MOU approved between Tisbury and museum

Martha's Vineyard Museum entered a memorandum of understanding with Tisbury that includes paying $5,000 per year in lieu of taxes.

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum will pay Tisbury $5,000 per year in lieu of taxes as part of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) approved unanimously by the select board Tuesday night.

The MOU codifies the conditions that were part of the development of regional impact (DRI) approval of the museum by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, such as how many events can be held, and deals with some of the early issues with events at the museum, which opened in 2019, like the permitting process and parking.

“Is the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) new?” select board member Larry Gomez asked.

Town administrator Jay Grande said the annual payments were indeed new. “That’s to offset town services,” Grande said.

A portal set up by building commissioner Ross Seavey will outline what permits are needed by the museum, and will alert departments that are part of the process of reviewing and doing inspections to issue them at least 30 days prior to the event.

The agreement limits the number of special events at the museum to 12, with only half of them allowed to have amplified music. Only eight of the events can occur in July and August, according to the MOU. Events have to end by 11 pm to be in compliance with town noise bylaws.

Select board chair Jim Rogers said he didn’t want to give up the select board’s ultimate approval of events. “Just like we do now … now we’re going to know department heads have looked at it because it’s part of the documentation we get on the new system,” he said.

But select board member Jeff Kristal said he didn’t think the board needed to be consulted on every wedding at the venue. He said the board maintains some control when liquor licenses are involved. “There is some structure here now, which did not exist a year ago,” Kristal said.

Rogers said ultimately it’s the board that answers to the town’s residents. “If there are problems, we’re going to hear it,” Rogers said to Kristal and Gomez. “You both know that.”

Heather Seger, the museum’s executive director, said the museum is committed to working with the town as a partner. “We recognize we were new to V.H. a couple of years ago, and were figuring things out,” she said. “Certainly we’re willing to come to the table at any time to make it stronger for ourselves and the town.”

David Grain, secretary of the museum’s board of directors, praised the agreement. “The museum is in a good position, and this will firm us up as we move into what I hope will be a more normal summer,” he said.

The agreement is effective for three years and will expire at the end of 2023. 

The town’s attorney will make some minor tweaks, allowing for the town to rent parking to the museum at Veterans Memorial Park if it doesn’t interfere with other events at the fields. 

School questions approved

The question voters will be asked at the June 22 town election has been approved unanimously by the Tisbury select board, but won’t include any reference to the $55 million they’re asking taxpayers to borrow.

Instead, it will ask voters to approve a Proposition 2½ debt exemption to “repair, renovate, and enlarge the existing Tisbury School and construction additions to the school on the parcel of land at 40 West William St.” 

The select board tinkered with the language slightly, making it clear that the school will not only be renovated, but made bigger.

Then, in a joint session with the school committee, the two boards approved the wording of the town meeting article, which does include the $55 million to be borrowed — $53 million for the school project and the rest to cover some of the costs for a temporary school. They stipulated that the language may change to meet legal requirements outlined by town counsel David Doneski.

School board member Michael Watts asked if the ballot question needed to make reference to the temporary school that will be set up during the renovation, but town administrator Jay Grande said that’s considered part of the overall project. Doneski concurred.

The board also approved a second ballot question. That Proposition 2½ debt exemption will be used to pave roads in Tisbury, and, again, the amount is unspecified in the ballot question.

Lagoon Pond potty and patrol

The Lagoon Pond Association (LPA) stepped up with two donations Tuesday night — one of them a port-a-potty at the town boat landing, and the other a stipend for a shellfish assistant to help police the regulations in the Lagoon.

In a letter to the select board, Doug Reece, president of the association, pointed out the need for the restroom facility. “There are hundreds of people who use the boat landing on any given summer weekend, and what do people do when they need to ‘relieve’ themselves and there is no option?” he wrote. “They head to the nearby grasses/shrubs or even in the pond itself.”

Rogers said he liked the idea, but was concerned it would be unsightly.

The association agreed to pay for a wooden structure to be built to screen the portable toilet. Details of cost sharing for the facility between the town and the association will be worked out by Grande.

“Any help the LPA would give to this would be extremely generous,” Kristal said.

Reece wasn’t on the Zoom call for the discussion. When he learned of the board’s unanimous vote to approve the potty, he said, “You guys are wonderful, thank you.”

Later in the meeting, the board unanimously accepted a donation of $3,000 from the LPA that will be used as a stipend to pay for a part-time employee to work with shellfish constable Danielle Ewart to patrol the Lagoon — similar to what Nelson Sigelman does at Lake Tashmoo, Reece said.

The board will send a letter of thanks to the association for both donations.

In other business, the board unanimously approved setting aside parking spots on Main Street for customers to pick up takeout meals. The vote was taken in response to a petition submitted by 10 Vineyard Haven businesses. “It worked out well during COVID,” Rogers said.

Elio Silvia, owner of Bobby B’s, asked the board to allow the spaces into the shoulder season. When Rogers pointed out there were no time constraints put on them, Silvia said thank you.

Gomez asked how many spaces were affected, a question that no one could answer on the spot.

Kristal asked that the spots be approved, with DPW director Kirk Metell responsible for working with Grande on which spaces would be dedicated as pickup spots.

The board got into a convoluted discussion about whether they still had time to add a warrant article requested by Fire Chief Greg Leland to the June 13 special or annual town meeting warrants. Leland is looking for a home rule petition to be approved by voters that would allow some of the town’s call firefighters to stay on in less demanding jobs after turning 65 years old. Even with the town’s attorney on the Zoom call, no one could answer the question definitively.

Leland said the town invests a lot in training firefighters, and loses that institutional knowledge prematurely. The board plans to schedule a meeting for Friday to finalize the warrant.

“We invest — we being the town — invest a substantial amount of time and money into these members over the course of their careers, getting them trained to do these jobs and these functions, and it’s getting increasingly harder to recruit new members,” Leland said. “Losing somebody who is 65 but can still be quite capable of standing on a pump and probably knows that engine better than anyone else, it’s a little painful. It’s hard. Quite frankly, a lot of them don’t want to go when they’re 65, and would love the opportunity to be able to give back to the town, but in a less stressful environment.”

The proposal will have to go to town voters and then to the state legislature before it can be implemented.

A small cell antenna was approved for AT&T at 60 Center St., near the town’s tennis courts. Several neighbors objected to a similar antenna in June 2020 when it was proposed for Church Street.

AT&T was asked to find a more suitable location, and Ed Pare, who represented the company, said that’s what they did.

The antenna was approved with two conditions — that the company work with Eversource to move the utility pole out of the sidewalk, and that the new pole be no taller than the existing one. Pare said it will be about one foot shorter once the antenna is added at the top of a replacement pole.

Joe Hall, the only community member to speak during the public hearing, praised the board for rejecting the previous site. “I’m glad the selectmen voted down the last one,” Hall said, even though the board never took a vote that night. “Stay vigilant and don’t screw it up.”


  1. So sad to see that the Museum does not understand the importance of trees as related to climate change and the health of the lagoon. Is their expansive lawn not setting an unwelcome precedent?

Comments are closed.