Aquinnah Creek lot under fire again in Menemsha

Selectmen learn inaccurate lot lines place about three feet of Vanderhoop’s Aquinnah lot in Chilmark.

Debbie Packer lobbies Chilmark's board of selectmen to address a lot line anomaly between Brian Vanderhoop's and Jonathan Mayhew's Creek lots. — Rich Saltzberg

Chilmark selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday evening to mark the boundaries between an Aquinnah Creek lot leased by Aquinnah harbormaster Brian “Chip” Vanderhoop and a Chilmark Creek lot leased by former Chilmark selectman Jonathan Mayhew.

The Creek lots, and the shacks built on them, are typically used for fishing-related activities. Various disputes among lotholders in Menemsha have occasionally generated animosity.

Deborah Packer, who owns a dock near Vanderhoop’s lot, came before the selectmen to point out inaccurate lot lines. Packer said over the years Vanderhoop’s lot shifted approximately three feet into Mayhew’s, and that a correction was needed. She previously brought the matter to the planning board’s attention, along with concerns she had over a Chapter 91 license application Vanderhoop had underway for a dock on his lot.

“I feel it needs to be surveyed and looked at — this is a 30-year license they’re going for,” she said.

The selectmen expressed bewilderment at hearing Packer’s assertion, citing a major past undertaking between Aquinnah and Chilmark to straighten out lot lines and town lines in the vicinity that ultimately required the approval of the state legislature.

“This strip in question — as defined by the town of Aquinnah — [doesn’t] match any of the previous plans,” Chilmark executive secretary Tim Carroll said. “But relying on the fact that we’ve transferred the two triangles, that three feet legally is in Chilmark and therefore shouldn’t be part of Lot F at all.”

Carroll later told The Times the Chilmark lots were originally plotted in 1938 for commercial fishermen exclusively. Aquinnah later created their own lots, which at times partially overlaid the Chilmark lots unintentionally.

The subject of Vanderhoop’s lot started to enter delicate territory, selectmen chairman Bill Rossi said at the meeting.

“I think we’ve already created some hard feelings just with the pilings being removed,” he said. “There was sentiment expressed that there was discrimination involved — which I was sorry to hear. I think we need to be careful.”

“There’s things going on in this lot that are not what these lots were for — traditionally,” Packer said without elaborating. She added she had “no problem” with Brian Vanderhoop.

While he supported the past spile (piling) removal, Rossi said, he didn’t fully understand what was at play with the other issues Packer raised.

“I don’t understand what we’re being asked to do,” selectman Jim Malkin said. “In terms of talking about commercial fishing, it’s all over the place. We have issues in our town — what’s commercial fishing on the bulkhead leases, and our park and rec committee deals with that. We have all these issues about what is use, what is commercial fishing — what is, what isn’t. This is Aquinnah’s issue to deal with.”

He went on to qualify that excluded a portion of Vanderhoop’s dock that extends into Chilmark waters, and the strip in question.

Packer produced maps and other material, and hovered at the selectmen’s table for about 15 minutes pressing her points.

“The bounds will show where the lot line is,” selectman Warren Doty eventually said.

The board agreed and opted to define them professionally.

Neither Vanderhoop nor Mayhew were present at the meeting.

Aquinnah town administrator Jeffrey Madison told The Times that Chilmark selectman Jim Malkin reached out to Aquinnah selectmen chairman Jim Newman Wednesday morning to inform him that Chilmark intends to mark the boundaries between Vanderhoop’s lot and Mayhew’s lot. Newman in turn asked Madison to contact Carroll to further explore the matter, he said.

While the negotiations and agreement that reconfigured the town lines in that area were before Madison’s tenure as town administrator, it was his understanding that the swap and alignment was intended to “clear up any discrepancy in where the shacks stood in relation to the lot line,” he said.

Madison also said he believes it’s common practice for adjoining municipalities make boundary determinations together.

Malkin told The Times Chilmark fully intends to work jointly with Aquinnah in evaluating the boundaries.

In other business, on the recommendation of Police Chief Jonathan Klaren, the selectmen appointed Michael S. Maliff Jr. and Noah Stobie as special police officers.