Edgartown voters wrapped up their socially distanced town meeting Saturday, approving the vast majority of articles. Voters agreed to part of a deal with the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club, while shooting down a plastic bottle ban from the kids at Plastic Free MV.
The town meeting, which is usually held at the Whaling Church, was held beneath several tents outside the Edgartown School on a sunny Saturday afternoon, with chairs spaced apart to allow for social distancing. There were 210 voters in attendance.
The meeting began with Edgartown poet Steve Ewing reading “Pandemic, Prejudice, and the Pagoda Tree,” an original poem. Once voters got down to business, they agreed to spend $650,000 to purchase 4.67 acres of land from the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club, to be used for the town’s new Westside Cemetery. The article must now be approved by voters at the ballot box on June 18 where, if the question is passed, the board of selectmen would be authorized to enact the terms and conditions of a memorandum of understanding with the club. The actions in this article are contingent upon whether a majority of voters vote in the affirmative on the ballot question that would allow the town to exceed its fiscal year 2021 tax levy with a Proposition 2½ capital exclusion — a temporary tax increase for one year.
During Saturday’s town meeting, there were close-call votes for two articles that required head counts.
The first was on a petition calling for another full, public review of the Vineyard Transit Authority charging station on Church Street in Edgartown.
The project has already been approved by the Edgartown historic district commission, and a study done by the MVC said the project would not have a negative impact on the area. The article seeking another review passed, 96-83.
Edgartown resident Sara Piazza, who held up large photos of VTA buses, said the VTA buses driving in Edgartown have “ruined the character of the town,” and called for re-evaluation of the project. She said she’s not against electric buses, but said there needs to be a more “creative solution.” Piazza has appeared at past meetings and discussion on the project, voicing her opposition.
Jane Chittick, who has also frequently voiced her opposition to the project, was against installing the induction chargers on Church Street, and asked for another review.
The second close-call vote was for the proposed bylaw by Plastic Free MV, to eliminate the use of disposable plastic water and soda bottles 34 ounces (roughly one liter) and under; it was indefinitely postponed by voters, 98-83. The bylaw, which was proposed to take effect May 1, 2021, was approved last year by Aquinnah, West Tisbury, and Chilmark. Voters in Tisbury approved the article at their town meeting, which was also held Saturday. Voters decided to indefinitely postpone the article due to the uncertainty the coronavirus pandemic has caused for town businesses.
An article to ban nonpublic construction between 8 pm and 7 am on weekdays and Saturdays between Memorial Day and Labor Day was approved by voters.
During the review of the town’s $39 million budget, Kat Monterosso, a member of the town’s energy committee, said the town should review the $3.2 million budget for the police department. “[Because of] the events happening across the country with the Black Lives Matter movement, I do think it is important we start examining why we’re spending $3.2 million on police salaries alone for a largely peaceful town,” Monterosso said, as some voters booed, and one yelled to pay the police more. “I believe that Edgartown should be part of the national discussion on defunding the police, and whether or not black lives matter.”
Police Chief Bruce McNamee spoke briefly with Monterosso after her request, and handed her a business card.
A set of three articles concerning the taking by eminent domain of land for roads near Ocean Heights was indefinitely postponed.
The roads included in the article were Eighth Street North, 10th Street North, 17th Street North, 20th Street North, and 22nd Street North, all of which run along the Boulevard.
Attorney Ben Hall Jr., as well as Alex Schaeffer, the town’s fire chief, who both own property in the area, said proper process was not followed for the eminent domain.
“As an abutter, I did not receive any formal notification of this article,” Schaeffer said. “I believe that there’s a process that should be followed to allow us all to have input, whether I agree or disagree with the further development of Ocean Heights, because I don’t believe the process is correct that’s being followed.”
Selectman Margaret Serpa thanked the town employees and voters for coming out to the meeting. “I want to thank everybody who helped put this together so we can meet here and accomplish what we have to do,” Serpa said.