The four big Island towns will for the first time allocate millions of dollars in community preservation funds at their annual town meetings this year, with recommended projects ranging from installing Edgartown street-style lanterns to a revolving loan program to help Oak Bluffs families install denitrifying septic systems.
The projects are many and varied, but the decisions made by the respective committees reflect something about the characters of their communities and exactly what it is they believe needs preservation.
Edgartown's recommendations come down heavily in favor of historic preservation, with an eye to tourism. Vineyard Haven's are slanted to affordable housing and facilities for year-round residents. Oak Bluffs projects are diverse, with an eye to the environment. And West Tisbury, with rural prudence, determined to put most of its money away for future needs.
The Community Preservation Act raises funds for affordable housing, open space and historic preservation through a three per cent property tax surcharge and matching state funds. By law, 10 per cent of the funds must be spent on each of those three categories, but that still leaves significant money available to fund projects within a range of loosely defined criteria.
Aquinnah and Chilmark adopted the act in 2001 but the other four Island towns only enacted the program in 2005, meaning this will be the first year that Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury have deliberated on what community preservation means in their towns.
Tisbury recommended the allocation of some 52 per cent of its $530,000 community preservation money to affordable housing projects, and it could have been more, had the chairman of that town's committee, Robert Wheeler, had his way.
"The committee knocked back an approach from Edgartown to put $100,000 into its Jenney Lane affordable housing project," he said. "The quid pro quo was that one of the units would have been for a Tisbury resident." He continued:
"I'm copresident of the Island Affordable Housing Fund, which is doing the project, and I feel very strongly that when it comes to housing we should take an Islandwide view because it is an Islandwide problem. We can't afford to be parochial. We can spend money across town lines. But the strong feeling we got from townspeople is that we should spend the money in town."
None of the other towns joined Edgartown in the Jenney Lane proposal either.
Apart from affordable housing, the other big ticket item on the Vineyard Haven list is $175,000 to go toward the preservation of the old Tashmoo spring building.
Edgartown, by contrast, earmarked 61 per cent of its $1.04 million for historic preservation projects. Recommendations include $250,000 for the restoration of the Edgartown Lighthouse, $235,000 to restore historic North Water street, with the installation of brick sidewalks and what are termed Edgartown street-style lanterns and lampposts.
Another $50,000 is recommended for constructing a wooden walkway to the lighthouse, although the committee classified this as spending on open space.
The other major items are $150,000 under the historic preservation classification for restoration work on the old Edgartown school, and $400,000 for the Jenny Lane project.
Edgartown denied no proposals, although some had to be pruned after the committee found it had initially overspent its budget by almost $139,000.
West Tisbury faced something of a dearth of projects, with the result that projects to go before the town meeting total only about $135,000. The major project is a plan to build a path beside the roadway on Old County Road, at a cost of $80,000.
Committee cochairman Caroline Locke said the town will have plenty of money salted away for the future.
"I think we'll have about $800,000," she said. "There certainly weren't a lot of applications this year, but I know there is going to be potentially a big housing project coming up in the next year.
"And I might add, future projects on the horizon include the funding for either a new town hall or a town hall renovation," she said, adding:
"I think demand is going to get greater each year. It's taken us a long time to get an understanding of the rules."
As befits the most diverse among Island communities, the recommendations coming out of the Oak Bluffs committee cover a wider range of projects than any of the other towns.
There is $226,000 for affordable housing, $200,000 for renovations and upgrades at the Veira Park Little League field, $140,000 for restoration of the East Chop lighthouse, and $50,000 for planning, surveying and permitting new fencing along Seaview avenue. The Oak Bluffs committee also recommends smaller sums for a park restoration, a rental conversion program, and a program to help town residents install denitrifying septic systems.
A complete list of Community Preservation Committee recommendations follows.
Edgartown: Jenny Way project, $300,000; Edgartown Lighthouse, $250,000; North Water street restoration, $235,000; Old Edgartown School, $135,000; lighthouse walkway, $50,000; village green, $15,000; swing set and fountain, $15,000; rental conversion, $30,000.
Oak Bluffs: town affordable housing committee, $226,000; Veira Park project, $200,000; East Chop Light, $140,000; Seaview avenue fence $50,000; Hartford Park, $30,000; rental conversion, $24,000; denitrifying septic system program, $20,000; invasive species mapping system, $10,000.
Tisbury: Tashmoo Spring building, $175,000; State Road affordable housing, $150,000; Frankin street affordable housing, $107,000; Vineyard Playhouse, $30,000; Tisbury Amphitheatre, $20,500; Habitat for Humanity, $19,600; Tashmoo Park, $10,320.
West Tisbury: paths project, $80,000; Sepiessa apartment expansion, $29,500; rental conversion, $18,000; town historic resource inventory, $5,700.
Aquinnah and Chilmark are on a different schedule and will not present recommendations to town meetings this spring.