Seeking Islandwide support for the relocation of the historic Gay Head Light, the town of Aquinnah will ask the five other Vineyard towns to commit to spending Community Preservation Act money next year to help pay for the move.
The effort to solicit CPA money from all the Island towns is being organized by the Save the Gay Head Lighthouse committee, the group charged with planning the move and restoration of the lighthouse. The plan would seek a total of $500,000 in historic preservation funds from the six towns to help meet a $3 million fundraising goal. Each town will be asked to contribute 18 per cent of its total CPA budget in 2014, except the host town of Aquinnah which is expected to contribute a larger share.
Applications are now before community preservation committees in the six towns. If the committees approve, the request will come before voters at annual town meetings next spring.
In Chilmark, where the request surfaced at the selectmen’s meeting this week, voters would be asked to spend $51,800 on the lighthouse moving project. Contributions from the other towns would be as follows: $87,300 in West Tisbury, $148,300 in Edgartown, $111,600 in Oak Bluffs, $107,435 in Tisbury and $90,000 in Aquinnah.
Aquinnah has already spent $170,000 from CPA funds on the lighthouse over the past four years. Looking ahead, voters will be asked to contribute nearly 60 per cent of next year’s CPA budget to the lighthouse project.
The application to all six towns was made possible by a change in the Community Preservation Act last year. The change allows for projects that have a regional impact to be eligible for CPA funds. The change takes effect in 2014.
The Community Preservation Act allows towns in the commonwealth to raise funds for open space and recreation, affordable housing and historic preservation through a three per cent property tax surcharge. There are matching state funds. The law requires that 10 per cent of the funds must be spent on each of those three categories.
The Gay Head Light, which dates to 1856, now stands 46 feet from the edge of a rapidly eroding cliff and must be moved sometime in the next year. Experts in moving large buildings say a 30-foot buffer around the lighthouse is needed in order to complete the move.
The General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency that handles government real estate transfers, declared the lighthouse surplus property in August. The move triggered the transfer of ownership process and Aquinnah has applied for ownership of the light. The application period ended Sept. 30. The identity of the other applicants was expected to be revealed this week once the application period had closed, but that information was unavailable due to the temporary shutdown of the federal government.
Representatives from the GSA and National Park Service are scheduled to hold an open forum on Oct. 10 at the Aquinnah town hall. No information was available at press time about whether the meeting would be affected by the government shutdown.
Meanwhile, Aquinnah town administrator Adam Wilson said a draft application submitted to the Oak Bluffs CPC was met with enthusiasm.
“They acknowledged that the lighthouse is everyone’s lighthouse, it’s not just Aquinnah’s,” he said. Mr. Wilson is also a member of the Oak Bluffs CPC.
He said the change in rules at the state level came at the right time.
“That was a big bonus for us,” Mr. Wilson said.
On Tuesday the Chilmark selectmen endorsed the idea of contributing money to the lighthouse project, and also took note of the different nature of the request.
“This is a fundamental change that we’re receiving Islandwide requests rather than local requests,” said selectman and board chairman Warren Doty. “How we feel about that is a question.”
In other fundraising efforts for the Gay Head Light, a 10K race is scheduled for Sunday in Aquinnah. The race begins at the lighthouse and runs down State Road and up Moshup Trail. Some 200 runners are expected to participate; registration closes Saturday. For more information go to gayheadlight.org.
Meg Bodnar, chairman of the fundraising committee for the project, said the group hopes to raise $2 million from private donations, $500,000 in CPC money and the remaining from grants and events.
“We’re well on our way,” she said.