Selectmen balk at CPC funding for regional affordable housing

Edgartown selectman Arthur Smadbeck said it’s a great idea, but it needs a different funding source.

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The Edgartown annual town meeting warrant includes asking for $40,000 for the conservation and restoration of this 19th century undertaker’s wagon owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. — Courtesy M.V. Museum

Edgartown selectmen, along with members of the town’s affordable housing committee, the community preservation committee (CPC), and the historical district commission, were uniformly skeptical about an ad hoc group’s request to contribute 65 percent of town CPC funds to a regional affordable housing effort.

Selectman Arthur Smadbeck explained that the group asked that a nonbinding question be added to the ballot to provide funding for “a regional body to deal with affordable housing.”

Town administrator Pam Dolby explained at Monday’s meeting that the town uses Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds for many projects important to the historical preservation of the Whaling Church, town hall, and the most recent articles on the town warrant, to acquire and restore the neglected Yellow House at the corner of South Summer and Main streets.

Tim Rush, a member of Edgartown’s affordable housing committee, said that his committee hadn’t asked for anything this year, but that with projects coming up, they will be asking the CPC for funds in the future.

“If we do this, will we be cutting back on other things?” he asked.

“They have no projects planned,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “They’re looking for a funding source to start with.”

The group had considered taxing summer rentals and asking for a portion of Land Bank fees, Mr. Smadbeck said.

In a conversation with The Times after the meeting, Mr. Smadbeck said Edgartown is already addressing affordable housing with its Meshacket project, where 32 units will be built on 10 acres. He also cited the 60 units built and now occupied at Morgan Woods, the 10 homes at Jenney Lane, and three sites on Sixth Street, and “there’s still a lot to be done.”

“This is another group looking to secure some kind of regular funding, and this is a great idea,” Mr. Smadbeck said, “but these funds are currently being used.”

He said when the state’s Community Preservation Act law passed, it designated three sorts of appropriate targets for funding: historic preservation, open space, and affordable housing, with at least 10 percent of the funding going to each category, although shifts in the precedence of one or another of these three uses may be allowed.

“CPC funding can be used for affordable housing, but the money is committed to other things as well,” he said.

Mr. Smadbeck added that legislation surrounding affordable housing on the Vineyard had not gained a lot of traction at the state level, but with new legislators, Rep. Dylan Fernandes and State Sen. Julian Cyr, “I have a feeling they’re active and interested, and could probably get something done.”

He also said that since the selectmen’s meeting, the ad hoc group had modified their proposal to eliminate the originally suggested percentage.

“They’ll get there,” Mr. Smadbeck added. “Sometimes you get ahead of yourself.”

Selectmen approved the shellfish committee’s recommendation to close Cape Pogue to all bay scalloping effective Feb. 28. Other scalloping areas will remain open. They also recommended opening Sengekontacket Pond to commercial oyster harvesting, except in the family area, with the limit of two 10-gallon wash baskets per day, Monday through Friday, effective March 1 and continuing through April 28.

Harbormaster Charlie Blair read a letter of appreciation to the selectmen from Brian Ferrara, manager of Prime Marina, acknowledging that his business had a “tough transition” after buying Edgartown Marine a year ago. Mr. Ferrara thanked the selectmen for working with him, allowing the transition to go as “smooth as possible.”

Mr. Ferrara also offered the town a 30 percent discount on parts and labor for town equipment brought to him for services.

“That’s about $9,000 in savings, just for my department,” Mr. Blair said.

Selectmen announced that the Edgartown annual town meeting warrant is available, and asked voters to pay attention to a range of 68 articles, including one that asks a total of $3 million to buy the Yellow House and another that seeks $40,000 for the conservation and restoration of the 19th century undertaker’s wagon owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.