Chilmark selectmen are now rethinking the future of the house at Tea Lane Farm after voters rejected a second plan at a special town meeting on Monday. The plan would have have renovated the 18th century house at a cost of $550,000 to prepare it for leasing to a tenant farmer.
With little discussion voters defeated the article by indefinite postponement.
Former town treasurer Judy Jardin led the move.
“All of a sudden we’re being asked to spend money to renovate just the house that will only house one family and there’s still the barns which are in disrepair,” she said. “It’s almost impossible to think a farmer will be able to pay the rent we’re going to charge for that house and be able to manage a farm, which comes with no equipment . . . they’ll have to start from scratch.”
No one else spoke, moderator Everett Poole called for a vote and the article was defeated 48 to 15.
A total of 84 voters attended the meeting.
Selectman and board chairman Frank Fenner, who is also a member of the farmhouse committee, said yesterday he was frustrated at the outcome but that town leaders remain determined to see the project through.
“[The vote] happened so quickly by the time I was ready to say something [the moderator] was calling for a vote, it just was so quick,” Mr. Fenner said. “It’s probably better in the long run because town meeting is not a place to get into an argument.”
Mr. Fenner said the committee and selectmen will continue to explore various options, including leasing the house as it is on a long-term basis to someone who is willing to put the money into repairs.
The town and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank jointly purchased the farmhouse and surrounding land in 2001, with a life estate for Bobby Silva. The town bought the house, barns and three acres for $250,000, while the land bank bought the surrounding 48 acres of farmland. The property is situated at the corner of Middle Road and Tea Lane.
Mr. Silva died in February 2010 and a committee was formed to develop a plan for the house. A $300,000 plan presented at a special town meeting last fall was turned down; instead voters agreed to spend $30,000 to develop a more detailed plan.
That plan was defeated this week, and Chilmark selectmen and their committee will now return to the drawing board.
Mr. Fenner said the town is also seeking a legal opinion to further understand deed restrictions placed on the property at the time of purchase. Due to the restrictions the town could not sell the house without an act of the state legislature.
Mr. Fenner said he intends to return to voters with a new plan at the spring annual town meeting.
“We want to bring it back right away because the cost to repair [the farmhouse] is going to go up as material prices go up,” he said. “We’re not waiting around.”
Selectman Warren Doty said the message from voters is clear.
“I think it’s time to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan C, we need to move quickly on something that will work for Chilmark,” Mr. Doty said yesterday. Selectmen will discuss the next steps at their regular meeting on Tuesday.
In other special town meeting business, voters agreed to spend $5,000 to help pay for a study of Chilmark Pond in concert with the Chilmark Pond Association, but first there was heated debate over the wisdom of letting nature run its course versus intervention techniques such as dredging and other restoration measures.
The private pond association opens the pond to the ocean four times a year; the study is aimed at developing a management plan for the pond.
Chris Murphy spoke against the article.
“We’ve learned a lot about . . . wetlands, beaches erosion, what it tells us is keep your hands off unless you have a really good reason,” he said. “I think leaving Chilmark Pond alone is perhaps the most important thing we could do.”
But Mr. Fenner said the pond, which connects to Lucy Vincent Beach is an important town asset to protect and the study could prove useful.
Beach committee chairman Kristin Maloney said it is better to do a little than nothing at all.
“If there’s something we can do in the immediate future to help health of it to make it available to kids to swim in, we should do it. That beach is a huge asset to this town,” she said.
The article passed with little dissent.
Voters also approved several money transfers from warrant articles in previous years, including $29,000 to pay for bonding for the new Menemsha dock and $25,000 for landscaping at the Middle Line Road affordable housing site. Other spending articles that were approved included $5,000 to participate in a statewide upgrade of mapping and $2,700 for the town’s share of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s affordable housing needs assessment.
Voters also agreed to have the town join Edgartown, West Tisbury and Tisbury in becoming members of the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative.