Special meeting is postponed in Aquinnah
Aquinnah was scheduled to hold a special town meeting Tuesday. In addition to routine business matters, the warrant included a request to voters to take action on a proposal to create a seasonal, outdoor performing arts center on town owned land at the Gay Head cliffs.
But on Tuesday of this week Jeff Burgoyne, Aquinnah town administrator, contacted The Martha's Vineyard Times to say the meeting would be postponed to Tuesday, April 7. Town leaders made the change mindful of the cold weather and the prospect that a quorum of 39 voters would need to be reached and warmer weather might help. In that regard Aquinnah voters do not have a good attendance record.
Next week's postponed special was the third iteration of a town meeting originally scheduled for October 21, later moved to November 13 and now set for April.
The nine-article warrant included a request to authorize the board of selectmen "to lease a portion of the Aquinnah Circle for purposes of constructing a performing arts staging structure." Mr. Burgoyne said voters would likely have the opportunity to take action on the request in April.
The circle is regularly used for events that include the annual Wampanoag Pow Wow. This summer it was also the scene of a summer music festival in support of local radio station WVVY.
The proposal for an outdoor performing arts center comes from Ted Cammann and James Glavin of Aquinnah. Mr. Cammann is a producer of live musical events and Mr. Glavin is the owner of Deca Construction.
A one-page letter seeking voter approval begins with a description of the proposal: "Our goal is to adopt the natural topography of the circle at the cliffs as the site for a seasonal, outdoor Performing Arts Center."
The proposes, "to create the necessary infrastructure to make possible the production of theatrical, musical, dance, cultural and audio-visual events in the circle." What would be created, they said, is a "truly unique and universally appealing venue for concerts, children's programs, fundraisers for nonprofits, town events and tribe related functions."
The land provides a natural amphitheater, they said. The stage would be placed in the lower section so that the audience would be looking out in the direction of Nomans Land Island. Initially, a temporary covered stage would be built to get the program up and running.
There would be no cost to the town, the men said. They propose to finance and manage the project independently through donations, sponsorships, underwriting, and event revenues. "If successful," they wrote in their request for a lease, "what will ultimately devolve to the town will be an amphitheater enhanced with a striking setting, making possible events of cultural and artistic significance to benefit not only our town but the greater Island community for generations."
Mr. Burgoyne said there are a number of zoning and legal questions that must still be addressed.
One possible hurdle is the Martha's Vineyard Commission, the Island's powerful land use regulatory body. The entire town of Aquinnah is designated a district of critical planning concern (DCPC) as is Moshup Trail.
Both districts were created, according to the Martha's Vineyard Commission, "to protect the scenic character of the district from undue visual intrusion and to maintain and promote its rural character and culture." Any construction would likely trigger a referral to the Martha's Vineyard Commission as a development of regional impact.
If the town does decide to lease out the circle area as a performance venue to private individuals, depending on the circumstances, it would also need to comply with public bidding laws and advertise the availability of a lease.
"It is not as cut and dried as it might seem," Mr. Burgoyne said.