural state.

The solution, hammered out over months of discussions with opposing camps, requires the town to acquire two small privately owned parcels of land, abutting the town parking lot and Squibnocket Pond.

Two articles pertain to the lots in question. “I’m hoping to get some good news on the articles for the Squibnocket lots,” said Mr. Rossi.

Mr. Rossi told The Times the articles would act as placeholders, as negotiations with the property owners are 98 percent completed. Mr. Rossi hopes to make an announcement at the annual town meeting.

The two lots in question are the Harold Pratt and Thomas Bator property and the Anthony Orphanos and Wendy Jeffers property. “We were also approved last special town meeting to acquire additional pond-front beach,” said Mr. Rossi. “We’re hoping to have a couple of deals done and one signed up.”

Apartment bylaw

The article expected to generate the most discussion on the town floor would amend the zoning bylaws to allow for accessory apartments. Mr. Rossi said informational meetings were rather poorly attended, which will put the burden of explaining the changes on town officials on town meeting floor.

“It is going to take a little explaining for people to understand what we are trying to do,” said Mr. Rossi. The accessory apartments create affordable housing for those who are eligible, and also create situations where people can have caregivers living on the property so the owner can stay in his or her home.

“This has been important to the housing committee this winter, and there has been a lot of work done,” said Mr. Rossi.

“There seems to be some concern about the character of the town and density, versus the need for affordable housing opportunities,” Mr. Rossi told The Times. “I support it personally. I think it’s a good idea, and I don’t think we are going to be inundated with requests to construct accessory buildings.”

The change would provide affordable housing for an immediate family member or provide living space for a caregiver.

Spending requests

Chilmark voters will be asked to spend taxpayer money on numerous projects.

Voters will be asked to spend $40,000 to fund the initial design of a new firehouse.

“We really should be thinking of having a long-term solution that is suitable for the fire department for the next 50 to 100 years,” Mr. Rossi said. “The facilities that are in place now are in disrepair.”

Voters will be asked to place $100,000 in the highway stabilization fund. “I personally hope they get on a mile-a-year plan,” said Mr. Rossi. “We’ve kind of gotten off that program.”

Two items pertaining to Menemsha Harbor will be up for discussion. Voters will be asked to spend $10,000 to build a walking path along Basin Road from the comfort station to the beach, and spend $30,000 to replace pilings in the harbor.

“I think it’s a very subtle change to Menemsha,” Mr. Rossi said, “and that’s the biggest concern whenever you talk about Menemsha, is what degree of change is being proposed.”

Mr. Rossi said he has heard many positive comments regarding the potential new walking path from local folks who frequent Menemsha. “There needs to be somewhere to walk other than the road,” he said. “Something’s got to give.”

Voters will also be asked to spend about $70,000 to reshingle the Chilmark Community Center roof and renovate the entrance.

“It’s needed,” said Mr. Rossi.