In nine years’ experience running Tisbury town meeting, moderator Deborah Medders has noticed one type of warrant article which really gets people going is proposed changes to zoning bylaws. And so it was again this week.
The Tisbury special town meeting on Tuesday went pretty smoothly for the most part, until it came to two arcane, and, it must be said — for many people at the meeting said it — hard-to-comprehend proposed changes to zoning regulations.
Certainly, there was a fairly extended discussion of one or two other items: one formalizing a committee to consider how to spend revenue from the town ferry embarkation fee, another granting an easement for a communications company, a third relating to membership of a new Cape and Vineyard electric cooperative.
In the end, however, they all passed comfortably or unanimously.
It was when the planning board attempted to get agreement to reworked by-laws relating to “attached” and “detached” structures that things got complicated.
The first, submitted by building and zoning inspector Kenneth Barwick seemed simple, on the face of it. It sought, originally, to insert these words: “A detached accessory use or structure shall not contain any plumbing or plumbing fixtures.”
But the town’s finance and advisory committee did not like it. By a vote of 7-0, the committee voted not to recommend passage of the article, out of concern the measure, intended to stop people turning sheds into de facto habitation, could have unintended consequence preventing people installing a tap and hose on the side of their shed.
So, it was amended to add three words: “within the structure.”
Not good enough, as a succession of speakers from the floor made clear. What about people who used their sheds as workshops? How would they clean up glue residues? What about artists, who wanted to clean their brushes in their studios, and not have to go out into the winter snows to use an outside tap?
Why, asked Howard Miller, an attorney, if they wanted to make a by-law to prevent people living in their sheds, did they not approach it more directly and just say “no habitation.”
And so it went for quite some time until selectman Tristan Israel moved they simply “take no action” and pass over the article and move on.
The next article up for consideration was a proposal to grant an easement on town land to Global Protection Communications Systems, LLC, to construct a building on public works department land, to serve as a hub for its planned fiber-optics network to serve the Island.
The proposal attracted a lot of questions, but was generally well-received, although someone wanted to know how big the building would be.
Twenty-five by 35 feet, he was told.
“And there’s no plumbing,” shouted someone up the back, which brought the house down. The article passed with just one “nay” vote.
One unanimously agreed article — granting tax exemptions to real estate owned by veterans’ organizations — later, and it was back to zoning by-laws, and an even tougher time for Mr. Barwick.
This time, it was his proposed new definition of what constituted an “attached” structure. It bears repeating: “The physical/structural connection by which one thing is attached to another, as to the arrangement and interrelation of all the parts of the horizontal projection of the building’s uninterrupted structural floor system(s), wall systems(s), roof system(s) and mechanical systems(s).”
Despite Mr. Barwick’s lengthy attempts to explain what this meant, and despite attempts to help him by L. Anthony Peak of the planning board, this form of words remained incomprehensible to most. Eventually there was a motion to take no action, which ended in a standing vote, which passed 71-48.
On the upside for Mr. Barwick and the planning board, the motion to take no action means they can rework the idea and come back with it. A no vote would have meant the matter could not come up again for two years. Apparently, people endorsed the intent of the by-laws; they just wanted them to be clear and concise.
Otherwise, all the warrant items sailed through, with a measure of constructive debate, but little real disagreement.
Tisbury will have an embarkation fees advisory committee; its selectmen are empowered to negotiate terms and conditions for membership of the electric cooperative; and recalcitrant dog owners will find their registration fees increase $5 for every month they are late.
The design for the new playground for Tashmoo Park was approved, and the finance and advisory committee will be reduced by two members to 11.
The new fish committee is approved, new bonds okayed to be secured, and the homeowner abutting Owen Park will have the perpetual easement needed to put in a new septic system.
It was all easy for everyone — except the planning board.