Aquinnah voters debated a 32-article warrant Tuesday, approving new environmental regulations, money for emergency repairs to town buildings and an increase in the short-term rental tax that could bring in as much an additional $250,000 in revenue for the town.

Town moderator Michael Hebert led the three-and-a-half-hour meeting in Aquinnah town hall, marshaling nearly 100 voters through the warrant.

The most controversial item occurred early in the night, as residents narrowly voted to reject the town’s share of the regional high school’s operating budget in protest of the school’s ongoing litigation with the town of Oak Bluffs over a proposed artificial turf field. Being the third Island town to amend its portion to zero, the budget could not pass overall, and the school district will need to come up with an entirely new budget to present to the towns. The motion passed 50 to 47.

With the high school out of the way, Aquinnah voters moved on to town business.

Town administrator Jeffrey Madison had previously warned residents of the urgent repairs needed to town buildings. Town hall, the police station and the fire station, which reportedly has a raccoon that had taken up residence there, all need work. The article to allot $250,000 to emergency repairs passed 82 to 5 without discussion.

Climate and energy committee chair William Lake introduced two articles intended to strengthen the town’s environmental building regulations. The first, a proposal to adopt a state-issued model rule to ensure the town’s participation in an all-electric pilot program, received some pushback from residents who felt the rule put undue burden on homeowners.

Aquinnah is one of 10 municipalities participating in a state all-electric pilot program, which would ban fossil fuels in all new construction. The model rule does not affect existing buildings, and the only distinction between the state-issued rule and regulations that had passed at town meeting last year is that the state rule prohibits gas stoves. Previously, Aquinnah had written in an exemption for indoor cooking.

“This is part of a wave that is going around the country today,” Mr. Lake said.

He pointed out that the state of New York had just issued a statewide ban on gas stoves, citing both health risks and environmental concerns.

Several residents took issue with what they saw as an infringement on their individual rights. One resident, Jamie O’Brien, felt that the effects of climate change were being exaggerated by town officials and international climate experts.

“What is being asked for you to give up your right for how you build your home and cook your food,” Mr. O’Brien said.

Members of the energy committee spoke in support of the model rule, adding that new state and federal incentives aim to make it easier and cheaper for homeowners to build greener.

“This is an opportunity for us as a small, amazing town to be on the cutting edge,” energy committee member Noli Taylor said. 

The model rule passed 56 to 33 with one abstention, enabling Aquinnah to move forward with the all-electric pilot program.

The town also passed a new specialized code requiring new construction to be more energy efficient. The state department of energy resources had previously recommended that towns in the all-electric program also adopt this code, a stricter version of the stretch building codes all six Island towns have already adopted.

In a phone call to the Gazette Wednesday morning, Mr. Lake said he hadn’t expected either article to be so controversial.

“This was basically confirming what we had already passed last year,” he said of the model rule article. “But it just reopened the whole thing.”

Aquinnah voters also approved a proposal to raise their short-term rental tax rate from 4 per cent to 6 per cent, the maximum rate permitted by the state. Aquinnah now joins Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury in charging the 6 per cent tax rate.

Short-term rental host Elaine Vogel-Vanderhoop made an unsuccessful attempt to postpone the increase indefinitely, claiming the increase would adversely affect tourism.

The original article had also proposed a 2.5 per cent administrative fee with the tax hike, not currently issued by the state. Resident Jim Wallin moved to remove the fee due to widespread confusion around its purpose; the motion passed 65 to 5.

The overall tax increase passed 59 to 5, after residents and town officials alike argued that the increase would bring a significant windfall to the often cash-strapped town. Select board member Tom Murphy said the increase could bring in roughly a quarter of a million dollars.

Despite the spirited discussion, all articles ended up passing aside from the high school’s budget. Nearly half of the night’s initial crowd had peeled off by the time the meeting adjourned at 10:52 p.m.