Aquinnah enters into an intergovernmental agreement

The town receives a $25,000 gift. 

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From left, Aquinnah town administrator Jeffrey Madison and select board members Juli Vanderhoop and Tom Murphy reviewing a $25,000 gift from Donald R. Andrew's estate. — Eunki Seonwoo

The Aquinnah select board unanimously approved entering into an intergovernmental agreement with the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank and having board chair Juli Vanderhoop sign it during a Wednesday, Sept. 7, meeting. Board member Gary Haley was absent from the meeting for an unspecified reason. 

Sarah Thulin, the Land Bank’s Aquinnah commissioner, presented the agreement to the board. According to the agreement, the ownership interest of a 1.2-acre lot on Old South Road breaks down as 25 percent for Aquinnah, 13 percent for the Land Bank, and 50 percent for Moshup Trail Limited Partnership (MTLP). The Land Bank has an arrangement for MTLP to donate its interests to Aquinnah “as a gift and at no expense to the town.” If Aquinnah cannot make a decision to accept the donation via town meeting in a timely manner, the Land Bank “is willing to act as a placeholder for the town.” The Land Bank also has a “pending contract” to purchase MTLP land not on the lot, and plans to install a trail and a trailhead on the areas it owns. 

The agreement would have the Land Bank accept the limited partnership’s donation and hold it for the town. In the meantime, the Land Bank will “ensure that all municipal taxes, current and in arrears, will be paid up and to the date it accepts MTLP’s Old South Road interest.” The land will become a “tax-exempt property on that date and … no further tax will be thereafter levied.” If the town decides it wants to own the property, the Land Bank will be “ousted” from the title, and shall not “seek nor accept any of the due compensation from the town that arises from the consolidation” as long as Aquinnah delivers on the Land Bank’s trail and trailhead easement. If the town decides it does not want to own the property, the Land Bank will retain MTLP’s share. Thulin said if the Land Bank keeps the property, it will be kept as open space. 

“This piece of property has been before the selectmen and discussed before,” Thulin said. “We just felt this is an arrangement that has worked out to everybody’s advantage, and the Land Bank feels it’s the right thing to do, arranging to have this go to the town and the other to go to the tribe.” 

Aquinnah town administrator Jeffrey Madison said town counsel has been shown the agreement already, who said it seemed fine. Madison said some of the land MTLP owned was later “conveyed” to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). MTLP’s property in the agreement was not a part of that land settlement, and Madison also said the owners of the land with outstanding taxes will need to be identified for this process. 

When Vanderhoop asked whether the agreement needs to go to a town meeting first, Madison answered that the board “has the right to enter into this agreement as structured” before ultimately going to voters. 

“This would be an opportunity for the town to deal with a piece of land that has not been generating income for the town for however many years it’s been,” Madison said. 

Thulin said there is an estimated $85,000 in back taxes due on the property. “We’ve been ready to close on this whole package with Moshup Trail Limited Partnership for a while,” Thulin said. 

Board member Tom Murphy was favorable toward the agreement, but he pointed out that it should be discussed with property abutters, particularly in regard to the trail and trailhead. Thulin said there will be time for those who do not like the idea to voice their objections before the town meeting. She also said a survey will need to be done by the Land Bank’s biologist and land superintendent for its trail. 

In other business, the board unanimously voted to direct a $25,000 gift from Donald R. Andrew’s estate to the Aquinnah parks and recreation committee for the playground planned to be built behind the town hall. Andrew’s will states that the donation can be used in any way the board sees fit “except for funding any portion of the town’s annual operating budget.” 

The board unanimously appointed Jane Palmer, Eileen Sullivan, and Adrian Higgins to the town project committee. 

The board reached a consensus to have a discussion with Aquinnah Cliff lot leaseholders, including the tribe, about their lease details after/Indigenous Peoples Day, when people are less busy. Leaseholders who were present during the meeting approved of the idea.

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