While special town meetings in late spring or early summer often are ho-hum affairs called to approve routine housekeeping matters and spending items at the end of the fiscal year, Tuesday's meeting in Oak Bluffs could pack as much punch as the town's annual town meeting in April.
The special town meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of the Oak Bluffs school.
The topic that has created the most buzz around town is an article asking whether the town should rescind $200,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to expand and improve the baseball facilities at Veira Park. Voters approved the expenditure at the annual meeting this past April.
Plans call for the creation of a second baseball diamond, new seating for fans, an unpaved parking area off the road and a picnic/play area.
Since the April town meeting, opposition to the plan has grown considerably. A group of neighbors calling themselves the Coalition to Save Veira Park has circulated a petition calling for the funding to be rescinded. The petition netted more than 100 signatures.
As a result, selectmen earlier this month agreed to place the article on the warrant asking whether to rescind the April vote.
Meanwhile, a member of the coalition, Naushon avenue resident Gail Barmakian, sent a letter to the state department of revenue questioning whether community preservation funds can be used to create a new recreational use on town land.
In their response to Ms. Barmakian, department of revenue officials said that interpretation of the Community Preservation Act, which is relatively new and open to broad interpretation, should be left to town counsel. Earlier this month, selectmen asked town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport to look into the issue.
Legislation to create the Community Preservation Act was enacted in 2000 with the intent of helping communities preserve open space and historic sites, and create affordable housing and recreational facilities. A bill now is pending in the legislature which would clean up vague language that has confused interpretation of the act.
Critics of the baseball plan - most of whom are direct abutters of the park - argue that adding a second baseball diamond will diminish their quality of life and create problems with parking, noise and traffic. The group has also argued the plan presented at town meeting in April was misleading, and that they were never given a forum to air their concerns.
The group also has questioned why Oak Bluffs is being asked to replace a publicly used, town-owned park space with a facility that would be used by the entire Island.
Proponents of the plan have dismissed claims that the project would create additional problems with noise and traffic, and have argued that the plan would actually enhance safety and reduce the amount of time the field is in use.
Sam Berlow, president of Vineyard Little League, said many of the previously planned amenities - such as permanent bathrooms, paved parking, a concession stand and electronic scoreboards - already have been taken out of the plans to appease the neighbors.
Although plans call for the removal of some oak trees along South Circuit avenue - a point of contention with many neighbors - between 20 and 30 new trees will be planted, Mr. Berlow said.
The addition of the second diamond would allow two games to be played at once. Mr. Berlow said that means little league would be done with the fields earlier in the evening, and also that parents of two or more players could watch their children's games at one location.
An expanded Veira Park also would ease congestion at the West Tisbury softball field, which in turn would reduce use at Veterans Field in Vineyard Haven.
Mr. Berlow said the new parking areas will improve safety because they move parking off the road an additional six to eight feet and allow drivers to see spectators along the side of the field. A total of 20 spots will be created off Naushon avenue, as well as expanded parking on the right field line for 12 to 15 cars and between 15 to 20 cars off South Circuit avenue.
"It's a smarter, cleaner and safer design," Mr. Berlow said. "This is a better environment for both the [little leaguers] and their families, and it will improve the condition of [Veira Park]."
Mr. Berlow dismisses the contention that the group has not been open with the neighbors.
"We have met with neighbors on several occasions and will continue to alter the plan based on their input. I hope to meet with them again soon," he said.
Earlier this year, the Oak Bluffs selectmen referred the Veira Park to the Martha's Vineyard Commission as a development of regional impact (DRI). At present, the project is under review by a commission land use subcommittee, and is scheduled to go before the full commission sometime this summer.
Also at Tuesday's special town meeting:
* Voters will consider an article to spend $1.1 million to purchase a parcel of about three acres near the town wastewater plant by eminent domain.
* Voters will decide if the town should allocate $35,000 from the resident home site trust fund to purchase a home now in foreclosure and designate it as affordable housing.
* Voters will consider spending $12,000 to repair and replace plumbing and showers and perform other necessary repairs to the facilities at the waterfront stretch commonly known as pay beach.
* Voters will decide whether to appropriate $6,500 from the ambulance reserve fund to buy radios and pagers for ambulance department vehicles and personnel.