Chilmark voters joined their peers in Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown and West Tisbury by supporting a housing bank.
At Monday night’s town hall, voters approved the voice voting article, after extensive debate. The question will also be on the city’s ballot on Wednesday. Three towns – Oak Bluffs, Edgartown and West Tisbury – have also supported the housing bank issue at the polls. (Tisbury’s election is Tuesday, May 24. The Aquinnah town assembly and municipal elections are also held in May.)
In Chilmark, the questions focused on the impact the housing bank would have on Chapter 40B projects, as well as whether the residency requirement was enforceable. City attorney Ronald Rappaport told voters there might be a residency preference for housing assistance, but not a requirement. An unidentified voter said he believed the housing bank was “diametrically opposed” to the Land Bank’s goals and that it would drive up house prices.
The housing bank would be funded by a 2% transfer fee imposed on the buyer of a property sold for more than $1 million. So a property sold for $1.2 million would be charged a fee on the $200,000, under housing bank legislation.
This is a third attempt by a housing bank on Martha’s Vineyard. This iteration was launched 18 months ago by a coalition of island leaders seeking to help the island’s housing crisis. The Coalition Steering Committee to create the MV Housing Bank was co-chaired by Julie Fay, former Executive Director of Community Services at Martha’s Vineyard, and Arielle Faria, current Edgartown Affordable Housing Committee Administrator and resident of Scott’s Grove New Apartments. in West Tisbury.
The coalition has sought to build support by engaging board members early in the process and by hosting forums over the past year. Meanwhile, the island’s housing crisis has only gotten worse – exacerbated by the proliferation of short-term rentals and a housing market so hot it has driven the median price of housing from 800,000 $1.2 million as people sought refuge from the current crisis. pandemic on the island.
In other cases, Chilmark voters approved $52,000 for a hybrid SUV for the Chilmark Police Department. Some voters tried unsuccessfully to postpone the article.
A $9,000 drone has been approved for the Chilmark Fire Department, and $30,000 will be spent repairing the police station roof and steeple.
For Menemsha, $90,000 has been approved to repair and upgrade the toilet block. Concerns have been raised by voters about nitrogen emissions from toilets. Board member Bill Rossi called the work a “stop-gap measure.”
Voters backed $250,000 for the first phase of a public works garage.
Meanwhile, voters have approved an article that will change the Treasurer’s position from elected to appointed. He still has to be approved at the polls on Wednesday.
Passionate remarks have been raised not only for the housing bank, but for a proposed affordable housing development at Peaked Hill Pastures – a concept that would see 10 rental units, two ‘turnkey’ owner units and two residential ‘u -build” made.
As Peaked Hill Pastures was under deliberation, Dr Aletheia Donahue, internist at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, shed light on an essential worker crisis in medicine on the island and pleaded for more rental units , as opposed to construction sites.
“We have two nurses in my primary care section retiring in a month,” Dr. Donahue said. “I know two nurses who leave the island because they can’t find a home. Young professionals like them are not ready to build a house here. They need to have rents so that we can support these kind of employees. And if we don’t have health care, we don’t have community here, because we can’t cultivate it.
After a lengthy discussion that included a few unsuccessful attempts to edit the article, voters approved the Peaked Hill Pastures concept.
When voters were asked if they would support $86,503 for a Chilmark School generator, Zoning Appeal Board member Chris Murphy asked why the school needed a generator and pleaded for a no.
“If the school needs a generator, it means that the whole town has no electricity and there will be no school. So it doesn’t really make sense to spend so much money on something that has monthly maintenance costs of about a hundred dollars just for gas that it uses to turn on and off once a week .
Up-Island school board member Robert Lionette had an opposing view. “I think this is a vital step,” Lionette said.
Lionette pointed out that the electricity had been cut several times over the winter and that the school had no running water. He also said that the generator will support the new HVAC system.
The point was adopted by majority.
Communication center issue explored
When a $32,822 item was filed to fund the Dukes County Communications Center, former Chilmark Police Chief Tim Rich asked the finance committee to explain why he split the article.
Vicki Divoll, a member of the finance committee, said the sheriff’s department gets its money from the state and mostly grants. However, under a municipal agreement between the six vineyard towns and the sheriff’s department, the costs of maintaining emergency communications and dispatch services are split six ways.
“When we dug into that budget this year, the total sum requested from all cities was $281,695, of which $32,822 is Chilmark’s share.” Divoll explained each of the six municipal portions and this is based on a formula of 50% being ⅙ for each city and 50% being based on call volume. Divoll said after the finance committee reviewed the aggregate numbers, “we’ve determined – and I don’t think there’s much disagreement on this – that $40,000 of the sum is in fact not maintenance, and are more likely characterized as operating or capital, and our agreement was to pay maintenance not operating and capital.
Divoll alleged that the reason for the $40,000 was that “the system doesn’t provide good coverage in Edgartown”. Divoll said the poor coverage was due to the city’s topography and lack of a tower, and the sheriff’s office had to rent a “redundant system” for the Edgartown area from Comcast.
“The system isn’t working as it should and the coverage isn’t secure,” Divoll said. “First responders are not able to communicate adequately with each other or with [the] shipping center.
Divoll said a temporary fix could come where an antenna is mounted on the Dukes County Jail.
Divoll said the $40,000 should be an annual cost that some members of the finance committee say shouldn’t be paid by the city – “we shouldn’t be paying for something we haven’t agreed to pay “.
Despite reservations from some members of the finance committee, Divoll said the committee did not recommend a no vote.
Dukes County Sheriff’s Department Captain Anthony Gould provided some insight into the coverage issue. “There’s a particular problem downtown,” Gould said. “There is no broader public safety concern with the communications system at Edgartown.” Gould said the sheriff’s department tried to put communications equipment on the water tower, tried to negotiate with Verizon to “collocate” on their tower, and tried to work with Edgartown to build a tower at the landfill. from the city.
“All of those efforts failed,” Gould said. Instead, Gould said, the department “colocated” on the “Chappy West Tower.” This, he said, “provided sufficient cover” to move on to a new system.
Gould described the $40,000 figure as “Comcast’s trunk rental costs.” He said the silver provides redundancy that supports uninterrupted emergency communications to Chilmark through a type of communications loop.
“Now we don’t intend to continue with these long-term costs,” Gould said. “It is a personal project of mine to establish a municipal fiber optic network on Martha’s Vineyard that is funded from our municipal budgets instead of a warrant item and lease cost that we pay to Comcast. But that still leaves us where we are today. We need this redundancy.
In the end, voters passed the article by a majority.
The meeting began on a solemn note with City Moderator Janet Weidner reflecting on her recently deceased predecessor, the legendary Everett Poole. After a moment of silence for Poole, Board Chairman Jim Malkin shared some brief memories of Poole.
Malkin said that when he was first elected to the board and asked Poole for advice for the annual municipal meeting, Poole said to him: “Well the first thing you need to know is c is that it’s a meeting on par,” Malkin said. “I said, What’s a tie meeting? He said, You’re wearing a tie.
Malkin said Poole also told him after the annual municipal meeting that Poole traditionally retired to his living room “and ate a liter of ice cream” because he thought it was good for his throat.
Malkin told Weidner, “Janet, I hope you like ice cream.”
“Yes, thank you,” Weidner said.
Updated to include more details.