Chilmark Casts Its Votes


In a meeting which ended minutes before midnight, Chilmark voters
gave the go-ahead to the library renovation and expansion project,
increased traffic control in Menemsha, and a slew of zoning bylaw

These decisions took place at the Monday evening annual town meeting
where 32 per cent of the town's registered voters - 243
people - filled the Chilmark Community Center to capacity.

It took close to five hours to review the 42 warrant articles and
the budget. The $4,270,991 budget passed with almost no discussion.

The evening opened with a special town meeting in which voters
overwhelmingly decided to buy a part of the Silva property on Middle

The town will purchase the 50-acre parcel with the Martha's
Vineyard Land Bank. The land bank will buy the bulk of the land, while
the town will spend $250,000 for the farmstead and three surrounding
acres. A life estate for the current resident, Bobby Silva, is built
into the agreement.

The bulk of the evening's discussion - well over an hour
- centered around the library expansion project.

While some voters debated the project, many appeared confused about
the exact meaning of the warrant article, which asked for permission to
allow the library to apply for and accept state funds, and also asked
voters "to approve the renovation and expansion."

"The public library today is a center of lifelong learning for
everyone in the community," said Norman Freed, chairman of the
library board of trustees. "We must provide access to the
expanding world of communication."

The expansion would more than double the size of the library by
adding a high-tech meeting room, increasing staff space and expanding
and relocating the children's area. Library officials hope a state
grant would fund up to 60 per cent of the $1.8 million project.

"We paid for the [1993 library addition] because the state
rejected our application for being too small to merit state
reimbursement," Susan Murphy said, speaking in support of the
project. "This is the heart and soul of where we live. It is very,
very important for all of you to think about."

Selectman Alex Preston was the first to oppose the expansion, noting
that he had reservations about the scale of the building and possible
hidden financial costs. "But I guess what's most important
to me . . . I believe we have a community center and to repeat it next
door is counterproductive," he said.

Others worried over the 7,200 square-foot-scale of the building.
"There's another issue for a lot of people who are sitting
here now and that is another large building in the center of
Chilmark," Rodney Bunker said. "I really think the town
should consider maybe making a smaller addition to the library."

His suggestion was met with scattered applause, but library
officials warned that voting down the article would do more than send
them back to the drawing board. "If you do not pass this, we
automatically will be disqualified from the grant," Mr. Freed

Others wondered whether the town had already approved the project.
At a special town meeting last September voters passed an article
"to support the library building committee's proposed scope
of the library renovation, increasing the square footage from 3,500 to
approximately 7,200."

"The thing that concerns me is what I'm referring to as
approval creep. In the special town meeting we supported the library.
Now we're being asked to approve the renovation and
expansion," Robert Deitz said.

Mr. Deitz offered an amendment to strike the words about approving
the project, leaving those that gave the trustees permission to apply
for and accept the grant.

But library officials assured voters that, amendment or not, this
wouldn't be the last time they brought the project to town meeting
floor. "We would be back, there's no way we won't be
back," said library director Catherine Thompson. "We
can't spend the money that belongs to the town without coming back
to you another day."

Mr. Deitz withdrew his amendment, drawing applause.

A secret ballot followed; voters approved the article 139 to 66.

Other discussion came over a plan to provide better traffic control
in Menemsha and keep the area clean.

Six separate articles dealt with these two issues, but most of the
discussion came over the first, which asked for $39,500 to pay for
cleaning services and trash pickup. Tim Carroll, the executive
secretary, immediately offered an amendment, which eventually passed, to
use some of these funds to post better signs in Menemsha.

While no one spoke against providing better services in the area,
some voters wondered if the article asked for too large a sum or if some
of the money had already been appropriated in the budget. "I do
think this number could be reduced somewhat," said Chilmark
treasurer Judith M. Jardin. "I have that double-billing kind of

Mr. Carroll noted that money which had been appropriated in the
budget for cleaning services would also fund maintenance at Lucy Vincent
Beach and Squibnocket.

"Alex has worked hard on the idea that we need to do a much
better job of cleaning Menemsha," said selectman Warren Doty.
"This is not just going down and emptying a dumpster . . .
sometimes there are as many as 200 people an hour that use the

Mr. Doty did offer an amendment to reduce the amount to $35,000. The
amendment eventually failed.

Before the article came to a vote, Jay John Lagemann suggested
another change. "I think that we should reserve at least a quarter
of these parking places for Chilmark residents," he said,
eventually proposing an amendment.

"Menemsha is very crowded; we have to work on developing
places for parking. We have to emphasize public transportation,"
Mr. Doty said. "But we have several areas in Chilmark that are
only open to Chilmark residents and I think it's nice that we have
one area that's open to the public."

"Twenty-five per cent is 25 per cent. It's not like
everything," Mr. Lagemann replied. "Nobody's saying
you can't go to Menemsha, it's just giving Chilmark
residents a little bit of a chance to go to Menemsha beach."

Others argued that this change would lead to policing problems and
complicated sticker programs. "There are so many issues speaking
against this that if we really want to do it it's going to require
more study," said Chilmark resident Mary Murphy Boyd.

Mr. Lagemann withdrew his amendment but it came to a vote anyway
since the person who had seconded it would not withdraw their second.
The amendment failed, but the article passed.

Voters quickly passed the five remaining Menemsha-related articles,
which will pay for two additional traffic officers during the summer and
also begin a towing program.

In other business, voters agreed to put $25,000 into the
stabilization fund to be used to replace fire engines. They also gave
the fire department $200,000 to replace its Brushbreaker.

Voters also passed a slew of zoning articles that, among other
things, will allow people to rent guest houses to Islanders who qualify
for affordable housing. Other zoning changes will ensure that porches
covered by roofs count in the total size of dwellings and that special
permits will only be issued for structures which don't burden the
water supply of the area.

Citizens defeated a zoning bylaw revision which dealt with
construction. As it is now, the bylaw requires home owners to obtain
permission from abutters, if they plan to build a structure within 100
feet of the abutter's property. The proposed revision would have
eliminated this requirement.

"It has worked perfectly well since 1976. I don't see
why we need to change now," said building inspector Leonard Jason

An article that would have curbed construction of fixed piers in
Menemsha, Nashaquitsa and Stonewall Ponds was postponed indefinitely at
the request of its petitioners.

Voters also approved funds to pay for someone to proof the town
zoning bylaws against those that had been enacted at town meetings. They
amended the article to increase the funds by almost $3,000, pushing them
up to $6,000 to hire two people to complete the job.

In other business, voters also appropriated the following funds:

* $34,031.14 from State-Aid highways to repair town roads.

* $13,000 to buy photocopiers for the town hall.

* $31,500 to paint town buildings including the Coast Guard
Station, the Cross Road Fire Station and the bell tower of the old

* $3,500 for Chilmark's share of the Island skate park.

* $26,000 for a new police sedan.