The picket fence around the West Tisbury Cemetery will remain wooden for now, after the historic district commission asked the town select board not to replace rotten pickets with new ones made of plastic.

Previous requests to use materials such as PVC or AZEK have caused concern on the commission, with members worried about setting a precedent of allowing such materials in the historic district. In March, the commission retroactively approved PVC siding at Alley’s General Store, after Vineyard Preservation Trust installed it without consulting the commission.

“We’ve been wrestling with this problem for about six months now,” said commission member Charles Kernick, at a meeting on Monday. “It’s a door that, once opened, it can’t be closed.”

At Monday’s meeting, town administrator Jennifer Rand presented a select board plan to replace deteriorating wooden pickets along State Road. The board was asking to install new AZEK pickets, she said, in the hopes of keeping down future maintenance costs.

“Maintenance of a painted picket fence is expensive, to say the least,” she said. “It is not respectful to leave [the fence] the way it is.”

The fence as it stands was constructed around 20 years ago, Ms. Rand said, with pickets made by the late select board member and builder John Early. “There will be no more of these pickets, ever,” she said. “This would have been a very expensive fence when it was done, had John Early not donated all his time.”

When the town first looked to replace the entire cemetery fence in 2014, Ms. Rand said, a bid for the work came in at $100,000, while costs to replace just the State Road section were either $48,000 or $56,000, depending on materials.

The commission did not take up any vote on the use of AZEK for the project, but instead voted to allow the select board to replace the pickets with unpainted wood, in a similar style to portions of the cemetery not facing State Road.
“We understand the utility and why people want to go to [AZEK],” Mr. Kernick said. “That’s the last way we want to go.”

Commission member Nancy Dole added that the artificial materials do not fit with the town’s character.

“I don’t think unpainted PVC is going to look like anything but unpainted PVC,” she said.

Select board member Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter said the board will consider wood options at its meeting next week.