Aquinnah may go green

Town could be next in line to be designated a Green Community.

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Aquinnah town administrator Jeff Madison reads a pre-written letter accepting both policies required for Green Community designation. - Lucas Thors

Aquinnah may be one of the next towns in Massachusetts to be designated a Green Community.

At Tuesday’s meeting, selectmen met with co-chair of the Aquinnah energy and climate committee, Bill Lake, to review and accept two policies that would aim to reduce energy consumption from town buildings and facilities.

Through Green Communities designation, Aquinnah would agree to make a good-faith effort over five years to reduce energy used by town-owned properties by at least 20 percent. 

The first policy accepted by selectmen had to do with an energy-reduction plan. In order to work toward the overall goal of being a more sustainable town, Lake said, they had to take a thorough energy inventory to establish a baseline. 

“This was a major job,” Lake said. “Once you do the inventory, you are required to come up with a plan.”

With the help of the Cape Light Compact, Lake said he came up with a list of actions the town can take that would decrease the amount of power used.

He said there are multiple routes the town can take to achieve the five-year goal, and the town can use the $130,000 designation grant it will receive after being named a Green Community to fund those efforts. “That would go a long way toward supporting our energy-reduction plan,” Lake said.

The second document selectmen accepted was a town vehicle policy requiring energy-efficient vehicles to be purchased in the future, so long as they are “practically available,” according to Lake.

Lake said heavy-duty vehicles like ambulances, fire trucks, and police cruisers would be exempt from this policy, but he mentioned a brand-new hybrid cruiser on the market that is “very popular.”

“It’s a Ford Interceptor hybrid,” Lake said. “We could buy one of those and, even though it’s not required, that would be a major step toward our 20 percent reduction.”

Aquinnah Police Chief Randhi Belain said he has “already looked into it,” and even drove one of the vehicles. 

“If it does what it needs to do, it will definitely be an energy-reducing vehicle. That’s what Ford is claiming,” Belain said.

Selectman Jim Newman asked Belain if he felt comfortable driving it.

“Oh, yes. It’s basically like what we have here except it’s a hybrid,” Belain replied.

Lake said the application is being submitted well before the Nov. 22 deadline, and Aquinnah should be “ready to be qualified as a Green Community.”

He said a final decision is not made until the spring, but Aquinnah and fellow applicant Chilmark should both be on the list as new Green Communities this year.

If Aquinnah is designated, it will be the third Island town, alongside Tisbury and West Tisbury. 

In other business, Aquinnah housing committee chair Mike Hebert met with selectmen to propose creating affordable housing rentals on the parcel of land behind the town hall.

He said the housing committee is trying to take “a slightly different direction” in focusing on a different section of the Vineyard population that hasn’t been addressed.

“We want to focus on people who, although they probably qualify financially [for housing], really aren’t ready for or don’t want permanent housing. They are looking for rentals,” Hebert said.

He explained that the property would be adjacent to Jeffers Way, and would be comprised of a single duplex with two two-bedroom apartments, and a one-bedroom cottage.

“We think it will fit nicely on this property. It would probably be built right into the hillside,” Hebert said. 

He said the duplex would be good for families, and the cottage would suit a single professional worker who is looking to “get going” within the community, or a newly married couple. 

Hebert said there would be two possible access points: one from Jeffers Way, which would require an easement from the abutter, and one from the main road.

“I think this is an excellent idea,” Newman said.

Hebert said the rentals would give preference to Aquinnah residents, and would fill a need for a segment of the population that’s underserved.