Aquinnah non-voters meet with selectmen
Dogs, not property taxes or any of the other staples of town meetings, dominated discussion last week at the first meeting called by Aquinnah selectmen to hear from seasonal and year round residents.
Selectmen Camille Rose, Jim Newman, and Spencer Booker and several town officials met with approximately 25 people and encouraged those in attendance to discuss any town issue last Thursday evening in Aquinnah Town Hall.
"Our intention was to offer a forum for seasonal residents to get some information as to what we, the selectmen, are doing and what kind of services are available," said Mr. Booker. "It was an update."
Multiple topics were discussed, none more contentious than the issue of dogs on the beach, a sensitive subject for many Island residents.
At their most recent meeting on August 7, Aquinnah selectman decided that dogs would be permitted on Lobsterville Beach at all times, according to Mr. Booker; however they would not be permitted on Red Beach, Philbin Beach, or Moshup Beach at any time. Previously, dogs were banned on all beaches.
While most residents attending last week's meeting understood the banning of dogs on beaches where people often have picnics and many families with young children spend their day, they failed to comprehend why dogs wouldn't be allowed on those beaches after four or five o'clock. "This is a matter of being courteous and considerate to your neighbors," said Ms. Rose, defending the original decision by the selectmen.
Other residents expressed concern that Lobsterville Beach would now be infested with dogs. Some - including new deputy shellfish constable James Sanfillippo and Mr. Booker, who works for the Wampanoag Tribe natural resources department - worried about dogs' negative effect on shellfish and the natural environment of the beach. "At the most recent selectman's Meeting, I said 'we'll try it,'" said Mr. Booker of the decision to allow dogs on Lobsterville Beach. "I think that might be revisited for sure."
Selectmen were pleased with the attendance for the meeting, which included several Aquinnah town officials. Mr. Booker said he hoped to double the turnout next summer, for what will become an annual meeting.
"I would say the meeting was received favorably," said Mr. Booker, who has received feedback from those in attendance. "I think [the attendees] learned a lot in terms of what was going on in the town and our relations with neighboring towns and the Tribe. I found it to be informative myself."