Selectmen hedge bets on new Chilmark station

Fearing conservation commission derailment, board revisits discarded land deal while supporting latest design.

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Members of the Chilmark board of selectmen discuss plans for a new fire station. - Rich Saltzberg

Tuesday night, Chilmark selectmen opted to fold a bit of insurance into their bid to erect a new fire station and ambulance facility adjacent to town hall by once again entertaining the idea of buying Carroll family land.

The board found the final conceptual design and site plan drafted by emergency facility consultant Pacheco Ross palatable, but feared the conservation commission might reject it due to wetlands encroachment. Before voting unanimously to tap Vineyard Land Surveying to assemble a package for the conservation commission, the board resurrected the idea of acquiring property near town hall, owned by the estate of a relative of town administrator Tim Carroll.

Fire Chief David Norton reminded the board of an analogy he’s employed before when describing the area targeted for the station and the elements the department needs inside that station.

“We’re trying to put 10 pounds of stuff in a five-pound bag,” he said. “Trying to get an additional piece of property may give us more wiggle room that would work.”

This flabbergasted selectman Warren Doty, who previously worked to finalize a $975,000 purchase of the land before a lack of support from Norton scuttled the deal.

“This is where I should just stand up and leave the room,” Doty said. “I worked hard to get a purchase and sale agreement that we had signed for that land. I was told to drop it. Now, you know, 18 months later, why didn’t you buy the land?”

“The plan was to exit on Middle Road, and it couldn’t be done,” Norton said. Norton has come out against any station concepts that call for fire engines to deploy onto Middle Road due to the tight turns it would necessitate. In May both Norton and the selectmen were unhappy when a design from Pacheco Ross featured fire engine driveways aimed at Middle Road.

Selectman Bill Rossi floated the idea of separating Tri-Town Ambulance from the station and placing it in a building on the Carroll property. Aside from providing a fallback against a denial by the conservation commission, which Rossi described as “our main potential roadblock,” he said dividing the facility on two lots might head off “resistance or strong opposition to the scale of the plan that’s being proposed.”

Referring to the minutes of past meetings on the station, chairman Jim Malkin said, “The desire is not to build something that that looks like Tisbury or Oak Bluffs [emergency facilities].”

Citing the expense of the new station, Malkin said he “was not a big fan” of buying an additional piece of land.

The board decided not to present the conservation commission with a Carroll property option but to stick to the Pacheco Ross plan, and wait to learn the commission’s disposition after Vineyard Land Surveying formulates a notice of intent (NOI) application for its review.

Powderkeg parking

In other business, the board discussed tensions over Creek Lot parking on Boathouse Road in Menemsha — specifically, grousing between Aquinnah and Chilmark lot holders over parking spots. The Aquinnah/Chilmark town line passes through Boathouse Road. In recent years both towns worked to straighten out jogs and kinks in the town line, a process that ultimately required the approval of the state legislature. While the process proved imperfect, as glitches and anomalies were later detected in the map work, the two towns continued to cooperate, and hammered out an agreement whereby a number of parking spaces were reserved for lot holders on a first-come, first-served basis. Per their agreement, special placards would distinguish genuine lot holders from anyone else trying to park on Boathouse Road.

Rossi told the board it was his understanding some Chilmark lot holders wanted more than one placard for themselves, and this created issues.

“I’ve explained to one of our Chilmark leaseholders that given both town meetings voted to change the town lines,” Malkin said, “some of the Chilmark leaseholders, where they are currently parking, is actually in Aquinnah. And if we didn’t have an agreement they might be precluded, if Aquinnah so chose, from parking at all there.”

“This has become quite an issue with everybody arguing, especially between Aquinnah and Chilmark residents,” Doty said. Doty added that an email Aquinnah town administrator Jeffrey Madison sent with regard to a complaint about his stance on parking “had a line at the end of it that I thought was quite offensive.”

“… Quite offensive is moderate,” Malkin said. “This has all been inflamed by him circulating a diagram with people’s names assigned to spots …”

Addressed to town administrator Carroll and his assistant, the email briefly addressed the Creek Lots and provided an attached diagram.

“I received no pushback on this whatsoever until today, when I received word that one of your leaseholders accused the town of Aquinnah of setting up this parking plan that they didn’t agree with,” Madison’s email stated in part. “As you know, this was Chilmark’s suggested solution. Please have your folks get a grip.”

Malkin said Aquinnah lot holders have been confronting Chilmark lot holders with the diagram.

Police Chief Jonathan Klaren told the board his primary concern is keeping the road open, and the allotment of spaces was best left to the selectmen.

Ultimately, the board decided to invite the lot holders to their next meeting in order to gather more details on the matter.

Reached by email Wednesday morning, Madison wrote that Chilmark appears to have withdrawn from their agreement.

“At that meeting [October 2017] there was an agreement between the boards that parking along Boathouse Road would be restricted to the east side of the road, with each leaseholder in the area being a designated spot,” he wrote. “I notified each of the Aquinnah leaseholders of their designated parking spot, and thought everything was fine until this past weekend when a dispute arose between a Chilmark leaseholder and an Aquinnah leaseholder, with the Chilmark leaseholder accusing Aquinnah of enacting restrictions unilaterally.”

Among other things, Madison went on to write that the notion of a parking scheme was Chilmark’s.

“The origin of the idea of restricting parking came from the town of Chilmark, not Aquinnah,” he wrote. “After being told of the incident, I called Tim Carroll, Chilmark’s [town administrator]. Mr. Carroll in response said that he had received pushback from his leaseholders and Chilmark police following the meeting last October. Aquinnah was never notified of a retraction of the October agreement.”

The selectmen also heard from beach committee member Margaret Maida and chairman Clarissa Allen, about how well-received Squibnocket Beach has been.

“There’s nothing but positive reports about it,” Allen said.

Maida pointed out many people who were unable to access the beach before because of the steep drop-off between the parking lot and the sand are now able to do so. The selectmen learned the committee chose to put a staffer on the beach between 5 pm and 7 pm to keep dogs out.

Allen said some dog owners wrongly think the beach closes at 5 pm, and therefore they can bring dogs there.

“No dogs are supposed to be there between 9 am and 7 pm,” Maida said.

Carroll said 800 Squibnocket Beach stickers have been sold to date.

“I think last summer there were only 700 Squibbies,” Allen said.