Edgartown selectmen sign on to Housing Bank opposition

Board members keep talking even after the meeting adjourns.

After Monday's Edgartown meeting was officially over, selectmen continued to sit and chat. - Rich Saltzberg

Edgartown selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to send a letter to state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, and state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, where they “place their full support behind” an Oak Bluffs letter critical the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank idea.

“Likewise, Edgartown strongly opposes the proposed plan by the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank Campaign to allocate 50 percent of the town’s preexisting revenue derived from the Local Room Occupancy Tax,” the Edgartown letter reads.

Selectman Arthur Smadbeck said the fiscal mechanism pitched by the Housing Bank campaign “reaches into our budget.”

“Big time,” selectman Margaret Serpa said.

“We’re going to be short $500,000 in our budget,” Smadbeck said if the proposed mechanism fails to generate the revenue Edgartown would pay out ahead of time.

Housing Bank officials have made it clear they are proposing to take only a percentage of revenue. Towns will still receive more revenue from the short-term rental tax than they get now from hotels and inns, Makenzie Brookes, one of the proponents of the Housing Bank, told The Times in a recent interview.

“I just think the unknowns are not worth taking the risk,” Serpa said at Monday’s meeting.

“No, it’s a gamble,” Smadbeck said.

“It is and it’s not a good gamble,” Serpa said.

After the board adjourned, the three selectmen appeared to continue to discuss the Housing Bank in the Fred B Morgan Jr. meeting room in the presence of two reporters and a Martha’s Vineyard Community Television videographer.

Asked on Tuesday why the board continued to discuss the matter after the meeting closed, Smadbeck rejected the idea they had been deliberating at all. Asked the same question, selectman Margaret Serpa said: “I don’t know whether we deliberated. I don’t think so.”

She pointed out the board was all together for the first time in a while with the return of Michael Donaroma.

“I don’t recall exactly what our conversation was at that point,” she added.

Donaroma told The Times he didn’t think there was deliberation and only recalls chatting about recent hip surgery Smadbeck underwent — “no decisions or official statements by any means,” he said of the post meeting confab.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to approve annual and special town meeting warrants and sent undisclosed financial documents from Chappy Ferry owner Peter Wells to town counsel for review.