Edgartown residents weighed in on an 11-article special town meeting and a 99-article town meeting Tuesday evening, gathering at the Old Whaling Church and led by moderator Steve Ewing.

Voters passed the proposed budget of $46.5 million with relative ease, including big ticket items such as $1.5 million to buy the former Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank headquarters on Upper Main street, potentially for affordable housing, and another seeking $4.8 million to repair an aging septage main along Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.

They pushed back on a proposed party bylaw that would limit people to having no more than two parties a month with more than 50 people, nor host five large events per year without town approval. The issue elicited much discussion on both sides but in the end the bylaw was postponed indefinitely. A bylaw to ban leaf blowers was rejected in a close vote. 

Town moderator Steve Ewing looks out at the packed town meeting crowd. — Maria Thibodeau

Mr. Ewing opened the meeting at 7:13 p.m. and was still looking fresh in a blue suit and crisp white shirt when he adjourned it more than five hours later. 

The evening began with a Pledge of Allegiance and then the special town meeting moved quickly with each article passing with ease, save one that would shift the access road during construction of the new Boys & Girls Club. Members of the Edgartown Croquet Club pushed back on the article saying the road would destroy the croquet court located next to the Edgartown tennis courts. 

Joan Collins gave an impassioned speech on behalf of the club, saying that “with the age of our members, trying to go that long, we don’t know if we will be around by the time they rebuild the field.”

In the end, the article to create the new access road passed with a two-thirds majority.

Following the special town meeting, Mr. Ewing, also the town poet laureate, read a poem for the occasion that was both an ode to the past and a recurring question to what comes next after a period of so much change.

“Where will we walk when the beaches are gone?” he asked.

Many of the articles moved quickly with voters unanimously approving spending matters large and small, including $75,000 for the July 4th fireworks display and $20,000 for integrated pest management. 

“The rats carry it,” Mr. Ewing said. 

Voters did press the town on what it planned to do with the land bank building if purchased, to which town administrator James Hagerty replied: “Not build a McMansion like next to the Mobile station.”

Voters approved $1 million to help replenish South Beach. — Maria Thibodeau

Mr. Hagerty went on to explain that the overall intent of the purchase was to keep it from being transformed into a large home, and instead be used by the town for affordable housing or an extension of town hall.

Voters also approved $1.1 million to restore the South Beach area, and increased the short term rental tax from 4 to 6 per cent, moving it in line with the majority of other Island towns.   

The proposed party bylaw, which had been debated for months, drew much discussion.

Jane Bradbury called for an amendment to the article which proposed no more than two parties of 50 people a month, down to one a month.

“Call me antisocial but I can’t imagine having over 50 people twice a month,” she said.

The amendment passed and then debate continued about the article. 

Joe Smith noted he had been living in town for 50 years.

“I think this has good ideas to it but I think a lot of the conditions you put to it are taking our rights away as homeowners,” he said.

Mr. Smith added that hotels in the neighborhood don’t have to follow these rules and that weddings at the Old Whaling Church make noise too.

“What do you do about the parade, does everyone have to get a permit for that? I’m too late to apply for a permit for my birthday party,” he said.

Others brought up issues of enforcement and felt the small fines wouldn’t be a deterrent.

“The penalty at 300 bucks, that’s not going to cover the doilies and hors d’oeuvres,” said Bob Edmunds. 

Police chief Bruce McNamee stepped up to the microphone to acknowledge that enforcement would be difficult. 

“I want to temper people’s expectations if this is approved,” Chief McNamee said. “Officers wouldn’t be storming a wedding if this is adopted, and if a second event happened, unless there was abhorrent behavior, we’d probably let it go.”

Voters decided not to decide and postponed the article indefinitely.

Discussion was robust on several articles, including one on limits for large parties. — Maria Thibodeau

The issue of banning gas powered leaf blowers also sparked much debate. Sara Piazza, the article’s petitioner, took the crowd through what it was like to live in her neighborhood, beset by the constant barrage of gas powered leaf blowers.

Landscaper David Herman spoke against the ban saying it would hurt small landscapers most of all, as the costs of converting to electric leaf blowers would be prohibitive, and that those models are not as good. 

Others agreed it was an overreach and brought up issues of where would the banning end, citing a long list of noise makers including chainsaws and lawn mowers.

An amendment was suggested to postpone the article indefinitely, but voters wanted to stay the course. A vote was called and the bylaw to ban leaf blowers was voted down 94-89.  

The final article of the night, to place restrictions on short-term rentals, had been put forth by Lucy Dahl, who also at the town meeting proposed postponing the article indefinitely. The motion carried.