Massive Warrant for Annual Meeting Confronts Edgartown Voters Tuesday


Edgartown voters will face 70 articles - dense with pages worth of zoning regulation proposals - at their annual town meeting Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Old Whaling Church.

Voters will be asked to approve an $18 million budget - up six and a half per cent from the current fiscal year - and to approve Proposition 2 1/2 budget overrides which would fund some $300,000 in town paving projects, a planning project report for the library, a new dump truck for the highway department and a number of shellfish programs.

Aside from the typical town housekeeping, voters will be asked to adopt a number of zoning and wetland protection regulations for Chappaquiddick - proposals developed after the Martha's Vineyard Commission designated the island as a district of critical planning concern (DCPC) last June. The Edgartown ponds advisory committee also proposed four new regulations for the Edgartown Ponds district, designated as a DCPC 12 years ago. In addition, voters will review three town-wide zoning ordinances.

After nine months of intense working groups and discussions, the Edgartown planning board and the Edgartown conservation commission submitted five regulations for Chappaquiddick to be considered by Edgartown voters.

Edgartown residents can decide to establish a five-member Chappaquiddick affordable housing committee to work in conjunction with the Edgartown resident homesite committee and other Island affordable housing groups. The DCPC designation for Chappaquiddick stipulates the town must ensure future affordable housing there.

Another article, submitted by the Edgartown conservation commission, recommends extending the jurisdiction of the town wetlands protection bylaw from 200 feet to 300 feet inland from coastal wetlands, coastal banks, beaches, dunes, flats, fisheries or shellfish habitats on Chappaquiddick.

The Edgartown conservation commission also submitted an article which would limit lawn sizes to 2,500 square feet in areas protected by the wetland bylaw on Chappaquiddick. In addition, application of synthetic products such as herbicides and insecticides and ground irrigation would be prohibited. Exterior lighting would be limited to fixtures required by the state building code. Landscape plans must be reviewed and approved by the conservation commission, and a 25-foot natural vegetative buffer must be maintained between the development and resource area.

The planning board submitted an article that would limit house foundation size on Chappaquiddick to the greater of 2,000 square feet or 10 per cent of the lot size, not exceeding 3,500 square feet. The building coverage would include accessory structures as well as the primary building.

Town voters submitted a petitioned article which would allow voters to approve a foundation size limit of 4,000 square feet on Chappaquiddick, regardless of lot size.

Voters can choose to continue limiting development on Chappaquiddick by adopting a two-year building cap - limiting the number of permits to six each year with an additional two for first-time home owners who plan to make their full-time residence on Chappaquiddick. The cap would be effective when the one-year building moratorium expires in June. Exceptions would apply to affordable housing projects, applications being processed before the moratorium began and applicants making specified conservation restrictions on the property.

Voters will also consider a townwide building cap petitioned by Edgartown residents. The cap would limit building permits to 85 each year for the next two years. The zoning inspector is expected to establish a system under which the Chappaquiddick and the town-wide building cap could work in conjunction if both are adopted by voters next Tuesday.

Another Chappaquiddick-related article seeks to repeal entirely the commission's designation of the island as a DCPC. In addition, another proposal asks residents to "vote to repeal any rule, regulation or bylaw promulgated or adopted by the Martha's Vineyard Commission, without the vote of voters of the Town of Edgartown for the ‘Chappaquiddick Island District.' " Yet another petitioned article asks the town highway superintendent to use available funds to widen Chappaquiddick Road by six feet for its entire length within the limits of the town jurisdiction.

A townwide zoning article seeks to redefine "detached bedrooms" in Edgartown as either a freestanding structure or bedroom over a uninhabitable accessory structure that includes only bedroom(s) and bathroom(s) and is limited to one sink, one toilet, one bathtub or shower. The bedroom must be limited to 400 square feet, and no stove, refrigerator, sitting rooms, entrance alcoves or hallways may be built in the detached bedroom.

A staff housing article would allow Edgartown employers to apply for a special permit to establish apartments for employees in any town zoning district. The structure must not disrupt the appearance of the neighborhood. The housing can be no more than eight units, and each unit will be limited to 4,500 square feet. A manager must remain on site, and the apartments can house employees only during their time of employment. Lighting, parking and traffic patterns will also be limited.

The planning board submitted an article providing for "demolition delay," a measure to encourage the recycling of houses slated for demolition. If this rule is adopted, a property owner would be granted a permit to tear down a house only after the structure is first offered to the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority for affordable housing. The permit will be granted only if the housing authority turns down the house or does not remove it within 60 days or if the condition of the house makes demolition necessary.

The Edgartown ponds advisory committee submitted a proposal prohibiting two-stroke boat engines in the Edgartown ponds district. Another article prohibits the use of synthetic products such as fertilizers, extending through the inland zone, 700 feet from mean high water. These products were formerly limited only within 300 feet of the pond.

Voters will also be asked to limit house height and size on the borders of Edgartown ponds. The ponds advisory committee proposes limiting house height to 21 feet for pitched roofs and 13 feet for flat roofs in zones extending 300 feet from the water. Residents will also consider a regulation that limits house size to 5,000 square feet within 300 feet of the pond edge. A special permit would be required to exceed these limits.

Voters will also be asked to appropriate $8,517 to the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority to help cover administrative costs. The allocation will only be effective if every Island town contributes its designated share. This is the first year of a five-year phasing in period for towns to help cover the $150,000 administrative budget of the regional housing authority.

Another affordable housing article - found on every town's warrant this spring - allows voters to petition the state legislature to let the Island towns and the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority establish deed restrictions that can designate properties as affordable housing in perpetuity. The petition also asks the legislature to raise the standard for "middle income persons and households" from 80 per cent of the county's median income to 150 per cent of the median income as stipulated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. For a family of three, $79,500 would be 150 per cent of the Dukes County median income.

A number of town departments have submitted a wish list in the form of articles on the town warrant. The police department asks to replace a new cruiser for $30,000. The shellfish department needs a fiberglass boat at a cost of $5,250. The harbor master asks for $20,000 to maintain town docks, floats and walkways.

While the 2003 proposed budget increased six and a half percent over the previous year, the property tax rate is expected to decrease from $5.14 per $1,000 of assessed value to $4. State contributions are expected to drop 10 per cent in the 2003 fiscal year, but Edgartown town administrator Peter Bettencourt said the town budget is designed to absorb the shortfall.

The town's election ballot offers three contested races for seats on town boards.

Jay Guest is challenging incumbent James Carter for the wastewater treatment commission. Robert Burnham will run against incumbent Peter Clough for a seat on the board of assessors. Four Edgartown residents face off for two openings on the financial advisory committee. Incumbent Donna Lowell-Bettencourt, Joel Deroche, Robert Kagan and Morton Fearey will vie for two of the spots.

The following candidates are uncontested: William Elbow for board of health, Margaret Serpa for board of selectmen, Jonathan Searle for constable, Philip Norton Jr. for moderator, Jane Varkonda for park commission, Alan Wilson for planning board, Gail Leighton Palacios for school committee, Joan Thompson and Kenneth Southworth for library trustee and Robert Burnham for water commission.

Edgartown polls will be open at town hall on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.