Aquinnah selectmen were unhappy to hear this week about an NStar project that began with no apparent notification to the town to replace the utility poles on scenic Moshup Trail with much taller poles.
“The difficulty this town faces is there’s no advance notification and that’s not very fair to the community involved,” executive secretary Adam Wilson told the board at its meeting Tuesday. He estimated 12 to 20 poles will be replaced. “There’s not much the town can do because we can’t review state regulations. It would have been nice for the selectmen to know what was happening,” he added.
The new poles are 40 feet tall, twice the size of the existing poles. The taller poles are required under state law, Mr. Wilson said.
Selectman and board chairman Camille Rose asked Mr. Wilson to write a letter to the power company saying it was a “matter of courtesy” to let them know in advance, and the only notification they received was NStar’s request to use the town parking lot as a staging area.
“At the same time it would have been good if they’d mention . . . these poles would be 20 feet higher, it’s a dramatic change,” Ms. Rose said. “I do want people to know we knew nothing whatsoever about it and there’s nothing we can do about it. Any other significant thing they’re going to be doing in the town, including trimming trees . . . they should let us know so we can warn people.”
Ms. Rose also noted that the new poles are not the digital antenna system (DAS) poles the town has already put up on Moshup Trail to improve cell phone service in town.
In other business, Ms. Rose reported that Aquinnah, Chilmark and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) are applying for a grant for a project to identify mitigation techniques and cleanup process in the event of an oil spill in Menemsha Pond.
“We’ve planned an exercise in May where we’ll bring out emergency equipment that’s available and we’ll test how we maintain one and what to do with it,” Mr. Wilson said. “It’s a good collaboration with the tribe and the two towns.”
The selectmen accepted with regret the resignation of long-serving planning board member Peter Temple, and appointed Richard Skidmore as the new chairman of the Aquinnah affordable housing committee.
But before outgoing chairman Derrill Bazzy relinquished his seat, he awarded a resident homesite lot at 20 State Road to Virginia Yorke.
Formerly owned by June Noble and sold to the town at a below-market rate, the one-acre lot was designated as an affordable homesite by voters at a special town meeting in December. Ms. Yorke was the only applicant in the lottery.
“It was an amazing process with the 20 State Road property . . . [we were] offered the opportunity to purchase the land at a discounted price,” Mr. Bazzy said. “The process just went great, it’s the way it’s supposed to be. I think everyone won in this case, and I appreciate the selectmen’s support throughout it. It’s your day, Virginia, congratulations.”