Town Committee on Squibnocket
December 4, 2014
Chilmark Town Hall Selectmen’s Meeting Room
Present: Jim Malkin (Chair), Allison Burger, Steve Flanders, Billy Meegan, Jane Slater, Janet Weidner, Dan Greenbaum
Also Present: Jay Walsh, Wendy Weldon, Jessica Roddy, Joan Malkin, Dave Damroth, Rosalie Hornblower, Chris Murphy, Warren Doty, Emily Bramhall.
Minutes of December 2, 2014 approved as amended.
Jim Malkin opened the meeting by reading into the record a letter just received from Doug Liman, who asks the Committee to frame its recommendation such that “the ‘what, how and high’ of the road or causeway be left up to the stakeholders – Squibnocket Farms and Orphanos/Weldon”. In response, Jim Malkin reminded the meeting that the second grant just received from Coastal Zone Management calls for four things: 1) revetment removal, 2) relocation of the parking lot, 3) a recreational bathing beach, and 4) dinghy access – in other words, an orderly retreat from the receding shoreline that preserves important town assets. He noted that the Town has charged the Squibnocket Committee with making recommendations as to how that should be done. The Committee has encouraged
the stakeholders to seek agreement with one another, and the Chair asked two well-known Chilmark citizens, Clarissa Allen and Lenny Jason, to facilitate such discussions, which, however, did not result in agreement. He noted that the stakeholders are still encouraged to seek agreement among themselves, but that the Committee’s charge is to recommend the best possible option after careful consideration, not to set the stage for private negotiations.
Elements of a Recommendation: At its meeting on December 2nd, the Committee reached agreement that the best available parking option is on the combined Weldon/Oprphanos-Jeffers mini-lots west of Squibnocket Road. The Committee had narrowed down possible access roadway options to three: 1) a causeway, 2) a road-at-grade to the wetland, low causeway, and road-at-grade, and 3) a dune with road-at-grade. Dan Greenbaum clarified that the first option, the full causeway, is not the one originally presented by the SFHA, but “causeway #2”, located further north. He felt that the Committee could take both Causeway #1 and Causeway #3 off the table at this point. Jim Malkin said that he has heard from Peter Weldon, who may be willing to make the “Little
Weldon” mini-lot available to the town with or without the adjoining Jeffers/Orphanos mini-lot.
Dan Greenbaum then reviewed each option. Given the clear recommendation from the experts that no dune should be constructed prior to post-revetment shoreline stabilization, he noted that, during the 6 months to one year or more period of stabilization, there would be no protection for an at-grade roadway. He also noted that a low causeway would likewise be unprotected during this phase, but that it would experience occasional wash-over, and would most likely not require subsequent reconstruction. He expressed concern with the dune and at-grade roadway proposal in that, as the dune naturally migrates inland, there will be wash-over every two to three years, which will deposit large amounts of sand on the roadway, and that having to rebuild the road every ten years or so will result in
interrupted access to the area. The low causeway would be designed to experience wash-over once or twice per year; if this increases, or becomes untenable, at that point consideration could be given to construction of a dune to provide protection to the low causeway.
As for durability of the respective options, he noted that the west end of the causeway would need to be moved back as far as possible. The Dune/road alternative has the same west-end issues, but provides for flexibility as the dune moves back; the low causeway’s west end may end up being met by the retreating beach in about 50 years. He also reminded the meeting that the 2.3’ per year erosion rate is not intended, nor is it scientifically sound, to be extrapolated decades into the future: the US Geological Survey expert feels that using this estimate for a timeframe for which it is not intended leads to false specificity. So we can only reasonably give a broad estimate – 25-40 years, for example, for the timeframe in which the beach will encroach on the access roadway.
Wetland effects are lesser for both causeway options, and remain a strong concern for dune/road-at-grade option, the latest iteration of which shows an estimated 4,974ft2 of wetland required to be filled. Without the ability for water to freely pass through the road, he noted that Army Corps of Engineer approval of the project would not be obtained. Such pass-through would require culverts, which would require elevation of the roadway to accommodate them; even as little as a 2’ elevation of the roadway widens the profile of the roadway to create the sloped shoulder on each side of the road. He estimated that such a roadway could only be a maximum of 208’ long in order to maintain <5,000ft2 wetland fill. While he recalled the somewhat degraded
quality of the wetland in question, this does not affect regulatory requirements.
Dan Greenbaum then addressed the integration of the parking area with access road alternatives. Both the dune/road and low causeway options branch off from Squibnocket Road north of the parking area. The “causeway #2” option starts below the parking area, which is a disadvantage in the congested summer traffic.
He noted that the dune/at-grade road option faces significant and possibly insurmountable permitting hurdles as outlined above, and that the low causeway appears to provide some of the advantages of the at-grade roadway proposal, without the problematic features. Instead of a culvert-ridden roadway through the wetland portion, there would be a low causeway on piles. He concluded his review by stating that, in his view, it seems logical to recommend the low causeway option.
Committee members responded in agreement. Janet Weidner stressed the advantage of having the turnoff to the access road prior to the beach parking area. The low causeway option seems the best, with the regular causeway as a back-up. Steve Flanders felt that the location of the low causeway is the best, but warned against building it too low, lest it turn out to be a less durable solution than hoped for.
