Gathering in unprecedented times, Edgartown voters took their seats beneath two tents and breezed through a historic outdoor annual town meeting Saturday, quickly approving a complex land deal involving the Boys and Girls Club, sending a controversial VTA project back for further review, amending multiple town bylaws and postponing a proposed plastic bottle ban.

The town meeting, normally held on a brisk April night in the hallowed Whaling Church, was pared down, delayed and moved outdoors this year due to the pandemic, with quorum requirements lowered and strict social distancing protocols enacted.

But any quorum concerns were largely for naught, as 210 enthusiastic, curious and masked voters turned out to the lawn of the Edgartown School on a breezy, bright June day, approving a $39.4 million operating budget and numerous other spending articles in two hours flat. And while the pomp and pews of the Whaling Church were replaced with tents and folding chairs, the town made sure the meeting retained its usual gravitas.

Kristy Rose, assistant to the selectmen, embodied the spirit of the day, greeting voters with a sparkling red, white and blue parasol. As a long line formed outside the tents, voters filled every socially-distant six-foot seat inside, turning the town meeting into a bustling, standing room-only affair. Town leaders had only set up 197 chairs in preparation for Saturday. They were happy to bring in more.

“We hit our actual quorum,” moderator Sean Murphy said as the meeting began, referencing the town’s normal 200-voter requirement. “It’s quite a testament to the town that so many people showed up.”

Poet laureate Steve Ewing began the meeting with a few lines of verse, marking the historic occasion and moment with a poem entitled Pandemic, Prejudice and the Pagoda Tree. The poem described how an ancient Pagoda Tree in town continued to grow, through a century of world wars, assassinations and hurricanes — and that it continues to grow today, despite unprecedented events.

“And like corona took our breath / gave us masks and separateness / this knee and virus finally / made us realize what we truly need / A global shift is due indeed” Mr. Ewing recited. “And Pagoda surely grew.”

Voters then sped through the first seven articles of the warrant with no deliberation, approving a complicated memorandum of understanding between the town and Boys and Girls Club that essentially swaps land with the club for valuable town easements. The club has signed a purchase and sale agreement with the Norton Family to buy a 21-acre parcel off the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road for a new facility.

According to the MOU, the town will pay the club $650,000 to buy a 4.67-acre parcel with rights to further land purchases in exchange for access through the property to town roads. The measure is still subject to approval at the ballot box next Thursday.

Other measures, like $100,000 for a fire pumper truck and an extension of the town’s wetland protection bylaw that will allow the town full jurisdiction over proposed undersea wind farm cables, were approved as well.

But the meeting slowed when debate began over a plan by the Vineyard Transit Authority plan to install an electric charging station at its Church Street hub and expand the station.

The article, submitted as a petition by critics of the plan, asked the town to adopt a nonbinding referendum to reconsider and support a full review of the project. A recent study by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission determined that the project would not cause any increase in traffic at the site, but noted that the site did receive substantial bus traffic already.

Critics of the project spoke passionately on the lawn Saturday, describing a cacophony of noises and clatter from the bus station that threatened the quiet character of the Edgartown historic district. Jane Chittick, a leading critic, showed charts and recited statistics suggesting the chargers were unnecessary. Sara Piazza, also an outspoken critic, described the VTA as “out of control” and the new buses as “disgrace,” requesting the transit authority reconfigure its bus route.

“We are concerned about the whole town. Its historic character that is under threat,” Ms, Piazza said. “This needs to be managed in a much more creative way.”

Others spoke in favor of the project, including Edward (Terry) Dangle and Julia Tarka, a businesswoman and member of the town board of trade, who read a statement. Both said changing the bus routes would threaten the business community.

In the end the article was narrowly approved 96-83.

The meeting then continued with few snags, as voters raced to approve dozens of spending articles, including $75,000 for a park on the Yellow House property, $50,000 for improvements to the town hall, $25,000 for beach nourishment at Bend in the Road, $200,000 for improvements at Memorial Wharf, $98,000 to restore the historic Cooke House and $3,500 to restore a historic ox cart owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society.

Voters also agreed to transfer $350,000 from free cash into the stabilization fund.

The budget, trimmed back by $1.7 million due to the pandemic, was approved with little fuss as well, although resident Kat Monterosso suggested further inquiry into town police salaries considering the moment surrounding police violence nationwide, which was met with a smattering of boos and applause by voters.

“I do think it is important we start examining why we are spending $3.2 million on police salaries alone, for a largely peaceful town,” Ms. Monterosso said. “I believe Edgartown should be part of the national discussion on defunding the police.”

Police chief Bruce McNamee offered Ms. Monterosso his card after the budget was approved.

As the meeting came to a close, voters postponed a proposed bylaw that would have banned the sale of plastic bottles in town.

The article, proposed by a group of Island middle school students, passed last year in all the up-Island towns. But Edgartown voters were unpersuaded that this was the year to ban plastic bottles given the burdens on businesses. After brief discussion, the article was defeated 98-83.

A package of three petitioned articles asking the town to take streets in an Ocean Heights neighborhood by eminent domain were indefinitely postponed, after town counsel Ron Rappaport said they were not submitted in accordance with state laws. The articles were submitted by Benjamin Hall Jr., who felt the town had neglected the roads.

In another petitioned article, voters agreed to amend a town bylaw to further limit construction noise downtown on weekends and holidays. Petitioner James Joyce said that early morning and late evening construction noise had long bothered year-round and summer residents downtown. The measure passed unanimously, prohibiting non-municipal downtown construction noise between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekends and holidays. Routine homeowner building projects will be exempt.

Voters agreed to lower the speed limit on certain town roads from 30 to 25 miles per hour.

And then they speedily wrapped up the meeting.

The undisputed hero of the day was town administrator James Hagerty, who has spent months trimming the budget, paring down the warrant and organizing the outdoor town meeting. Fire chief Alex Schaeffer presented Mr. Hagerty with a commendation and certificate, thanking him for his service to the town, and naming him among the town’s short list of “exceptional incumbent” town administrators.

“The list . . . has continued to James Hagerty,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “It is because of his leadership, guidance and fortitude that we are all able to be here today, to practice democracy within our town as it has been done for so many years.”

More pictures.