Bandstand-off between planners and select board?

Planning board members balk at town hall interference with Owen Park Bandstand.

Tisbury's planning board doesn't want the select board or town administrator to interfere with the will of the voters on the Owen Park Bandstand project.

Members of the Tisbury planning board weren’t enthused to hear possible interference with the Owen Park Bandstand might be coming from town hall. 

On Feb. 17, planning board member Cheryl Doble, who has been immersed in the bandstand project, gave the board a report on progress with the structure and with the installation of a handicap-accessible terrace at the upper portion of the park. Doble’s report included repeated suggestions that the select board and town administrator Jay Grande are trying to put the brakes on the project, an assertion select board chair Jim Rogers later denied. 

Doble, who is also a member of Tisbury’s open space and recreation committee, said progress continues with the terrace project, and told the planning board she expects to meet with DPW director Kirk Metell and a contractor in an attempt to finalize a deal. Doble said she and planning board member Ben Robinson have been at work exploring the general cost alternatives for the bandstand. She said an agreement is in place with a local builder to execute the work, but Metell indicated a review of the project by the select board and the town administrator might be in order. 

“He’s not sure that they all support going forward with this project,” Doble said. She added his opinion seemed to be restraint, and consideration of saving money. 

In December 2020, the planning board selected the Boston firm Moskow Linn to redesign the bandstand after several bouts of public debate. The town approved $150,000 in Community Preservation funds for the project. 

Asked by the board what her position was, Doble said, “We took this through a public process, we had a process in which we selected a designer, we had a select board member sit in on that interview, we made the selection, we had two or three public meetings … it was approved by the select board, it went to town meeting; it was passed at town meeting … So my question to Kirk was how, at this point in time, does the town administrator and the select board now come forward and step into this process and change the process?” 

Chair Elaine Miller described the news as “disheartening.”

Doble went on to say she didn’t understand how folks could try to block the project now.

“Pardon my French,” planning board member Paul Munafo said, “but where the hell do the selectmen come in if the voters have spoken?” 

“Well,” Doble said, “I think this is a project that’s being led by the DPW … at some point it’s passed off and carried forward.” She asked whether “we should share what we’re doing and hear from them” before moving forward.

“But to what end?” Munafo asked. 

“What’s the alternative?” Miller asked.

“The other option that has been considered is just repairing the existing building,” Doble said. 

“That was already on the table, and that was not the direction we were going in,” Miller said. Miller criticized the habit of “kicking the can down the road,” and described the intervention as an “arbitrary decision without any solid validity” on the part of the select board. She also took a moment to thank Doble for all the work she’d put in to date. 

Doble said she had the sense folks were frustrated not to see progress at Owen Park.

Rogers later told The Times lack of progress on town project was something he found irksome. He pointed to delays in parking lot work at the old fire station lot as an example. But he said there was no interference at play from his board regarding the bandstand. 

“We’re not trying to stop anything like that,” he said. He did note the board requested a design update at an open space and recreation committee meeting recently. “We want community buy-in on the design,” he said.

“The select board has never talked about this in one of their meetings,” Robinson said. “My first question is, Where is this coming from, because they haven’t brought it up in a meeting and discussed it. Is this just the administrator? How is he getting direction on this?”

Rogers said he was unsure if Grande placed any holds on the project, but doubted it. Grande couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, nor could Metell. 

“If that project can be done for that amount of money,” Miller said of $150,000, “I don’t see who has the right to withdraw or adjust [what’s] gone through full process.” She added, “That’s being disrespectful of the process.”

Miller asked Doble how the board can help her keep the project on track. 

“Stand by the process that we started and the decisions that have been approved,” Doble said. She suggested “we talk with them to see if in fact there are concerns.”

“I just want to be careful about delaying the process further,” planning board member Dawn Bellante said. “If the issue isn’t the selectmen wanting to weigh in on the design itself, but the issue is it hasn’t been done already, then we should be ready to address that directly.”

Robinson told the board he anticipates the project will be finished in autumn.

Miller stressed that Doble has put too much time into the project to be faced with a stalemate from the town now. The topic wound down with the understanding Doble would confer with Grande.