The town of Aquinnah has prevailed in a U.S. District Court case regarding its right to lease an old Menemsha fishing shack, in what could put an end to a complex, longstanding and often heated legal dispute over the tiny property.

In a 42-page decision filed last month, Judge Allison Burroughs granted summary judgment in favor of the town, affirming the selectmen’s authority to lease the so-called Vanderhoop shack to Vernon Welch.

The lawsuit was brought by Aquinnah resident Wendy Swolinzky, who bought the shack for $30,000 in 2013 from Camille Rose, the executrix of the estate of Alfred Vanderhoop, believing Ms. Rose was the owner. Ms. Swolinzky had conducted a seasonal kayak and boat rental business from the shack with Ms. Rose’s permission since 2006.

The town argued that the land underlying the shack had been formally turned over to the town in 1970 by the state, an action they said gave the town the right to lease it.

The 240-square-foot shack sits at the head of the harbor on Boathouse Road and is believed to have been built around 1865. It is on one of six lots along Menemsha harbor owned by the towns of Aquinnah and Chilmark and intended to be leased to commercial fishermen.

The shack was the subject of discussion at several selectmen’s meetings in early 2013 at which there was discussion of changing the lot lines and moving the structure to an adjoining lot already leased by Ms. Swolinzky. In January, selectmen voted to lease the shack to Ms. Swolinsky, but in April rescinded that decision, and Mr. Welch was subsequently granted the lease.

Ms. Swolinzky filed a lawsuit in state superior court, alleging a series of illegal actions by the selectmen including breach of contract. The case was later removed to federal court, with additional claims of unconstitutional taking and civil conspiracy.

Over the last half-decade, the question of the shack and its ownership has been a recurring issue at Aquinnah selectmen’s meetings, leading to tension and animosity among the parties involved. Last December, tempers flared between Ms. Swolinzky and selectmen when Mr. Welch asked for permission to replace the shack’s rotten wood pilings. At that point, the litigation was still pending in court.

In her decision, Judge Burroughs fell short of declaring that the town owns the shack, but found for the town on all procedural, constitutional and civil rights counts.

On the breach of contract claim, Judge Burroughs ruled that the town never provided, and Ms. Swolinzky never signed, any lease documents for the lot when they voted to lease her the property in 2013.

“Because the terms agreed to by the parties were not ‘sufficiently complete and definite,’ there was no enforceable agreement, and summary judgment must be granted for Aquinnah on the breach of contract claim,” the decision reads in part.

At a recent selectmen’s meeting, town administrator Jeffrey Madison said, “So that ends that long saga.”

“Anybody can appeal anything, but that was a 42-page decision that was received from the (court) that the town has the right to lease that lot and it has appropriately ended up in the hands of Vernon Welch,” he said.