Vowing to maintain an open and inclusive process, the group charged with finding an alternative restoration plan for Squibnocket Beach began their work on Monday.
The town committee on Squibnocket met for the first time early Monday to discuss several housekeeping items and to speak broadly on their mission and anticipated process.
The committee was appointed by the town moderator following this spring’s annual town meeting. At that meeting, Chilmarkers voted not to go forward with a restoration plan, which was the product of months of negotiations among the town, the Squibnocket Farm Homeowners Association and the Vineyard Open Land Foundation.
Instead, the town voted by a narrow margin of two votes to form a committee to study alternatives.
The improvement project, which began after Hurricane Sandy, looks to rebuild the badly damaged beach, parking lot and coastal road. Last month, the town received a state grant in the amount of $280,000 to help fund the restoration initiative.
According to the amendment which passed narrowly at town meeting, the committee will assist Squibnocket Farms in developing alternatives for vehicular access to Squibnocket Point and will work to improve access to beach resources for Chilmark residents.
They will study the issue from financial, technical and environmental perspectives, according to the amendment.
The companion issues of beach restoration and access have sparked heated debate around town for many months.
The meeting began with introductions in which members spoke about their experience in local government and hopes for the process.
“I don’t want to see this divide us into cliques,” said committee member Jane Slater. “I want to hold us all together.”
Talk also touched on the gravity and sensitivity of the project.
“As far as process is concerned, one of the challenges is to make sure that the interested parties feel they have been informed and have been part of the project,” said Dan Greenbaum.
Chairman Jim Malkin agreed and said he hoped to invite other town boards and committees to contribute. “We certainly can’t and shouldn’t work in a vacuum,” he said.
The committee also said it would draw on data that has already been collected at Squibnocket.
“It would be foolish to get rid of what we have done already,” said Janet Weidner.
“I would certainly entertain just about anything,” said committee member Steve Flanders. “I think we need to throw open all the doors and windows and look at every aspect.”
Members agreed to adhere strictly to open meeting law, and to make decisions based on consensus. On the subject of a time frame, Mr. Malkin said he hoped the committee would be ready to give an update at the fall town meeting. The work of the committee is not constrained by any specific deadlines.
“I would love to go to the town meeting with a report on where we are, and at the April town meeting to have a recommendation,” Mr. Malkin said.
Mr. Greenbaum said he had devised a template to use for the study of alternatives, and would make it available to committee members and to the town via the town website before next week’s meeting. The committee agreed that all documents discussed by the committee would be uploaded to the town website.
Town counsel Ronald Rappaport will serve as an ex-officio, nonvoting member. Mr. Rappaport said he would not charge for his time and would likely not attend every meeting. Other members include Allison Burger and Billy Meegan.
The committee will meet in the selectmen’s meeting room on the second floor of town hall at 8 a.m. each Tuesday until further notice.
At the meeting’s close, members of the public thanked the committee for their service.
“I am sure we all hope that at the end of the process you still want to thank us,” Mr. Malkin joked.