Less than a month after spiking a proposal to build a performing arts stage at the Aquinnah Cliffs town leaders decided this week, over the bitter protest of one selectman, to have another look at it.
After heated debate, the board voted 2-1 to redraft a request for proposals for the controversial idea, dubbed by some townspeople as Woodstock at the cliffs.
Selectman Jim Newman, who is a vocal opponent of the project, voted no at the Tuesday meeting.
The proposal was put forward earlier by two music promoters, Jim Glavin and Ted Cammann of Circle Productions LLC, after voters directed selectmen to pursue the idea at a spring special town meeting.
The Circle Production proposal called for a 30-year lease for a dollar per year, and imagined large concerts policed for safety at town expense. The document drew darts at a May public hearing and the following week selectmen killed the proposal, removing it from a special town meeting warrant.
On Tuesday Mr. Cammann argued that the proposal was simply an opener for what should have been an ongoing dialogue.
“That was a template from which to negotiate a lease,” he said. “We threw them out as issues to negotiate. I want to know, are we going to take it to the next step?” he added.
“We did what we were supposed to do, the proposal was not accepted,” replied Mr. Newman.
Board chairman Spencer Booker disagreed, arguing the request for proposals was too vague.
“For me the original proposal, based on what was in the paper, set them up to fail,” he said.
“If we were going to see another proposal I would want to see something that didn’t put so many requests on the town,” said Mr. Newman.
His argument then introduced an awkward element to the proceedings. Mr. Newman was reelected last month as selectman, despite a write-in campaign to elect in his place planning board member Carlos Montoya, who attended the meeting on other business. Mr. Newman said the write-in campaign was spearheaded by supporters of the Circle proposal and that therefore the election amounted to a referendum on the subject.
Mr. Cammann disagreed. “The election had nothing to do with it,” he said, adding: “You’re making that up. If you want to make something up about that vote, then okay.”
Mr. Newman then said he had seen an e-mail from Mr. Glavin’s wife urging people to vote for Mr. Montoya as a protest.
Selectman Camille Rose tried to intervene, saying the discussion was inappropriate, but Mr. Newman continued.
“We met the obligation of the voters,” he argued.
“Well, if we didn’t do it right, my opinion is we didn’t stand by that,” said Mr. Booker.
“This won’t be for this season. . .” said Mr. Newman.
“We know. We’re just talking about a concept,” Mr. Cammann shot back.
“There’s room for discourse; it shouldn’t be a bunch of people telling and bullying, that shouldn’t make policy,” said Mr. Booker later, referring to last month’s public hearing. He added: “It was, as you said, a template. The [request for proposals] set you up to lose, it wasn’t specific enough.”
Mr. Newman said any proposed lease should be vetted by the town attorney, pointing out that the previous proposal was examined only by a lawyer representing Circle Productions. The other selectmen agreed.
Later this week Mr. Booker underscored that what is at issue is procedure, not politics.
“I want the process to be carried out properly. Then I’ll go to the townspeople after I’ve done due diligence, and if they still don’t want it, then fine,” he said.
In other town news selectmen set a public hearing to review an application by the Aquinnah Shop for a liquor license. Currently the Outermost Inn is the only vendor of beer and wine since Aquinnah passed a law permitting beer and wine sales last summer.
By SAM BUNGEY