West Tisbury will hold a special town meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Topping the five-article warrant is a request for $900,000 to assist the Island Housing Trust (IHT) in financing the development of the fire-station lot affordable housing project, also known as Scotts Grove.
Voters will also be asked to take action on the purchase of a new chipper, engineering an opening at James Pond to allow herring to enter, and amending zoning bylaws to fine-tune some language.
A request for $15,000 to remove dead trees is expected to be withdrawn on town meeting floor, according to selectman chairman Richard Knabel, because the money to do the work is available in another account.
The special town meeting begins at 7 pm in the West Tisbury School gym.
The largest money request is for $900,000, which would be the town’s contribution toward the Scotts Grove development on land behind the small firehouse on Edgartown–West Tisbury Road. It is roughly one-third of the funding needed.
IHT is developing the parcel to build rental properties, which calls for a maximum of seven buildings (excluding nonhabitable outbuildings) with a maximum of 18 bedrooms. The nonprofit is responsible for raising the rest of the money.
Mr. Knabel told The Times Friday afternoon by phone that the money will come from Community Preservation Committee (CPC) funds that have accumulated over a number of years in anticipation of this project.
“This is the town’s contribution, along with the land,” Mr. Knabel said. “It is essentially $100,000 per unit, and there are nine units.”
“We estimate it is approximately a $2.9 million project,” Philippe Jordi, executive director of IHT, told The Times Friday. Mr. Jordi said that the development will be comprised of duplexes and a triplex.
Mr. Jordi thinks that if voters pass the $900,000, it will make the fundraising easier. “We’ll have a lot of momentum to attract other donors, and possibly get grants from either larger foundations or state funds,” he said.
Mr. Jordi added that IHT has a new fundraising director, and that if the $900,000 passes on town floor, his group will be in a very good position heading into its end-of-year fundraising campaign.
The IHT director said that momentum will also come from last week’s zoning board of appeals (ZBA) approval of the Kuehn’s Way affordable housing project, which is in Tisbury and calls for 20 rental apartments near the Scottish Bakehouse. And there was the ribbon cutting on Water Street apartments in Vineyard Haven last week.
“We have two significant projects going up,” Mr. Jordi said. “We need to make this a reality, and we’re confident that the town is in a good position, with the money they have, to leverage more monies — this is really what we’re looking for, not for the town to take responsibility.”
IHT goes before the planning board on Monday.
“It seems like it’s going in a really positive direction,” Mr. Jordi said. “I’m anticipating that we’ll be able to get this through quickly, but you never know.”
If the warrant article passes on town floor, there is no time limit on using the money toward the project. However, “the general rule on warrant articles is that they live for five years,” Mr. Knabel told The Times. “In this case the money would go back to the CPC” after five years, the board chairman said, “but this is not really an issue here.”
Voters will also be asked for $9,000 to help fund surveying work needed to begin the permitting process for opening James Pond to the sea on a regular basis. The pond once supported a viable herring run. As with many of the Island’s salt ponds, it was once regularly opened to the sea.
“The entrance to James Pond fills in very, very badly, and there’s not very much flushing action that happens, and as a result the water stagnates, and the fish that are trying to migrate out of the pond and into the Vineyard Sound don’t do very well,” Mr. Knabel told The Times.
Mr. Knabel said that volunteers, with approval, previously dug a channel by hand to try and increase the flushing action in and out of the pond. Tisbury herring warden Johnny Hoy led the effort.
“This evidently doesn’t work too well, because one single storm can wipe out the work of a half-dozen volunteers in a single weekend,” Mr. Knabel said. “So they are looking for an engineered solution to create a more viable situation.”
The hand-digging has been tried more than once, and “it seems to be an exercise in futility,” said Mr. Knabel.
This article is on the warrant as “raise and appropriate,” but Mr. Knabel said this may be changed to free cash on town floor. “Then they can go ahead and do it right away,” he said.
In other business, voters will be asked to spend $22,000 to buy a new chipper. The new chipper will be slightly larger, and have improved safety features.
“It’s time to get a newer one,” said highway superintendent Richard Olsen. “Safety is No. 1 — it keeps hands and bodies out of the chipper.”
Voters will also be asked to make language changes to the zoning bylaws.
“This is the jurisdiction of the planning board,” Mr. Knabel said. “They are in the process of cleaning up the zoning bylaws, and part of that is changing some definitions to reduce confusion and to clarify the meaning of some terms.”
“I think the two routine articles are for the chipper and for working on James Pond — I don’t see those as being an issue,” Mr. Knabel said when asked about his expectations for the upcoming special town meeting. He also did not expect any issue with the zoning bylaw changes.
As for the Scotts Grove warrant, Mr. Knabel thinks that may yield discussion. He said the town has “gone along with it each time it has been asked to vote on a particular part of it, and this now gets down to the nitty-gritty of financing it.”
“I’m not hearing any substantial problems,” the board chairman said. “Perhaps the bigger problem will be [whether or not] we get a quorum.”
Mr. Knabel said special town meetings don’t always attract large numbers of voters, and that “about 120 people are needed to show up.”