Meeting over two nights this week, Tisbury voters approved a $23.1 million operating budget and set the stage for a general override question at the town election in 10 days.
The $1.3 million general override is the first in Tisbury in 20 years, as the town faces the need to erase a $1.1 million budget deficit.
The town meeting opened Tuesday night with a special warrant followed by the 35-article annual warrant, and concluded the following night. A total of 187 voters turned out on Tuesday and a smaller gathering of 132 voters convened at the meeting on Wednesday.
Among the principal topics for discussion were a long list of zoning bylaw changes, including one that will allow the town to regulate marijuana dispensaries, and spending on Community Preservation Act projects. Moderator Deborah Medders presided over both nights with her trademark system of not following the warrant articles in order but drawing them at random from a pitcher.
On Tuesday town Boy Scouts led the Pledge of Allegiance, which was followed by a salute to longtime town clerk Marion Mudge, who is retiring after 30 years on the job.
“Our town is blessed with employees who are cornerstones of our community,” selectman Tristan Israel said. “[Marion] always is pleasant, she is not afraid to tell people what she thinks . . . she is very fair.”
Ms. Mudge received a rousing standing ovation from the crowd, as well as a visit onstage from her four-year-old grandson, Jack Scarbrough of West Tisbury.
A moment of silence was held in remembrance of four former town officials: Henry Burt, Carl Cron, James Gaffney and James Gillis.
Zoning bylaw changes dominated the special warrant.
Voters approved two amendments creating a definition and a zoning protocol for registered medical marijuana dispensaries in town. As proposed by the town planning board, dispensaries can only be established in the B-2 zoning district.
“It’s a matter of state law that the towns cannot pass anything to prohibit a dispensary,” planning board cochairman Tony Peak said. “The one thing that we are adding is locations in town where these businesses might be established.”
But another amendment to the bylaw regulating so-called deep lots — those large enough to contain up to two additional lots — was turned down. Another bylaw change for the town R3A district was tabled.
Voters spent some time discussing a proposed update to the town noise bylaw. An amendment proposed by the police department would impose a $100 fine for the first noise violation — defined as being “plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet” from the source — between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. An earlier version of the bylaw allowed for a maximum fine of $50 per offense.
Some voters took issue with the 50-foot limitation, calling it an infringement on personal rights, but others cited the closeness of buildings in subdivisions and the downtown area. Additional amendments to increase the distance to 75 feet and impose only a warning for first offense were voted down, and in the end the change as proposed was approved.
An Islandwide board of health initiative to regulate fertilizer use through a district of critical planning concern passed unanimously and drew applause. Tisbury board of health member Michael Loberg described the plan as “a vision of what it means to be sustainable on this Island.”
On Wednesday night voters spent an hour deliberating over a list of Community Preservation Act projects, ultimately approving all but one of 18 proposed items. A $15,000 proposal to help fund the Tashmoo Overlook View restoration project was narrowly defeated. The overlook view has been a source of contention for years, as a portion of the land in the viewshed is privately owned. A total of $592,500 in CPA funding was dispersed among the other 17 items, which included four affordable housing projects. Funding also went to restoring the Grace Church bell tower, and the roof and chimneys of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. Other projects include shelving and archiving historic town records and repairs to the Katharine Cornell Theatre. A request for $50,000 to fund an effort to move the Gay Head Light saw debate after Mr. Israel proposed an amendment to reduce the funding to $15,000. Mr. Israel said that while he loved the lighthouse he was uncomfortable with the large amount being given to a regional project when local projects could use more funding. Members of the Save the Gay Head Light committee appeared at the meeting to urge voters to keep the funding intact.
“We want everybody to feel that the Gay Head Light is not just Aquinnah’s,” said committee chairman Len Butler. “It’s part of the shared maritime heritage of the Island.”
Voter Rachel Orr also spoke to the heritage of the lighthouse, pointing out that the deed for its creation was signed by President John Adams. Seeing the deed in the registry is “a thrill to my heart,” she said.
The amendment was defeated and the funding was not cut.
Capital expenditures approved included $350,000 for new public works equipment and $167,300 for projects at the library and Tisbury School. Voters agreed to buy two vehicles, one for the harbor master and one for town officials to use for business travel off-Island.
They also agreed to spend $60,000 to improve a parking lot across from the Tisbury School, but tabled a $15,000 item to conduct similar improvements at a town-owned lot at the old fire station space on Beach street. Len Morris made the motion, saying he wished to see more options for how the space could be used, particularly ones that created open space. Voters agreed, 87-19.
A pilot program to use shellfish in Lagoon Pond as a nitrogen reduction strategy was approved, and voters agreed to pay a share of administrative costs for Adult Community Education programs. They also approved payroll increases for the ambulance department, repairs for the Tisbury senior center roof and chimney, $5,000 to study creating a town department of natural resources, $125,000 to launch a new payment system at the park and ride lot, and $40,000 to finance a personnel wage study for union and managerial employees.
“With the unions, we’ve been promising to do this for a long time and it’s good if the town can keep its word on that issue,” Mr. Israel said.
A total of $237,135 in ferry embarkation fee revenues was dispersed with no discussion.
Next up for Tisbury voters is the town election on May 13. In addition to the general override question, a new name will appear on the ballot in the slot for selectman. Melinda Loberg is running without contest to fill the seat that will be left vacant by Jeffrey Kristal, who decided not to seek re-election this year. A meet-the-candidate event will be held at the Tisbury senior center next Thursday at 1 p.m. There is a contest for town clerk: Hilary Conklin and Barbara Lampson are running to fill the seat being vacated by Ms. Mudge.