In a break with tradition, Tisbury will hold a special town meeting next Tuesday that will include over $450,000 in spending articles for town improvement projects, including road and sidewalk work, caterpillar spraying and historic building repairs.

Voters will take up the 22-article warrant in the Tisbury School gymnasium, where town moderator Deborah Medders will open the meeting at 7:30 p.m.

Tisbury ordinarily schedules a town meeting one week prior to the annual town meeting in April that is reserved for non-spending articles, but this year that meeting will be eliminated. At the special town meeting next week, voters will be asked to approve $250,000 toward improving and resurfacing the Water street parking lot - $150,000 of which would come from the embarkation fee fund that keeps a portion of ferry ticket sales. The rest would come from the unreserved fund balance, or "free cash."

The selectmen scheduled the special town meeting with this project in mind, intending to give themselves enough time to complete it by Memorial Day, but after a joint meeting with the board of public works commissioners this week, the boards agreed the project may have to be pushed to fall. The total budget for the project is roughly $400,000; Stop & Shop is also contributing money, since it shares the parking lot with the police department.

The Water street parking lot project was a point of contention at a special joint meeting of the board of selectmen and the board of public works commissioners on Tuesday night, as both boards made changes to the final plans for the project.

Financial committee member Donald H. Amaral questioned whether the selectmen were ready to ask voters for money when they were unsure how much the project would cost with the changes; the public works commissioners questioned whether the project could realistically be completed before Memorial Day, as the selectmen intended.

"We've gone a long way from resurfacing a parking lot that's in dire need of resurfacing," selectman Thomas Pachico said. The plans also include aesthetic landscaping and a new drainage system that would be expected to help reduce flooding at Five Corners intersection.

The commissioners also told the selectmen that public works director Fred LaPiana would not be available to oversee the project until the fall, since completing the Main street and Union street projects is his spring priority.

Town administrator John Bugbee concluded that he would put the project out to bid as soon as the corrections come back from the design firm, with the requirement that the project be completed before Memorial Day.

"If the bids are comparable to what the DPW can do it for, then we'll award the bid," Mr. Bugbee said. But if the bids are much higher, "we'll hold off until fall and the DPW would do it."

Next Tuesday, the selectmen will also ask voters to approve $25,000 from the unreserved fund balance for emergency repairs this fiscal year to stabilize the historic Tisbury Water Works pump station at Lake Tashmoo known as the Spring Building.

The other three spending articles come from the department of public works: $80,000 to finish up the two-year-long Main street project, replacing sidewalks and any peripheral lighting; $49,000 to install underground ductwork along the Water street parking lot and Cromwell Lane for future placement of electric, phone or cable wires; and $47,500 to spray town property for moths and caterpillars for the first time.

"Now it's at the point where we have to do something," Mr. LaPiana said of the caterpillar invasion the Island has faced in recent years. Mr. LaPiana said the town plans to use an insecticide called Conserve SC, made from bacteria, which he said would kill the caterpillars without doing environmental damage.

Voters also will consider:

* Accepting a new state law that allows people more than 60 years old to reduce their property tax bills by volunteering for the town. The compensation would not exceed the minimum wage, but the exchange would use pre-tax dollars and not require filing income taxes.

* Approving disposal of seven town vehicles - most from the 1980s - including a pumper truck and ambulance.

* Amending a coastal district zoning bylaw to close loopholes and make it more restrictive.

* Adopting a new state law that would allow town board members to vote on matters even if they are absent from a meeting, by reviewing audio or video recordings or a transcript of the missed session. The law has generated substantial confusion and distress from Island boards of selectmen. At a recent board of selectmen meeting, chairman Tristan Israel stated, "This is going to be a disaster."

* Re-electing longtime fish committee members Charles Conroy, Janet Messineo and Ronald Rose.

Tisbury voters will also consider two articles that were submitted by petition - both by a group of business owners in the Holmes Hole business park off State Road - to amend a zoning bylaw that prohibits businesses from posting signs on roads where they do not own frontage. The planning board supports passage of the article.

"What it means is Shirley's couldn't go down to Trip Barnes' place and say, ‘Shirleys Hardware: a quarter mile down the road,'" planning board chair L. Anthony Peak said. "Consequently, there's no way for [some businesses] to put up any kind of sign to direct people to their location."

The bylaw amendment would allow permitted businesses without frontage on State Road in Business District 2 - which runs along State Road - to apply for a special sign permit.

"The idea was to try to create a mechanism under which people could be given permits to make arrangements for non-appurtenant signs if there were no other option," Mr. Peak said. "As a matter of fairness, it doesn't really seem right for a town to set aside a district for business and then put obstacles in the way of allowing them to have a successful businesses."