Aquinnah selectmen are moving ahead with the summer plans that were put in place last year relating to parking at town beaches and lots.
Before last summer hit, Aquinnah officials weren’t sure what kind of season they would have. With COVID restrictions and widespread travel bans seeming to foreshadow a dismal summer, the select board decided last year to forgive rents for shops and restaurants at the Gay Head Cliffs and in Menemsha, and restrict parking access at Philbin Beach to only town residents.
Approximately $36,000 in rent normally paid by the up-Island shops was forgiven, and Aquinnah residents were able to purchase seasonal parking passes for parking at Philbin.
Town administrator Jeff Madison said at Tuesday’s select board meeting that the rent was only forgiven last year because officials weren’t sure whether there would be any traffic up at the Cliffs at all. “As it turned out, there were more people up at the Cliffs than any year prior,” Madison said. The receipts were so good for some of the shops, Madison said, that Berta Welch, owner of Stony Creek Gifts, felt bad for not making a rent payment, and made a voluntary contribution to the town.
Jim Newman, chair of the select board, said the parking lot revenue from last season was surprisingly high — “that speaks to how many people were up there this past summer.”
Madison agreed, and said he doesn’t see any reason why the town should forgive rent this time around. F
Selectman Gary Haley added that he anticipates a “record-breaking year” for the up-Island shops.
The select board approved charging the shops rent this year, with selectman Juli Vanderhoop abstaining from the vote due to her owning and operating a business at the Cliffs.
Last year, it was discovered that renters who had an accessory building on their property were acquiring multiple resident parking passes.
Additionally, people who were renting out their accessory buildings for short stints were receiving resident passes for parking at Philbin, when the permit regulation stipulates that if someone isn’t living in the building year-round, that building is not considered a residence.
Although residents with a parking permit are the only ones allowed to park at the beach, renters with a seasonal parking permit can drop off their passengers at the trailhead, then park in the lot at the Gay Head Cliffs.
Aquinnah Police Chief Randhi Belain added that he wrote three times the number of parking tickets last year as in years prior, before certain parking areas were restricted. “We were more vigilant last year than ever with resident parking. Last year was busy, and if the predictions are correct, I am expecting the same this year,” Belain said.
Details regarding costs and locations for permitted parking are available on the Aquinnah town website.