The character of Menemsha is expected to be a topic for debate at a Chilmark special town meeting on Monday, when voters will be asked to approve an extensive new dock and pier system in the historic fishing village.
The meeting begins at 8 p.m. at the Chilmark Community Center. Longtime moderator Everett Poole will preside over the two-article warrant.
Residents will vote on a sweeping harbor improvement plan, which calls for a system of fixed and floating docks with use of both concrete and wood materials. The final design for the docks will be determined after the special town meeting, but discussions at public hearings and on the docks in the past month have swirled around whether the docks should be fixed or floating, wood or concrete, and if the new system will change the aesthetics in Menemsha. Those conversations are expected to spill onto the town meeting floor.
The town is proposing building a new yacht dock (also known as the transient dock), with a fixed wooden pier for the first 60 feet and a floating dock for the remaining 180 feet; the floating dock will be either concrete or fiberglass with wood planking on top. New handicap access ramps will also be built on either side of the new dock.
Other new docks include a 40-foot fixed wooden fuel dock to replace the current dock and repairs to the charter docks. A new 60-foot temporary tie-up floating dock has been put on hold.
No new money will be raised. This spring, the Massachusetts Seaport Advisory Council awarded the town $629,000 for repairs stemming from the July 2010 Menemsha boathouse fire. The money must go toward new projects. The cost of the project is still to be determined after the final design is completed, but the selectmen have said they will stay within the confines of the grant.
The plans were developed by the town harbor advisory committee, historical commission, harbor master and selectmen. The project is the third phase in the town’s harbor improvement plan: phase one was the removal of fire-damaged remains from the fire and installation of a concrete floating dock, and phase two was the construction of the new town pier. Both those phases have been completed.
In an effort to reach compromise between parties who wish to see the harbor stay all wood and those who argue for safety and durability, the selectmen voted last week to use wood planking over concrete docks to maintain the wood character valued by boaters, summer visitors, business owners and fishermen alike. Several weeks ago, the selectmen polled boaters in Menemsha to see if they would prefer floating or fixed docks. Selectman Warren Doty reported back that all were in agreement that floating docks were preferred.
In a letter to the editor published in today’s Gazette, the selectmen said they “feel that the use of more floating docks in Menemsha is much more user-friendly for our yachting public and will be a good thing for the harbor in the long run. The floating dock will allow us to install water and electric lines inside and provide better utility service to our boaters.”
Town executive secretary Tim Carroll said this week that since it has been determined that the wood decking and floating dock combination met standards of safety, convenience and aesthetics, the discussion Monday should focus more on floating versus fixed dock. “From the surface, the docks will appear to be wood,” Mr. Carroll said. “It’s a nice decking system with no loose planks.”
The floating docks and wood decking allow for hoses and wires to be stored in the dock itself “so no one trips over them,” he added.
Mr. Carroll said he wanted to assure voters the town would not be digging up the play area for children, there will be no change to the small bathing beach and dredging would be minimal.
If voters approve the plan, project construction will begin in the fall with the goal of completion before next season.
Voters will also be asked to approve spending $75,000 to go toward the Chilmark housing year-round rental conversion program, which assists residents in year-round rental support. The money will come from the community preservation housing reserve fund.