Chilmark, Aquinnah summit tackles Boathouse Road congestion

Two towns agree to placards, parking agreements in bid to make things more orderly.

From left, Aquinnah selectmen chairman Jim Newman, Chilmark selectman Jim Malkin, Aquinnah selectman Gary Haley, Chilmark selectmen chairman Bill Rossi, Chilmark selectman Warren Doty, Aquinnah town administrator Jeffrey Madison, and Chilmark executive secretary Tim Carroll. — Rich Saltzberg

At a joint meeting last Thursday afternoon at Chilmark Town Hall, Aquinnah and Chilmark selectmen voted unanimously to create a permit parking zone for eight bulkhead leaseholders along Boathouse Road, a narrow causeway in Menemsha that runs largely through Aquinnah.

Frequently bottlenecked in the summer, Boathouse Road is known for heated exchanges over parking in the summer season. No joint parking rules had ever been established for the area.

“It’s a choke point for traffic,” Chilmark selectman Jim Malkin said. People regularly need to access the bulkhead lots and the West Dock for their livelihoods, and at the same time people on vacation enjoy spending time there, too, and that puts tremendous pressure on the area, he said. In the course of deliberation, it became clear that some of that pressure pushed folks to the brink of violence.

“One of the quotes I heard this summer is, ‘Somebody’s going to get killed down there,’” he later said.

“And not by being hit by a car,” Chilmark selectman Warren Doty added.

Aquinnah town administrator Jeffrey Madison said he found it strange that there didn’t seem to be conflict between bulkhead leaseholders — suggesting that parking issues only arose between leaseholders and tourists.

That prompted laughter in the room.

“Strangers aren’t going to kill each other, I’ll put it that way,” Chilmark executive secretary Tim Carroll said.

With police chiefs Randhi Belain of Aquinnah and Jonathan Klaren of Chilmark offering advice, the two boards hashed out a parking plan that included first-come, first-park spaces, fixed road signs, vehicle placards, and written agreements for placard holders.

“I think the placards make all the sense in the world,” Aquinnah selectman Gary Haley said.

The two boards agreed to have their respective town executives send out letters informing the leaseholders of the new parking plan.

Lost triangle of Chilmark

In other business, a past deal Aquinnah and Chilmark worked out to even out their town borders in Menemsha appears to have a minor flaw. After a lengthy legislative and legal process the towns embarked on that ultimately required a vote in the Massachusetts General Court, they were able to swap small parcels in the vicinity of Boathouse Road and achieve their goal. But the process was apparently done with the assumption the land being traded was categorized as recorded, not registered.

“It’s been brought to my attention by the surveyor that we may have hit a little glitch because part of the land might be land court land [registered],” Mr. Carroll said. He later described it as “a triangle of land court land in Aquinnah, underwater, that Chilmark owns.”

“So how do we resolve it?” Aquinnah selectmen chairman Jim Newman asked Mr Carroll.

“I don’t think you need to deal with it — pretend it doesn’t exist,” Mr. Carroll said.

“I move that we do that,” Mr. Malkin said.

Mr. Malkin’s motion stimulated laughter throughout the room, but the out-of-sight, out-of-mind idea — taking no action on the matter — stuck.

“The consensus of this meeting is that triangle should be ignored,” Mr. Doty said.

The last subject the boards addressed was at what frequency they should meet. They agreed going forward to hold quarterly meetings together.

Aquinnah selectman Juli Vanderhoop did not attend the joint meeting.