Town meeting starts today for half the Island

Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury are holding meetings next week.

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Annual town meetings are approaching for Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and West Tisbury. Shown here is a vote taking place during a West Tisbury annual town meeting. —Eunki Seonwoo

The annual town meeting season is upon the Vineyard, and there are three towns that will be congregating townspeople to cast their votes. 

Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and West Tisbury will all be holding their annual town meetings on Tuesday, April 9. 

Each town will be dealing with warrant articles that can bring changes to their residents, from a party bylaw in Edgartown, the creation of several controversial overlay districts in Oak Bluffs, and requiring new standards for environmental building codes in West Tisbury. 

Additionally, all three towns are looking at significant budget increases, all three over 7 percent. 

Edgartown and Oak Bluffs will also be asking voters whether ballot questions should be added for the upcoming annual town election, including the addition of overrides to cover for large spending.

Edgartown is looking to assess an additional $1.55 million in real estate and personal property taxes to purchase 167 Main Street, the former headquarters of the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank — what the town proposes using as employee housing. Oak Bluffs is requesting $4.795 million to repair its harbor jetties. All three towns’ elections are scheduled for Thursday, April 11. 

Additionally, Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury are both considering changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Meanwhile, all while all three towns are looking at warrant articles relating to short-term rentals. 

Edgartown and West Tisbury both have short-term rental bylaws — proposed by citizen’s petition and by the towns respectively — to codify the towns’ short-term rental market process. However, a Massachusetts Land Court decision recently filed against the Nantucket zoning board of appeals brings into question how Vineyard towns should move forward.

On the other hand, Oak Bluffs won’t be facing the same short-term rental dilemma as the other two towns. Oak Bluffs is looking to appropriate $50,000 in free cash to enter into a joint contract, on a 50/50 basis, with Tisbury to potentially launch a joint venture to develop a short-term rental database, inspection program, and “other joint opportunities relating to the administration of [short-term rental] units.” 

A closer dive into each town meeting:

 

Edgartown 

Edgartown will be holding both its annual and special town meetings at Old Whaling Church. The meetings are scheduled to start at 7 pm.

Among the nearly 100 warrant articles up for a vote, likely the most publicized is a proposed bylaw that could bring some changes to Edgartown’s social scene is what has been dubbed the “party bylaw.” The proposed bylaw would limit the number of social events homeowners can host to two per week and five per month with up to 50 people in attendance. 

The bylaw was prompted by a string of private gatherings held at a residential property that generated numerous complaints over the past summer. Edgartown residents, at least publicly, have voiced support for the bylaw

The town is also looking at several zoning bylaw amendments, like adding a bylaw to regulate timeshares and restricting allowance of oversized detached accessory dwelling units. Additionally, petitioners are proposing a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers in Edgartown. 

There will also be numerous spending requests on the warrant. Among them, the largest is a request to appropriate over $1.1 million to repair damages caused by winter storms. Voters will also be asked to agree to spend $130,000 to reline or replace a sewer line that runs under Edgartown Town Hall. 

Edgartown is proposing a $45.976 million budget for fiscal year 2025. That is a nearly 8-percent increase from the $43.2 million current budget. 

However, the town is proposing a five percent cost of living adjustment at town meeting for the fiscal year 2025 budget; that would bring the total up to $46.524 million. 

Besides personnel and departmental expense increases, Edgartown officials state that severe beach damages from winter storms, debt services, and upticks in school budgets are all leading to a larger budget.

For those wishing to attend Edgartown town meeting who require special assistance or have accessibility requests, contact the Edgartown select board’s office at selectboard@edgartown-ma.us or 508-627-6180. The meeting will also be broadcast live, for which the Zoom link can be found on the town website. Additionally, warrant articles are available here

 

Oak Bluffs

Oak Bluffs will be holding its annual and special town meetings at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) Performing Arts Center at 7 pm. 

Oak Bluffs voters will be looking at a total of 73 articles. 

One of the most controversial is among a set of zoning warrant articles from the Oak Bluffs planning board. The board proposed implementing new light industrial/mixed use overlay districts and professional services overlay districts to address a lack of space for commercial entities in Oak Bluffs. 

However, the proposal has sparked an ongoing heated debate between contractors — who say these are a necessary update for commercial and safety concerns — and opponents who say the overlay districts aren’t being proposed in appropriate areas. Some Islanders have been concerned that the districts would be disruptive to residential neighborhoods. The article will need a two-thirds majority vote to pass. 

Among petition articles, one that could bring changes to downtown Oak Bluffs is a proposal to allow a marijuana dispensary in the B-1 commercial district.

