Aquinnah plans to invite tribe to the table

Selectmen agree to send a letter to reopen talks.

The Aquinnah board of selectmen will invite Cheryl Andews-Maltais and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) back to the table to talk about their casino project. -Gabrielle Mannino

The Aquinnah board of selectmen will reach out to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) through a letter inviting them back to the table to talk about the tribe’s gambling facility.

At a meeting Tuesday, just five days after the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the tribe needs to seek local permits and follow zoning bylaws, chairman Jim Newman proposed doing it via a letter written by town administrator Jeff Madison.

“Invite them back to the table so we can talk and make it clear that this board of selectmen was never against the casino,” Newman said. “We were just trying to work with them so we can cooperate with whatever is going on, because whatever they have there is certainly going to impact the town one way or the other, and we need to work together on this. And it’s difficult.”

Newman said there are other agreements that also have to be discussed, including a public safety agreement that lapsed in 2015. “We definitely have to visit that again, and we need to find out just what legal jeopardy we are in without having that,” he said. “We need to revisit these things and try to get back to a normal relationship.”

Selectman Gary Haley agreed: “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t try to get some communication going between the tribe and the town again.”

Madison said town counsel Ron Rappaport has written a letter thanking the lawyers from Goodwin Procter, who took the lead on making the town and state’s case before the appeals court. They did it at a reduced rate for the town, Madison said. Madison also intends to write a letter of thanks to them.

Haley said one of those attorneys, Douglas Kline, has property in Aquinnah. “They did an amazing job,” Vanderhoop added.

In other business, town leaders spent the bulk of their time Tuesday attempting to figure out how to get compost from the town’s transfer station to Island Grown Initiative (IGI).

Health board chairman Jim Glavin said the compost needs to be picked up on a more regular basis, particularly in the summer, when it’s — to put it delicately — ripe. “In the summer it gets really noxious,” Glavin said. “It’s very organic.”

There was some talk about whether the town’s highway department could deliver the compost to Thimble Farm, and while highway surveyor Jay Smalley was willing, Madison expressed concern that it would take him away from other duties.

Selectman Juli Vanderhoop, who is also a member of the IGI board, said she will bring up the issue at a future board meeting, and come back to the board of selectmen to discuss it further.

Also, Vanderhoop was the board’s unanimous choice to work with the fledgling Coalition to Create a Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank. Vanderhoop has already been working with the coalition, which seeks to support efforts to pass legislation for a 2 percent transfer tax, similar to the Land Bank, to build up savings for affordable housing. The coalition eventually hopes to get the entire Island on board with the housing bank. Laura Silber and Julie Fay explained the coalition during a presentation they’ve been doing while making the Zoom rounds to Island boards and commissions.

Earlier in the meeting, Smalley told the selectmen that he’s looking at the Menemsha Channel Beachway embankment restoration. He said he is just starting the process, and would like to talk to the town’s grant writer to seek funding for the project, as well as possibly working with the U.S. Coast Guard.

“That road needs work real bad,” Smalley said. “Definitely with the way the weather is changing, if we have a weather incident we could lose the road.”

Tuesday’s meeting opened with a report from Madison that a proposal by Kimberly Scott for a clambake for 50 to 100 people at Lobsterville Beach in June has been withdrawn.

“Glad to hear that,” Newman said.


  1. If the current board of selectmen ” was never against the casino” then you need another board of selectmen. The Casino belongs off island and NOT on Martha’s Vineyard. Unless of course you wish to destroy the soul of Aquinnah. You should be doing everything you can to protect her. NO CASINO.?

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