A historic change is in the works for West Tisbury if voters approve the sale of beer and wine at town restaurants and inns at the annual town meeting on Tuesday night.
A petitioned article championed by the owners of State Road Restaurant, the Lambert’s Cove Inn and the Plane View calls for the sale of beer and wine at restaurants with a seating capacity of 50 or more patrons.
Selectmen have been receptive to the idea and even plan to amend the article to allow the town to grant special one-day beer and wine permits after a recent opinion from town counsel found that the sale of alcohol at familiar summertime fundraisers and political meet-and-greets fell outside the purview of a dry town. But one selectman has sounded a note of caution about the move.
“I’m nervous about opening this window because it changes the historic character of this community as long as I’ve known it,” Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter said at Wednesday’s selectmen’s meeting.
Even if the measure passes it could be as long as two years before the licenses are granted. The article petitions the state legislature for a home rule amendment to authorize a ballot question, which would then have to be approved by voters in 2012. After that, the town would have to devise license granting regulations and each prospective establishment would have to appear before selectmen for a public hearing to apply for a license.
The town meeting begins in the West Tisbury elementary school on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Voters will also be asked to render a judgment on the Community Preservation Act. In one article voters will be asked whether they would like to reduce their commitment to the program which tacks a three per cent surcharge on residents’ property taxes — and that the state has matched to a declining extent in recent years — to pay for open space, historic preservation and affordable housing projects. But in a series of other warrant articles voters will decide whether to make a five-year $685,000 commitment to purchase the Field Gallery and sculpture garden — a move that is dependent on maintaining the current levels of town CPA income. Last Wednesday selectmen signed the final purchase and sale agreement for the property. The deal would require the town to expend the full $275,000 balance of its CPA open space reserves, $40,000 in expected receipts from its 2012 open space fund, as well as $160,000 of borrowed money that the town would pay off with a further four years of expected open space money. In addition the town would borrow $175,000 that it would pay off through expected yearly revenues of around $35,000 a year from the lease of the Field Gallery.
Other articles ask voters to approve CPA spending to preserve the town’s historic property records, to fund affordable housing initiatives and to catalog and preserve the collections of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. The last project does not appear on all six town warrants, a fact that vexes Mr. Manter.
“I just don’t think it’s fair,” he said. “All the towns should kick in money.”
The town will also ask voters to approve a $13.7 million budget, up $552,950 or four per cent from last year. The largest single increase in the budget is in the town’s assessment for the up-Island regional school district, which is slated to jump $252,085 despite falling enrollment in the town. Assessments for Chilmark and Aquinnah have dropped this year despite the addition of a classroom at the Chilmark school, leading town officials to question the formula used to determine town assessments. The West Tisbury finance committee is expected to amend the budget on the town meeting floor by cutting the up-Island school district budget $233,250. West Tisbury town accountant Bruce Stone has estimated the move could save the town between $46,650 and $167,666.
Yesterday Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss said the proposed cuts would necessarily lead to a reduction in programs and services and that he expected Dan Cabot of the school district committee ro speak in opposition to the measure at town meeting.
The school district certified its $8.5 million budget in December, but if the West Tisbury budget amendment passes the district’s budget will be in limbo.
“There would be lots of alternatives,” said Mr. Weiss. “We could move forward with the same budget and persuade West Tisbury to change its mind, or towns would have to agree on a new budget and go back to a special town meeting to approve it.”
The warrant closes with three petitioned articles put forward by West Tisbury resident Nick van Nes which call for an investigation into 9/11, a reduction in military spending and a withdrawal from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“I explained to Mr. van Nes that town meeting time is valuable,” moderator Pat Gregory said at Wednesday’s selectmen’s meeting when he met with the board to review the warrant.
“I suspect he has a lot to say,” said selectman Richard Knabel.
Other warrant articles include a request to appropriate $30,700 from free cash to buy a new police vehicle, raise and reassign $152,500 to pay for the design and planning of a new police station, and appropriate $150,000 from free cash for the town’s involvement in the Dukes County Pooled Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) trust, which funds retirement benefits for town employees. Mr. Manter said that without the trust the long term health insurance obligations of the town represented “an unfunded liabilty.”
At the annual town election on Thursday voters will elect two West Tisbury finance committee members from a field of three candidates. Joseph K. Gervais, Gary Montrowl and Katherine Triantafillou will run for the two seats vacated by Al DeVito and Brian Athearn. Mr. Gervais and Ms. Triantafillou have been serving interim appointments on the committee since Mr. Athearn and Mr. DeVito stepped down earlier this year. Finance committee members serve three-year terms.
Three candidates also will vie for two library trustee spots, incumbent Linda M. Hearn, Alix deSeife Small and Gina Solon.
Polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. at the public safety building.