A bare-bones budget, bylaw changes to allow more affordable housing in town and a proclamation to “condemn” the Cape Wind project await Aquinnah voters at the annual town meeting on Tuesday night.
The meeting begins at 6:45 p.m. at the old Aquinnah town hall with a special town meeting preceding the annual session.
Town moderator Michael Hebert will preside over the sessions.
There are 10 articles on the special town meeting warrant, including a request for $17,500 to buy a new chassis to rehabilitate the town rescue fire truck, $3,000 to clear invasive plants from the Aquinnah Circle, and a series of transfers to the town stabilization fund for maintenance projects.
On the annual town meeting warrant voters will be asked to approve a $3 million town operating budget for the coming year, up 2.5 per cent over last year. Town employees will receive no cost of living increase this year, although some will receive step increases. The largest line item comes from the police department, which is requesting $426,000 this year, up $33,000, or eight per cent over last year, largely to cover step increases for salaried positions.
The Tri-Town ambulance service is also requesting that the town contribute $160,000 to its budget, which is up 41 per cent over last year due to state requirements for full-time paramedics for the service. Both Chilmark and West Tisbury approved their share of the budget at their annual town meetings last month; the Aquinnah finance committee is recommending only $134,369 of the $160,000. The total Tri-Town budget is $646,000.
Selectman Camille Rose said her board was told the ambulance service would only be hiring a chief and not a deputy chief, hence the recommendation to lower the town contribution. Ms. Rose said the selectmen will return to voters at a special town meeting down the road to appropriate additional funds if a deputy chief is needed for the ambulance service.
The 30-article annual warrant includes an amendment to the town affordablehousing bylaw that would loosen the rules for creating affordable housing on substandard lots. Minimum zoning in Aquinnah is two acres. The current bylaw allows the creation of one-acre lots if a property owner has four acres of land; the change would reduce the rule to a three-acre minimum. The housing committee hopes the change will create more opportunities for affordable “homestead” sites.
The bylaw amendment also would give managing authority to an Island nonprofit housing group in perpetuity, rather than through a deed rider.
Another complicated proposed bylaw change makes a series of adjustments to the rules for special permits in town, including expanding a road frontage requirement for certain special permits to include private as well as public ways.
Spending items on the warrant include a request for $12,500 for the 2011 audit, $20,000 for disability payments, and a series of purchases for the town hall including a new copier and software programs.
The largest spending request comes from the town Community Preservation Committee, $145,000, to be put toward a variety of projects from repairs at the Gay Head Light and the town library to debt service for the Vanderhoop Homestead.
Two articles at the end of the warrant are aimed at town meeting procedures. One asks voters to reduce the quorum requirement from 10 per cent of the town’s registered voters to six per cent. Another asks voters to eliminate the option of tabling a question on the town meeting floor, “on the grounds that it deprives the voters of the ability to discuss and understand the meaning of an article.” Motions to table are not debatable and must go directly to a vote.
And the controversial Cape Wind project to build a giant wind farm on Horseshoe Shoal is also the subject of an article. Voters will be asked to “condemn the decision made by the federal government on the issuance of federal permits to Cape Wind . . . without due process.”
by Remy Thumin