For the second time in this pandemic year, West Tisbury voters trekked to Oak Bluffs Tuesday to do their town’s business under the metal roof of the Trinity Park Tabernacle, strongly backing an ambitious climate change initiative and taking the first steps toward building a shared-use bike path along Old County Road.

Ron Dagostino spoke out strongly in support of nonbinding climate action article. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Town moderator Dan Waters led the proceedings, smoothly taking 114 voters through the special town meeting warrant of 30 articles that were postponed from the annual town meeting held at the Tabernacle in June.

A ripple of applause followed a report on West Tisbury’s finances by town accountant Bruce Stone, who told the meeting that despite the pandemic, this year’s taxes have been collected at a rate of 99.5 per cent.

“Only about half a per cent of our tax levy is unaccounted for,” Mr. Stone said. “That’s about $80,000, which is very similar to a normal year.”

Voters should expect the tax levy to increase by 2.5 per cent if they approved every article on the warrant, Mr. Stone said.

Over the next 90 minutes, voters did exactly that, passing all 30 articles. A full half of the votes, cast by displaying a pinkish card, were unanimous, including a nonbinding referendum aimed at reducing the town’s reliance on fossil fuels to 0 per cent by 2040.

With the vote, West Tisbury became the first Island town to approve the referendum, which was advanced by the six town energy committees last year. The referendum also asks towns to adopt regenerative agriculture and landscaping and to protect wetland and woodland resources.

“The way to combat climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels and to stop emitting carbon into the atmosphere,” voter Ron D’Agostino said.

Voters also unanimously embraced an article calling for the voluntary elimination of polystyrene.

Even articles that saw disagreement still carried with overwhelming majorities, including a pair of items opening the way to building a shared-use path along Old County Road.

The first article, asking to designate the roadside land for recreational use, sparked lengthy discussion as residents spoke for and against the long-term proposal to add a roadside path for non-motorized travel.

Opponent Julie Robinson said an additional path was unnecessary. “I think the state forest bike path is a really good bike path and I think that is where we should put any money, into improving that and letting people know where it is,” she said.

Annual business of the town was conducted beneath the roof of the Tabernacle in this pandemic year. — Mark Alan Lovewell

But others rose to differ, saying West Tisbury needs safer routes for non-motorists.

“I ride here year round,” Ron Rosenbaum said. “I know I’m taking my life in my hands. I have a light on the back of my bike with a video camera in it, so my wife will know who killed me.”

Kate Warner said she sees people riding bikes on town sidewalks because they are afraid of the road.

“The bicyclists will run a pedestrian off the path because they don’t want to get on the road, because the traffic is moving too fast,” she said.

Tony Omer, a member of the town’s Complete Streets committee, also voiced support for the two articles, the second of which appropriates community preservation funds for an engineering study into the feasibility of the proposed path.

“I would like to see West Tisbury stand up and take a position and help create a bicycle and walking friendly way to traverse the Island,” Mr. Omer said, drawing some applause. “That’s what this is all about.”

The first article, redesignating the land, passed 86 to 1 and the request for community preservation funds received unanimous support.

Voters also quickly approved a three per cent local sales tax on recreational marijuana, and formally renamed the dog officer animal control officer.

A $19,000 spending request to install a second blinking radar speed sign in the school zone of the north side of Old County Road also was approved.