MV Gazette, on August 15th, 2009

Aquinnah Takes Another Swing At Energy Bylaw, Pond Cleanup

Aquinnah voters will revisit a pioneering wind energy proposal at a special town meeting slated for the end of September, and selectmen have referred to town counsel an ongoing dispute with the Wampanoag tribe over the cleaning of Menemsha Pond after an abandoned oyster project.

After several deadlines to clean up the pond were not met, selectmen voted in July to contact town counsel for advice.

No action was taken until Wednesday when selectman Camille Rose contacted town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport and took him on a tour of the site.

At their meeting Tuesday selectmen also provisionally set a special town meeting for the end of September. Top order of business will be a proposed bylaw to create regulations for private and communal wind turbines. The proposed bylaw, which would give the town autonomy over wind energy planning, was rejected at a town meeting last year, in part because it was thought to be too long and too wordy.

Planning board member Carlos Montoya, who has spearheaded the bylaw with Ms. Rose, submitted reworked language earlier this month.

In other news, Aquinnah selectmen will arrange an open auction for a longheld, landlocked town property off Lighthouse Road next to an area known as Pancake Hollow.

Minimum bid for the 3.5-acre acre lot is set at $600,000, a price that concerned several neighbors whose homes abut the property and who attended the meeting Tuesday,

Selectmen discussed various options, including restrictions that would prevent a buyer from subdividing the lot, building a primary residence or suing for a right of way to the landlocked property, which has six abutters.

Henry Friedman, an abutter who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said the minimum bid failed to reflect a sharp drop in the housing market tracked to the recession.

“How did you arrive at the $600,000; since it’s landlocked have you looked at prices in town?” he asked selectmen. “People have lost 30 to 40 per cent of their income. I think it’s a little shortsighted not to be realistic about the recession.” Mr. Friedman added that the lot would not likely add as much in value to an abutting property.

Selectman Jim Newman said the minimum bid was set by voters at the annual town meeting; he added that the price should not be based on what may prove to be short-term economic fluctuation.

“If no one bids we’ll take it back to the town,” Mr. Newman said, adding: “But I fought for that price. We have a fiduciary responsibility; we can’t just sell off the property because we need the money.”

Ms. Rose agreed but cautioned that town leaders in fact have a responsibility to sell unused town land to get the property onto the tax rolls.

The land was acquired by the town several decades ago when its previous owner failed to pay property taxes.

Abutter Jon and Candace Singer requested the property be flagged to clear up any questions about the boundaries of the lot. Mrs. Singer suggested that the abutters band together to buy the property and put it into conservation.

The property currently has no access. Mr. Newman expressed concern that a nonabutting bidder might purchase the lot and then instigate legal proceedings against abutters, claiming right of way to the property through their land.

Selectmen also discussed amendments to a town bylaw permitting the sale of beer and wine, adopted last year. The Outermost Inn became the first establishment to legally sell alcohol and the Aquinnah Shop followed suit. Mr. Newman said the bylaw must be amended to address potential permit abuses, including the sale of alcohol to minors.

“We’ll probably end up using Oak Bluffs as a model,” he said.

with permission, MV Gazette

by Sam Bungey

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