Jim Malkin agreed with the preference for the low causeway. He felt that we could eliminate the at –grade roadway based on Conservation Commission “no-net loss” policy, which places highest priority on greatest possible maintenance of wetlands (ConCom Bylaw par. 1.03). When the proposed emergency route through Blacksmith Valley was shown to be non-viable, the route through the wetlands must be the option with the least impact. The pilings of the low causeway clearly provide far greater wetland-preservation than an at-grade roadway with culverts.
He stated that the Committee is now looking at two access road options, causeway #2 and a road-at-grade, low causeway through wetland, road-at grade option.
Construction Costs and other considerations: Jim Malkin reported on discussion and site review undertaken with John Keene. He stated that John Keene has offered to answer questions from the Committee pro-bono, and takes no position on the Committee’s recommendations. Construction costs for the proposed parking lot were estimated at around $35K, and revetment removal around $20K. John Keene recommended using boulders from the revetment to build the retaining wall on the west side of the proposed parking lot. He also noted that there is a significant amount of cement in the western end of the existing parking lot which will have to be jack-hammered out. In addition, the two mini-lots required for the parking option would cost roughly $148K each.
Recommendation to the Town: Jim Malkin summed up the “preferred alternative” and back-up access option for the Committee to take to the public information meeting: the preferred alternative being an at-grade on-lane roadway with turnouts close to Squibnocket Pond, with a low, single-lane causeway spanning the wetlands, and a road-at-grade resuming; parking to be south of the roadway. A second alternative would be a full causeway as originally proposed, but located further north and with its western end as close to the pond as possible. Jim Malkin suggested that the Committee recommend to the Town to adopt the preferred alternative, and, if agreement on this alternative cannot be reached between Weldon-Jeffers/Oprhanos and SFHA within 90 days, then the second, less preferable
alternative will be pursued. He also recommended that the Committee provide further guidance to the effect that the Town could consider dune construction in the future should it prove to be necessary to protect access once the beach has reached equilibrium, and that the town continue to investigate the Planning Board’s options and evaluate the feasibility of the acquisition of the large Weldon property.
Members of the Committee agreed to the approach. Jane Slater stressed the importance of providing a clear and simple presentation for Chilmark voters who have not been following the process closely. Jim Malkin will produce a draft power point presentation along these line to present at the December 18th public information meeting which he will circulate to the Committee on Friday December 5th for consideration at the upcoming meeting on December 9th. Jim will be out of town on 12/9, and Janet Weidner has agreed to chair the meeting. At that meeting, in addition to reviewing the power point presentation, the Committee will finalize a two-sided flyer which will be mailed to all Chilmarkers that same day, inviting them to come to the public
information meeting on Thursday December 18th at 7pm in the Chilmark Community Center.
Jim Malkin then presented two maps illustrating the “preferred alternative” and the “second alternative”. He pointed out that the SFHA had indicated that, if secure access is provided, beach area would be made available for Town use, and that a dune and road-at-grade did not fulfil the requirement for secure access. Billy Meegan felt that the second alternative would re-introduce many of the objections the townspeople had voiced regarding the original proposal turned down by Town Meeting vote. Janet Weidner agreed, but noted that the “second alternative” made some significant improvements, in particular, by not locating the parking lot where it would have to be accessed via the causeway, and where it would also significantly impact the view. Allison Burger stressed
that the “preferred alternative” is in fact a greatly preferred alternative, and wondered if 90 days is too short a time period for the parties to reach agreement.
Jim Malkin responded that the Town voters had rejected the original proposal for three main reasons: 1) the location of the parking lot; 2) the process had not allowed people to evaluate any alternative options and left people feeling blindsided; and 3) visual and environmental concerns. He pointed out that a number of these objections are addressed by relocating the proposed parking lot in a much less intrusive location, mitigating visual, environmental and other concerns, and that the work of the Committee has involved thorough examination of many alternatives over these past many months. As for the timeframe of 90 days, he pointed out that leaving the timeframe open-ended could result in a stalemate that would put the town in the unenviable position of having to decide how long is too
long to seek to reach agreement.
Billy Meegan suggested listing the advantages of the preferred alternative in bullet-point format, and adding reference to the important asset of locating the parking lot beyond the turn-off for the access road, avoiding the need to traverse the parking lot to reach the road. Members of the audience asked that property ownership be clearly identified on the maps, and asked for clarification of the proposed low-causeway materials (a concrete deck, for example, is far less noisy than a wooden deck). The Committee will further review the details of its recommendation following the public information meeting, but the general parameters as discussed today enjoy the consensus of the Committee.
Billy Meegan made a motion to approve the recommendation as outlined, with the addition of a bullet point on the advantageous parking lot location in relation to the road in the “preferred alternative”. Janet Weidner seconded, and members unanimously approved the motion.
Chris Murphy spoke from the floor, thanking the Committee for its work, but suggesting that the parties might need significant time to reach agreement; Jim Malkin noted that there has been ample time over the past months for the different sides to explore each other’s views, and pointed out that the grant we have just been awarded should not be allowed to expire yet again. Given the amount of time and attention that has been paid to these issues, it seems reasonable to assume that if agreement can be reached, it can be reached within a matter of months, and, if it cannot, no amount of additional time will make that happen.
The Committee asked Marina Lent to draw up a timeframe of the coming weeks leading up to the Special Town Meeting on February 9th, 2015.
The meeting was adjourned at 09:23.
Approved as amended December 9, 2014