Edgartown will double the size of its historic district, Tisbury will move ahead on allowing the sale of hard liquor in restaurants, and a bylaw banning single-use plastic bags will go into effect in at least three of the six Vineyard towns in the next two years. But a planned $2.5 million expansion of the regional refuse district’s central transfer station in Edgartown is on hold for now.

Sunset flooded Old Whaling Church with light as annual town meeting began. — Sara Brown

These are the highlights from annual town meetings in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury Tuesday night.

Voters in Tisbury will return for a second night on Wednesday; the other three towns finished their meetings.

It has been a year of few hot-button issues, but in one surprise, Edgartown voters killed a $2.5 million expansion project at the regional refuse district by turning down what was expected to be a routine re-vote of an article from last year. At special and annual town meetings in 2015, voters in four towns had easily approved the 20-year borrowing initiative to expand the central transfer station.

In Edgartown, where taxpayers would have shouldered nearly 70 per cent of the cost, the expansion had passed unanimously. Later, a technical problem meant the article had to be revoted this year.

This time the outcome changed. Amid expressed concerns about size and specifics of the expansion plan, Edgartown voters defeated the article by indefinite postponement, 151-68.

Oak Bluffs voters gathered in the Performing Arts Center. — Steve Myrick

In other business, the first significant expansion of the downtown historic district since the 1980s was approved 169-48 after debate on both sides. A $33.5 million operating budget was also easily approved, as were $500,000 for structural repairs to Memorial Wharf, $775,000 to rebuild and resurface town streets and $350,000 for town hall improvements.

At the outset of the meeting longtime moderator Philip J. Norton Jr. arrived at the Old Whaling Church in a trench coat after a day of steady rain. But as the meeting began a sunset broke through clouds, casting pink light through the tall windows of the church.

Selectman Michael Donaroma began with a report about the new town library. “And on another quick note,” Mr. Donaroma said, “the old Carnegie library, soon to someday be the Carnegie Heritage Center, which will be full of Island history. Right now it’s full of our mail.”

In Tisbury the much-discussed plastic bag ban was approved after passionate debate on all sides. Proposed by the Vineyard Conservation Society, the plastic bag bylaw appears on all town warrants this year except Oak Bluffs.

Tisbury voters approved a bylaw banning single-use plastic bags after passionate debate. — Jeanna Shepard

Tisbury voter James Rogers called the bylaw draconian for businesses. But Nat Benjamin countered: “This is not a guarantee to purify the planet, but we all have to do our part and this is a small part.” The comment drew applause, and in the end the bylaw was approved. The bylaw also later passed muster in Edgartown and West Tisbury. In Edgartown an amendment was approved one allowing a waiver of the start date to Jan. 1, 2018 to give businesses time to adjust or get rid of existing stock.

Tisbury voters also said yes to the first step in expanding alcohol sales in restaurants to include hard liquor. The article was submitted by petition and drew debate on both sides.

On the sidelines of democracy in West Tisbury. — Peter Simon

Mary Kenworth, co-owner of Beach Road restaurant, spoke as a sponsor of the article, suggesting the change would help control over-consumption of alcohol, unlike the days of BYOB. But Peter Goodale took another view, noting that it had only been a few years since beer and wine sales had been approved in restaurants. “I’m worried restaurants are always pushing the limit for more and more,” he said.

In the end the question was approved 136-63. It now goes to the state legislature and will return for a second vote by the town.

An article aimed at eventually making the Tashmoo Overlook a public park was approved. A bylaw that would regulate houseboats and other so-called nontraditional vessels in town waters was also approved but first stirred debate.

”I’m really troubled by the language here. What is a traditional vessel?” said Phil Hale.”The Alabama? Shenandoah?” Selectman Tristan Israel replied: “This is about houseboats and floating workshops. No one is trying to regulate the Shenandoah.”

Town meeting fellowship in Tisbury. — Jeanna Shepard

Voters return at 7 p.m. Wednesday to complete much of the 44-article annual warrant, including the town budget and a feasibility study for building a new school.

In Oak Bluffs voters approved a $28.5 million town budget and a $1 million Community Preservation Act spending package that will pay for replacing lights along Sea View avenue with historically accurate lanterns, restoration of chairs and benches at Tabernacle, and affordable housing initiatives. Voters asked pointed questions about routine replacement of police cruisers and the use of free cash to fund town services. A zoning change to create a manufacturing and light manufacturing district in a downtown area was approved. After long debate, voters agreed to making Windemere Road near the hospital a town road. In the final article of the night, they agreed to spend $40,000 for a beach rake, over the objections of a number of town officials.

Edgartown voters stand to defeat refuse district expansion. — Sara Brown

In West Tisbury a $17.5 million town budget passed easily despite the position of the finance committee to not recommend passage this year. Finance committee chairman Kathryn Triantafillou cited a “growing and steady concern” about unfunded personnel liabilities that she said both the high school and up-Island school committees had failed to address repeatedly. But two members of the up-Island school committee pledged to make a habit of reviewing the excess and deficiency account at the end of each year and using surplus funds to help reduce the liability.

For the first time, the finance committee joined the selectmen on stage. “These folks work very hard throughout the year,” said town moderator Dan Waters. “They think a lot about how to spend the town’s money. I hope putting them on stage will encourage dialogue.”

Voters also said yes to spending $857,000 to build a new highway barn at the public safety complex in North Tisbury, and $160,000 for playground improvements at the town elementary school.

The meeting adjourned just after 10 p.m.

Sara Brown, Heather Hamacek, Steve Myrick and Jane Seagrave contributed reporting.

Home page photograph by Jeanna Shepard.