MVC begins review of Squibnocket plan to address beach erosion

The plan hammered out between property owners and town officials creates a new beach parking lot and an elevated subdivision access road.

The plan would eliminate the current parking lot and boulder revetment and allow the formation of a natural barrier beach. — file photo

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) is scheduled to begin its review of a complex plan endorsed by Chilmark selectmen to restore Squibnocket Beach, provide access to the Squibnocket Farm subdivision in the face of increasing storm damage, and provide resident parking at the popular beach.

The MVC review of the project as a development of regional impact (DRI) begins at 6 pm Thursday, March 24, at the Chilmark Community Center. The engineering firm Haley and Aldrich designed the new causeway for the Squibnocket Farm homeowners, and Reid Silva of Vineyard Land Surveying, representing the town, presented the final design for a new skiff launch ramp and parking area.

The projects have met the state’s required environmental notification form process (ENF). The ENF provides all environmental information to relevant parties and begins the formal environmental review process.

The Chilmark Conservation Commission (ConCom) referred the projects to the MVC.

“The state agencies like the project because it is one of the first ‘pro-active managed retreat’ activities caused by rising sea level and coastal erosion,” Chuck Hodgkinson, Chilmark zoning board of appeals administrative assistant and the town’s point person on the projects, told The Times. “The town is removing the current parking lot and revetment and restoring the beach to a natural state. This is ground-breaking for this type of project. Environmentally, the project is significantly better than the current roadway, beach, and parking set up.”

Chilmark received two grants of $280,000 each from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), the state’s policy and planning agency on coastal and ocean issues, to build its portions of the plan, according to Mr. Hodgkinson. “The first grant expired at the end of FY 2015.  The second $280,000 grant expires on June 30. Only $52,000 of the total grant was spent as was expected because of design delays for the causeway. I do not know if CZM will offer another grant in FY 2017,” said Mr. Hodgkinson.

Voters approved the plan at a special town meeting on Feb. 2, 2015.

At a packed public hearing in October, town officials said they expect the cost of the town’s share to be less than half of the $410,000 appropriated.

Contingent upon permitting, the town will pay Squibnocket Farm Inc., $200,000 for a new 99-year lease. The town currently leases the beach and parking lot areas.

The town hopes to have the permits in hand to begin work on the projects in October. “Our construction window is October 1 to Memorial Day for both projects,” Mr. Hodgkinson said. “To start this fall we will need all permits, MVC, and ConCom by June. If we do not start this October, it seems it will be October 2017.”