The annual town meeting and election season came to a close this week as Aquinnah voters approved a major spending request for the relocation of the Gay Head Light and ushered in a new selectman for the next three years.
Julianne Vanderhoop unseated one-term selectman Beverly Wright 93-69 in the annual town election Wednesday.
“It’s a huge relief. I hope this moves us forward in a more positive and more energized and more together community,” Ms. Vanderhoop told the Gazette Wednesday night from the Orange Peel Bakery, which she owns. “I am so psyched. We’re having a big old party up here with live music going on and dancing and plenty of desserts.”
Ms. Wright served on the board for three years. She was previously the chairman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). She could not be reached for comment after the election.
Ms. Vanderhoop, who is also a tribal member, emphasized providing more opportunities for younger generations in town during her campaign. She is a member of the board of health and is a longtime member of the tribal education committee.
On Tuesday a total of 54 voters attended the annual town meeting, which was preceded by a special town meeting. Moderator Michael Hebert presided over the nearly four-hour session.
Followed by a standing ovation and praise for the Save the Gay Head Light Committee, voters approved spending $155,000 on the lighthouse relocation project. The request came in two parts: $120,000 will come from Community Preservation Act funds for moving the lighthouse and landscaping work, and $25,000 will come from free cash for fundraising and public relations materials. The lighthouse now stands 46 feet from the edge and must be moved by next year. The project won financial backing from every Island town this spring. “It is a beloved icon of every corner of this Island,” fundraising chairman Meg Bodnar told the town meeting.
A total of $1.2 million has been raised in public and private funds toward the $3 million project.
“Future generations will be able to enjoy this lighthouse thanks to the hard work of all the town committees,” said Len Butler, chairman of the building committee for the lighthouse effort.
“To have the support of other townsâ¨ . . . is unheard of in the state,” he said. “It’s just amazing for them to come to bat for us,” said town community preservation committee chairman Derrill Bazzy.
An amendment asking the town to return to voters before selecting a location for moving the lighthouse failed. The selectmen will now determine the best site after an extensive geological study is complete.
The spending articles for the lighthouse were unanimous.
In other business, voters approved a $3.9 million town operating budget for the coming fiscal year, up $57,000 or 1.5 per cent over last year. The budget includes a two per cent cost of living adjustment for town employees. All spending articles came from free cash this year. There was some discussion about legal expenses and an emergency fund for the financial committee. During discussion of the police budget, thequestion was debated of whether to mark the unmarked cruiser.
“It’s just not cool,” Wendy Swolinzky said. “Our police cars should be marked . . . it would be nice to spend the money in that category to mark the car.”
“Duly noted,” police chief Randhi Belain said.
Voters approved a zoning bylaw amendment to allow the planning board to grant special permits to modify or vary frontage requirements for some lots in town. The 200-foot frontage requirement is part of the townwide district of critical planning concern zoning rules. The change will allow nonconforming lots that existed prior to May 2011 to be open to a special permit process. Planning board chairman Peter Temple said the change will not open up land to more development but will be used as a tool to preserve rural character and public safety. “This keeps plenty of space between houses on a road and provides adequate roads to get access for emergency vehicles,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at lots in town; we do not think it will open up a lot of lots to development.”
Mr. Temple said the board estimated about 30 buildable lots would be affected by the change.
“They still have to come back and apply and go through the process, but we’re not going to deny them because of the lack of frontage,” he explained.
Voters agreed to join the other five Island towns in approving a set of rules to control fertilizer use through an Islandwide district of critical planning concern. “This vote will make it unanimous as another Islandwide initiative as we rally together to tell people what it means to live sustainably here,” said Michael Loberg, the Tisbury board of health chairman who spoke on behalf of the initiative.
Voters narrowly approved changing the town boundary line between Aquinnah and Chilmark along Menemsha Creek, with an amendment to ensure that Aquinnah would not lose any land in the shift.
The current town line goes through several commercial fishing shacks on the creek that are managed by the town, and the change will allow better management of the shacks by Chilmark and Aquinnah.
“I don’t think we should lose access to Menemsha Basin,” said Angela Waldron. “It was proposed by the town of Chilmark, which makes me question it in the first place. I’m thinking we should vote the whole thing down and come up with something with Chilmark again.”
The article was approved in a hand-counted vote, 21 to 19.
The article was one of the last of the evening, and as the hour approached 11 p.m., some voters said they wished more information was available before the meeting.
“We’re dying out here,” Mr. Bazzy said. “I love you all but this was a poorly-worded article. We had no idea what we’re voting on and no one explained it. This is a big thing. Yes, it’s a small property line but it’s a neighboring town and it’s important. This was a hard discussion that didn’t need to be. The process continues; please help us understand better. Like I said, I love you all.”
Chilmark voters approved the change at their annual town meeting in April. Approval is still needed from the state legislature and state department of transportation.
A request to change the name of State Road to South Road sparked much discussion, but was defeated in the end. State Road is legally recognized by the state as South Road, but voters were unpersuaded to make a formal change.
Ms. Waldron said attention must be paid to preserving the past in town.
“History and culture, that’s going bye-bye because we aren’t remembering who we are here,” she said.
With the peepers singing their evening song, the full moon guided voters back down State Road.
Elected without contest Wednesday were: Jane Lynch, library trustee, 141; Michael Stutz, board of assessors, 118; Sarah Saltonstall, board of health, 144; Carolyn Feltz, town clerk, 156 (top vote getter); Peter Temple, planning board, 123; Jim Wallin, planning board, 100.
A ballot question urging Gov. Deval Patrick to close the Plymouth Nuclear Power Plant passed 136-18.
A total of 163 out of 368 registered voters, about 44 per cent, turned out to vote. Town clerk Carolyn Feltz said the contested selectman’s race drew a high turnout for the smallest town on the Island.