The future of the much-debated Mill Pond, a large budget hike and funding for a variety of regional projects top the warrant when West Tisbury voters gather for their annual town meeting on Tuesday.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. At the West Tisbury School. Moderator F. Patrick Gregory will preside over the 43-article warrant.
Mr. Gregory said he anticipates “terrific discussion” over the dredging of the Mill Pond question.
“That’s the one that is probably going to take a little more talk than some of the others,” he said. “I’ll make sure that both sides get a chance to express themselves. It’s been argued before and people have heard the arguments so we’ll make sure that people have a chance to make those arguments.”
The topic of what to do about the Mill Pond, if anything, has been before voters for several years. On Tuesday, voters will be asked to approve $30,0000 in Community Preservation Act monies to fund the design and permitting of a dredging project. They will also be asked to spend an additional $15,000 for a comprehensive study of the Mill Brook watershed. The town approved $15,000 for that study last year.
Situated at the entrance to the village, the pond was originally created for powering wool and grist mills nearby. But in recent years concern has grown that the pond is getting smaller and choked by plant material. The town-appointed Mill Pond committee wants to dredge the pond to remove sediment and vegetation, but others believe removing the dam or doing nothing at all are the best options.
The watershed study is preparatory to dredging.
But before they take up the Mill Pond questions again, voters will act on a $15.8 million budget, up 7.3 per cent or $1 million over last year. The budget includes a 1.5 per cent cost of living adjustment for town employees. Town accountant Bruce Stone said the increases can be largely tracked to increases in the up-Island regional school budget, higher operating expenses for the West Tisbury Library and debt service.
The town’s school assessment is up nine per cent this year due to increased enrollment and special needs education costs for total of $6.4 million. Debt service is up 32 per cent due to three capital projects now entering long-term bonding, Mr. Stone said, for a total of $1 million. Capital expenditures included money for town roads, the new police station and new town library.
Mr. Stone called the increase in debt service a “one year blip.”
The library budget is up 31 per cent from $454,000 to $595,000. The new $6.2 million town library opened its doors to the community three weeks ago. A new assistant librarian position is being added into the budget that had been vacant for several years, Mr. Stone said. Voters will also be asked to approve an additional $40,000 to close out the new building project.
A separate article on the town warrant seeks voter permission to take $435,000 from free cash to apply to next year’s tax rate, Mr. Stone said.
“The budget is still a high number,” he said. “We projected it was going to be a bad year because of the timing of the debt, but the up-Island district budget made it even worse.”
There are a number of Community Preservation Act requests, including $81,000 to help fund the relocation and restoration of the Gay Head Light. All six towns are being asked to contribute to the lighthouse project.
Other CPA articles include $30,000 for maintenance work on the Old Mill building, $12,000 to renovate the town ball field at the West Tisbury School and $25,000 to fund the second phase of the Martha’s Vineyard Little League’s new Penn Field in Oak Bluffs, and $13,000 to help pay the administrative costs for ACE MV, the Island’s adult education program.
If voters agree, $75,000 in CPA monies will go toward a new fence at the West Tisbury cemetery on State Road. The 1,500-foot-long white picket fence has fallen into disrepair in recent years.
Two affordable housing projects, one in West Tisbury and one in Vineyard Haven, are set to come before voters. Voters will be asked to approve $50,000 in CPA funds for predevelopment costs for a new affordable housing project on Edgartown-West Tisbury Road. The project consists of two rental duplexes on town-owned land behind the fire station.
Voters will be asked to contribute $65,000 to the Island Housing Trust to pay for the purchase and renovation of an affordable rental apartment building in Vineyard Haven. One of the six apartments would be given to residents who work in West Tisbury.
Voters will be asked to spend $5,000 for a new sidewalk in front of the Alley’s General Store parking lot. Town administrator Jennifer Rand said the town is interested in moving the crosswalk away from the library and closer to the Howes House entrance.
A new solar bylaw will come before voters aimed at regulating solar arrays in residential areas.
“The planning board has worked a lot to balance the goals for advancing more alternative powers with permitting solar panels with the desire to keep rural character of West Tisbury,” planning board member Bea Phear said. “This is an opportunity to make those exceptions tolerable to the town and neighbors.”
Voters will also be asked to approve a series of zoning bylaw amendments, most of them housekeeping and clarifying definitions. If voters agree, language will be inserted into the bylaw for exceptions to lot frontage and setback requirements. Zoning board of appeals chairman Tucker Hubbell said the language was in the town bylaw from 1972 until 2000, when the bylaws were rewritten, after which the wording was taken out.
The language allows the board of appeals to grant a special permit for a new structure that does not meet the setback minimum. The board has previously been approving variances, which involve more difficult guidelines.
“It’s putting back something that worked great,” Mr. Hubbell said.
In other business, the moderator said he received a request for a resolution to the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station debate. The question appears on the Oak Bluffs town warrant as well.
Mr. Gregory said he anticipated a smooth evening.
“Tradition is to get it completed in one night,” he said. “It should be a quiet and quick meeting.”
There is one question on the annual town election ballot. Voters will be asked to make the elected treasurer an appointed position. Last year, voters at the annual town meeting approved a warrant article that called for the change and approval is contingent on the ballot question. The West Tisbury treasurer is the last elected treasurer on the Island.
The annual town election is Thursday; polling hours are from noon to 8 p.m. in the public safety building. There are no contests on the ballot and the appointed town treasurer is the lone question. Selectman Richard Knabel is running for re-election.