Voters rejected the idea of appointing rather than electing the town clerk during Tuesday’s first night of town meeting inside the Tisbury School gymnasium.
Town Clerk Hillary Conklin spoke out against the article, which was proposed by selectman Tristan Israel, whom she described as a friend.
Politics shouldn’t be part of a position that oversees elections, she said. “It would be awkward at best to report to selectmen, who appear on the ballot, and a conflict of interest at worst,” Conklin said. She asked Israel to trust the process and voters, noting he was elected to nine terms.
In support of his proposal, Israel said the job requires expertise, particularly in a town with a budget of $28 million. “It has no reflection on the great job that she does,” he said of Conklin.
In a vote of 197-114, the town approved safety and health regulations for short-term rental units in town. The article generated some spirited debate.
Amandine Hall, a property owner who rents her property to help meet her mortgage, questioned the fee to register on top of taxes that are being implemented. “Airbnb has become this dirty word. But for young struggling families, it’s become a godsend,” Hall said. “It’s very important for a lot of us.”
Selectman Jim Rogers said there have been some near-misses across the Island, with people living in unsafe conditions. “I would say fortunately, so far the problem is small,” he said. “Hoping it stays that way … We want to make sure people are safe renting these homes in the town of Tisbury.”
The article was sponsored by Fire Chief John Schilling and health agent Maura Valley. Selectmen will set the registration fee, and violations of the health and safety regulations will result in a $100 fine.
The inspections would put short-term rentals on par with bed and breakfast inns. “The feeling was if you’re going to rent out short-term, you should meet safety requirements as a licensed bed and breakfast,” she said.
Voters rejected an article brought forward by Jeremie Rogers, son of selectman Jim Rogers, to block off Oak Hill Avenue to through traffic. Rogers said commercial vehicles are using it as a cut-through. Voters expressed concern that there was not enough information.
You’ll be able to get a bloody mary or a mimosa with your brunch at the Black Dog Tavern on Sunday mornings beginning at 10 am, thanks to a voice vote at town meeting. One very enthusiastic voter moved the question almost as quickly as moderator Deborah Medders finished reading the article. That prompted some knowing laughs in the crowd, which exceeded 300 voters for much of the night.
Once they got into the annual town meeting warrant, they only got through the first five articles. Voters approved spending $307,550 in embarkation funds, money the town gets from a 50 cent surcharge on Steamship Authority passenger tickets. Discussion did get briefly bogged down as town meeting debated forcing the SSA to spend more to help with dredging Vineyard Haven Harbor.
In a long and detailed article funding various Community Preservation projects, including $25,000 for restoration of a 1949 fire truck and $20,000 to repair the Christ United Methodist Church, among others, voters removed $75,000 to be spent on a bike path between Beach Road and Lagoon Pond Road. Voters were swayed by Rogers, who said the town may be able to make a deal with the developer looking to redevelop the Hinckley property on Beach Road.
A proposal to take the Housing Bank articles out of order was soundly defeated. “This body voted overwhelmingly to take articles in order,” Rogers said, noting a vote last spring. “If you come for special interests, you have to bear it out and hear all of it.”
The start of town meeting was delayed as voters were signed in at the front door and a line snaked outside. It was also slow to begin while the town recognized Israel for his 24 years as a selectman in town. State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, read a proclamation passed by the House and Senate. “It’s a bit long, but in the spirit of celebrating Tristan Israel, it should be a little long-winded, I think,” he said to laughs.
Selectman Melinda Loberg presented Israel with a gavel from the town. “He certainly was a mentor to me,” she said. “He encouraged me to get involved in committee work, learn about the town. Everything I learned about the town, including the affection we all have for it, I learned from Tristan.”
Israel was beaming with pride, sporting a red, white, and blue tie. “I love the town. I love the people I served with over the years. I love seeing young people coming to town meeting voicing their opinions,” he said. “We have such a unique, beautiful community that we should all continue to be active, support, and respect one another when we don’t agree.”
Town meeting will continue at 7 pm Wednesday inside the Tisbury School gym.
Date corrected of first night of town meeting. -Ed.