The last annual town meeting of the year and two town elections top the political agenda on the Vineyard this week. Voters in Aquinnah convene their annual meeting Tuesday and head to the polls Wednesday. Tisbury voters go to the polls Tuesday to elect a new selectman and town clerk.
In Tisbury Melinda Loberg is running unopposed for selectman to fill the seat being left vacant by Jeffrey Kristal, who did not seek reelection. There is a race for town clerk, and Tuesday will mark the last day of work for outgoing longtime clerk Marion Mudge. Hillary Conklin and Barbara Lampson are vying for her seat in the only contested race on the ballot. In a key question on the ballot, Tisbury voters will be asked to approve a $1.3 million general override to balance the town budget. Polling takes place Tuesday at the emergency services building from noon to 8 p.m.
The relocation of the Gay Head Light has been the front-and-center issue all year in Aquinnah, where the effort to move the historic tower back from the edge of a rapidly eroding cliff has collected $1 million in public and private funding. On Tuesday night voters will be asked to add $155,000 to the growing coffer. A total of $3 million will be needed for the project that now has backing from every Island town.
Aquinnah voters will also be asked to approve a zoning bylaw amendment that will allow the planning board to grant special permits to modify or vary frontage requirements for some lots in town.
Frontage is the exterior boundary of the lot which lies along the boundary of a public or private way and which contains at least one vehicular access point, according to the proposed changes.
The entire town of Aquinnah became a district of critical planning concern in 1999, a special overlay planning process enacted through the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Since that year, the town has had a 200-foot frontage requirement, but it was not included in the townwide DCPC until 2011 and there was no grandfathering provision.
If the change is approved at town meeting this week, it would create a grandfathering provision for lots already in existence before May 10, 2011 and open them up for special permit review.
Many lots in Aquinnah are landlocked, so development has meant the informal proliferation of easements across abutting properties. “These roads were not necessarily maintained well, or designed to support more housing as they got longer and longer,” planning board chairman Peter Temple explained.
The amendments won the endorsement of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission last Thursday night; commissioner members agreed that the amendments conform to the guidelines under the DCPC.
Jo-Ann Taylor, a staff planner and DCPC coordinator for the commission, compared Aquinnah zoning to the “wild wild west.”
Mr. Temple said the zoning amendments are an attempt to bring some order to the land use planning process by helping to encourage the construction of formalized roads where appropriate. “We have ended up with a town with a lot of houses on what were originally single roads and these roads don’t have turnouts,” he said. “They’re not accessible for emergency vehicles.” He said they present a safety issue.
The changes will open up as many as 30 lots for special permit review, Mr. Temple said. The amendments may also allow for the development of affordable housing and the creation of more public space.
Special and annual town meetings get under way at 6:45 p.m. in the old town hall in Aquinnah. In the town election Wednesday selectman Beverly Wright is being challenged for her seat by Julianne Vanderhoop. Polls are open from noon to 7 p.m.
Olivia Hull contributed reporting.