Spending requests make up the lion’s share of Oak Bluffs’ warrant articles, and wastewater is a big hitter this year. The town hopes to appropriate up to $1.6 million to enhance the current sewage treatment facility. Oak Bluffs voters had approved $26 million during the 2022 annual town meeting for upgrades. Both are part of the town’s comprehensive wastewater management plan, a decades-long initiative in the works to reduce the amount of nitrogen in ponds. 

Meanwhile, Oak Bluffs is looking at a proposed $40.314 million budget for fiscal year 2025. That is an over 9 percent increase from the fiscal year 2024 budget of $36.852 million. Contributors to the increase include cost of living adjustments, shared services like emergency management, and education expenses. 

For those who require special assistance or have accessibility requests, contact the Oak Bluffs select board’s office at 508-693-3554 extension 115. A Zoom link for closed captioning is also available upon request for those who may be hard of hearing. The warrant articles are available here

 

West Tisbury

West Tisbury will be holding its annual town meeting at the West Tisbury School at 6 pm. 

Voters will be looking at a range of issues with 45 warrant articles, one of which could bring changes to the town’s building code. 

A proposed bylaw would switch the town’s energy code from a stretch code to what is called a specialized code. The change would require new buildings to be more energy efficient than what is allowed under current building codes. This warrant article would also enable financial incentives for builders and developers. This article follows all Vineyard towns in 2021 passing a non-binding resolution to transition to an all-electric power supply from renewable resources by 2040.

Aquinnah is currently the sole town to use the specialized code. The code requires all new homes under 4,000 square feet which are at least partially powered by fossil fuels, to use at least four kilowatts of solar energy, and be wired to be converted into an electric-powered home in the future. New homes over 4,000 square feet at least partially powered by fossil fuels also need to be wired for conversion to be electric-powered and use an amount of solar energy that achieves net-zero carbon emissions. The specialized code also has specific requirements for offices, schools, hospitals and other building types, such as requiring that at least 20 percent of parking spaces be wired for electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, West Tisbury is requesting appropriate $1.8 million to upgrade West Tisbury Public Library’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This includes removing failed components and installing new ones. The funding would also help pay for upgrades to the library’s generator and other related repairs to the building and grounds.

The project’s cost has become a topic of contention, as an initial estimate for the project put costs at just over $1 million. The $1.8 million is in addition to the previously approved $1.2 million for the project at last year’s annual town meeting.

West Tisbury is also looking at a nearly 8-percent budget increase in fiscal year 2025. The proposed budget is $25.614 million, up from the current budget of $23.747 million. While the majority of the towns’ expenses saw an increase, the Up-Island Regional School District saw an especially large increase; West Tisbury’s share is increasing by $1.28 million. 

For those who require special assistance or have accessibility requests, contact the West Tisbury select board’s office at 508-696-0102 or townadmin@westtisbury-ma.gov. Warrant articles are available here

 

Daniel Greenman contributed to this story.

5 COMMENTS

  1. This is the time for everyone to go and vote your opinions instead of going on social media. Remember it’s OK to vote NO. It is always the safest vote if you are worried about your taxes. These budgets are truly insane when you think Edgartown has a population of 5200 people and it takes $46 million to run it. Also, would not surprise me if every one of the departments in the town feels like they’re not getting enough money and want more. Not sure our finance departments know how to use the word NO either.

  2. Remember it’s OK to vote YES. If you are worried about quality and quantity of municipal services.
    Edgartown has an average daily population ~22,000 and it takes only $46 million to run it.
    Our “finance departments” are a advisory in nature. We the “yeararound” people will decide how much we will spend.
    The way to bring your taxes down is to convince your friends an neighbors to take action, how is that working?
    $46 million is too much? How much should it be? Should all the departments have across the board cuts? Do you have department by department recommended cuts?

    Easy to complain, leadership is more challenging.

  3. With 13 zoning article changes in Edgartown warrant you have to wonder what the people in the know are up to. All of it is very confusing and do not understand why it needs to be so complicated. It seems they want to regulate parties at your house, cutting down your trees, renting your house, adding a guesthouse, a detached bedroom, they are not asking for too much control over our lives. And of course, if you want to do any of those things you need to pay the town as the town is hungry for money. They always need more money as one of the articles just made it easier for town employees to get vacation time, sick time and personal days. No one will stand up to vote no against that.

    • Edgartown has one of the lowest property taxes in the state. Quit your whining. We live in a beautiful community with good schools, services and quality of life. Regulating guest houses and bedrooms is because smaller lots can only handle so much wastewater. Making sure that residential neighborhoods can enjoy their properties without corporate entities using homes for commercial parties is for the benefit of the neighbors. Why do you see boogeymen around every corner? Paranoia and conspiracies run deep with right-wingers.

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