Burton presses Chilmark on charters

Chatinover pitches census committee.

Mariner and Chilmark Police detective Jesse Burton has continued to press Chilmark selectmen to let him run a headboat out of Menemsha. — Rich Saltzberg

Jesse Burton, a mariner and Chilmark Police detective, went before Chilmark selectmen Tuesday night to continue his quest for dock rights in Menemsha for his charter business, Even Keel Excursions. Burton was denied permission to operate a headboat, or charter boat, business on town docks in Menemsha on June 18 after presenting his intent to the board on June 4. He appealed that decision, and was denied again on July 19.

Burton has appealed the town’s denials to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on the grounds that Chapter 91 waterways regulations allow him boat access to Menemsha.

Burton told the board he found the notice he received for the Friday, July 19, meeting where his appeal was denied to be inadequate. Selectmen Bill Rossi said the town only got his appeal via email on Wednesday, July 17, and acted as swiftly as time permitted. 

Burton’s appeal email listed a number of mariners and nautical ventures he alleged operated “non-fishing charter service” in Menemsha. 

“I don’t know where we stand now,” Burton said. “I don’t think you’re open to any discussion on the issue. I’d like to hear what we can do moving forward to make this a possible venture. There seem to be half a dozen other people offering tour services out of Menemsha … I’m not sure what the town’s position is on those.”

Selectman Jim Malkin, the board’s harbor liaison, reiterated to Burton his and the town’s position on new charter businesses in Menemsha. 

“I am concerned about opening up the harbor to non-fishing or grandfathered uses,” Malkin said, “so the list of boats that you provided to us — if there are boats that are operating there on a commercial basis that aren’t involved in fishing, then we should have an incident report, we should have the date, we should have the name and the situation, and we will deal with that.”

Malkin went on to say congestion is a major problem in Menemsha, and therefore a major reason why the town is bent on curbing charter proliferation there. 

“So the process is the DEP is considering this?” chairman Warren Doty asked.

“Jesse has gone to the DEP, and said our decision is in violation of the DEP statute,” Malkin said, “and they are examining if it is and in what regard it is, and so they’re asking for information to make a determination. And that’s where that currently sits.” 

“So that’s where we stand,” Doty said to Burton. 

In other business, Dukes County commissioner Keith Chatinover came before the board to seek support for a Complete Count Committee to facilitate accurate census tallying. Among other things, an accurate census count is vital for population-based grants Vineyarders depend on, Chatinover said.

Doty said he would like to join the committee, and Chatinover gave him a spot. 

Chatinover later told The Times he’s also tapped Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty, West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand, and Father Vincent (“Chip”) Seadale for the committee. 

Chatinover said he wanted the committee to get cracking soon. “The goal is to have a meeting in late August,” he said.