Tisbury selectmen have dropped an article from the warrant for next month’s town meeting which would have proposed taking private land near the Tashmoo overlook, to preserve the view from disappearing behind a wall of trees. At least, for now.
In executive session on Tuesday night, selectmen Tristan Israel and Jeff Kristal decided to drop the idea while the town continued to negotiate with the owners of the trees, Thomas and Ginny Payette, of Tashmoo Farm.
As originally proposed, the article would have seen a small area of land at the head of Lake Tashmoo, in which five or six large willow trees are rooted, taken by eminent domain so the town could either remove or at least significantly prune them.
It would have been a very unusual invocation of eminent domain law, which is most often used to compulsorily acquire land for things like public utilities, highways and railroads. But then, this is an unusual problem, the roots of which extend almost 40 years.
The overlook from State Road provides one of the Island’s best views, down the pond and across Vineyard Sound. But in summer, when the willows are in leaf, ever less of that view remains.
The trees were planted in the early 1970s, and the town and the Payettes have been at odds over them for nearly two years, ever since the town decided to act on a complaint in May, 2007 from a resident about the disappearing view.
And the matter has generated some heat. Last August, selectman Tristan Israel pre-empted a closed executive session of the board to lament, in strong terms, the failure of negotiations to that point.
Despite more than a year of attempts to negotiate a solution, he complained, the Payettes remained intransigent. Repeated efforts to meet to talk the problem through had been cancelled by Mr. Payette, he said.
“Now Mr Payette has sent us a response from his lawyer, which also says any further correspondence should not go to him but through his lawyer,” Mr. Israel said.
“Mr. Payette . . . in effect blew us off.”
He accused the Payettes of selfishness and insensitivity to the greater good.
“Now we are going to have to examine our options,” Mr. Israel said.
Having done so, they came up with the idea of a warrant article to take the trees and the small area of land beneath them.
And then they dropped it. The exact reasons why are unknown; the decision was taken in executive session. But afterwards, Jeff Kristal said they had decided to let the Conservation Commission “look into it.”
“And we’re hoping Mr. Payette will do some trimming on his own, to start the process.
“There has been ongoing communication with the Payettes and I think we have other avenues to examine before we go to the town.
“But,” Mr. Kristal warned, “if we’re not getting anywhere, by the time the fall meeting comes up, we’re going to put it back on [the warrant].”