Chilmark selectmen stand by their chairman

The battle over this access road to the Squibnocket Farm subdivision took center stage at the Chilmark board of selectmen meeting where members criticized a story in the Martha's Vineyard Times. - File photo

The Chilmark board of selectmen blasted a story in The Times about the ongoing squabbles over a Squibnocket structure that aims to provide access to a 10-home subdivision of multimillion-dollar homes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

During an agenda item Tuesday that was supposed to be to review of annual town meeting votes, board members took turns blasting the newspaper story. Doug Liman, a property owner in Chilmark who opposes the Squibnocket bridge/causeway, told The Times in that May 11 story, “Town meeting isn’t the end of battle over Squibnocket structure,” that he will continue his legal fight against the project, and that he filed a conflict of interest complaint against selectman Bill Rossi.

“It was a planned attack,” Mr. Rossi, the board’s chairman, said. “It disturbed my family. I lost sleep over it.”

Mr. Rossi said he’s confident he doesn’t have a conflict of interest. He is a real estate broker who shares an office with and is listed on a website for Wallace and Co. Sotheby’s International Realty. Tom Wallace is one of four general partners with Squibnocket Associates Limited Partnership, which controls 150 acres valued at $3.6 million that stands to benefit from the bridge/causeway project.

Though Mr. Rossi and his colleagues insist he has no conflict, Mr. Rossi filed a disclosure at the town clerk’s office in March after consulting with the town’s attorney and the Massachusetts Ethics Commission, and just a couple of weeks after Mr. Liman filed his complaint.

“This has been a disturbing episode for me in my service,” Mr. Rossi said. “I’m going to move beyond. It was unfortunate. It was a sensationalized article. I was disgusted by it.”

Selectman Warren Doty also referred to the article as “sensationalist,” and offered his support to Mr. Rossi.

Jim Malkin, another member of the board who served as chairman of a committee picked to review proposals to replace the storm-battered road to Squibnocket, said Mr. Rossi has no conflict because the committee was independent. The project was reviewed and approved by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the conservation commission, and the state Department of Environmental Protection, he said.

“I found the story in the MV Times to be unfortunate,” Mr. Malkin said.

There was no need for Mr. Rossi to disclose that he is a real estate agent because everyone in town already knows it, Mr. Doty said.

“It’s a sideshow,” Mr. Malkin said. “I’d like to get the beach back for the town.”

In other business, the board approved a fishing charter planned by Stephen Broderick that will leave twice a day from Menemsha.

Though Mr. Doty expressed some reservations about the fishing charter business, particularly the size of the boat at 50 feet and carrying 30 passengers, he ultimately joined his colleagues in supporting the venture.

“Anything to keep fishing in Menemsha is a good thing,” Mr. Malkin said.

The board vocally supported Dennis Jason, the town’s harbormaster, who was called into question for moving a boat owner, Peter Harrison, out of slip No. 1 at the request of an older couple who told Mr. Jason the slip would be more convenient.

“He made a decision, and I’m comfortable with his decision,” Mr. Malkin said.

The board decided not to respond to Mr. Harrison’s letter.

Selectmen objected to a vote in Oak Bluffs to change the funding formula for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. Oak Bluffs would like the funding changed to reflect property values in a town, rather than how many children attend the school from that town.

“That’s like saying people with the most expensive cars should pay most on the turnpike,” Mr. Malkin said.

Timothy Carroll, the town’s executive secretary, urged the board to stay out in front of the topic and continue to raise objections.

Mr. Malkin said the way the issue was raised was “offensive” to Chilmark, and “is no way to start a civil discussion.”

The board unanimously approved a common victualler’s license for Beetlebung Farm Market, at 24 Basin Road. Market owners plan to start with produce grown on the the farm and other Island farms, and will slowly incorporate prepared meals.

Mr. Doty attended a forum in Falmouth Tuesday held by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is working with companies looking to build offshore wind farms 15 miles off the coast of the Vineyard.

The town will advocate for fishermen, particularly lobster fishermen, who are concerned about the potential impact from construction of the wind turbines, Mr. Doty said. “We need to pay attention over the next several years to see what happens during the construction of these wind turbines,” he said.

The board of selectmen also talked about the need for better facilities for the Tri-Town Ambulance, which is shared among Chilmark, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury, but reached no conclusion on how to move forward except to continue talks with the other two towns.

And, finally, get ready for a big bash: The town will celebrate its 325th anniversary in 2019. Money left over from the 300th anniversary celebration will be used as seed money to plan the celebration.