The Aquinnah select board paused its plans to lease Aquinnah Circle No. 9 Tuesday, heeding criticism over the lack of tribal representation in the town’s decision making process for the site.

A recommendation from the Aquinnah Circle committee to lease the lot to Alexandra Taylor for use as a restaurant came under fire this February when community members argued that the town was obligated to give a right of first refusal for the site to the tribe. The situation came to a head Tuesday when community and tribal members called for the select board to restart the proposal process for leasing the property.

In 2001, at a special town meeting, voters did approve an intergovernmental agreement between the town and the tribe to grant a right of first refusal to the tribe before leasing any of the eight lots overlooking the clay cliffs. But select board member Tom Murphy said town counsel Ron Rappaport advised the town that a right of first refusal was not required for Aquinnah Circle No. 9, because it sits on a separate parcel from the one subject to the 2001 special town meeting approval.

“So we’ve been operating on the assumption that it wasn’t applicable,” Mr. Murphy said.

Additionally, Mr. Murphy expressed concern that the town had a duty to lease the property to the most qualified candidate after sending out a request for proposals last November.

“Alex Taylor’s proposal was superior to the others,” he said.

Other proposals for the property included another restaurant from Jonathan Bodnar and a visitor’s center from the Aquinnah Cultural Center.

Tribal members pushed back, arguing the intent of the 2001 town meeting decision was to offer right of first refusal to the tribe for any lots on Aquinnah Circle that became available.

A letter from tribal chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais dated April 4 argues the tribe has a right of first refusal for Aquinnah Circle No. 9 based on the special town meeting vote. But, she wrote, the tribe does not intend to incite conflict with the town.

“We wish to open up a discussion for a resolution because at this time, we understand the final decision has not been made,” she wrote.

Tribal members also argued that the proposal for a visitor’s center was overlooked for Aquinnah Circle No. 9 when Ms. Taylor’s proposal was recommended.

In their recommendation of Ms. Taylor’s proposal, the Aquinnah Circle committee earmarked the visitor’s center for Aquinnah Circle No. 13, next door to No. 9. But tribal councilwoman Kristina Hook said No. 9, which sits right at the entrance to the circle, was an ideal place for the visitor’s center.

“This is a perfect place for us to do that … to have that exposure,” she said.

Ms. Taylor agreed that restarting the process was warranted for the property, calling it a misstep that the tribe wasn’t substantially involved in the decision making.

“Going back to the drawing board on this one … seems like a good way to go,” Ms. Taylor said.

The select board voted unanimously to call for a meeting between the tribe and town to discuss the next steps.

“There’s two properties up there,” Mr. Murphy said. “I’m sure we can work something out.”

“We’re really trying to make the town a thriving place,” select board member Juli Vanderhoop said. “And this is where we start.”