The Aquinnah select board heard three business proposals this week to rent the vacant Aquinnah Circle No. 9 space, with some community members advocating that tit be reserved for a Wampanoag-owned business.

The three proposals included a visitor’s center proposed by the Aquinnah Cultural Center, and two restaurant plans, one from Jonathan Bodnar and the other by Alexandra Taylor.

Aquinnah Circle committee member Jim Pickman relayed to the board their recommendation that the cultural center be earmarked for Aquinnah Circle No. 13, next door to No. 9., and that the restaurant proposal from Alexandra Taylor be accepted.

“Then we could have both a restaurant and the Aquinnah Cultural Center visitor’s center,” Mr. Pickman said.

He added that the restaurant was recommended due to its plans to be open most of the year and provide indoor and outdoor seating.

“Primarily because it would be a vibrant entryway to the circle,” Mr. Pickman added.

But some community members felt the building should be offered to a Wampanoag led business.

“This proposal looks wonderful if you don’t take into account the history of the Wampanoag land that we’re standing on,” Jamie Vanderhoop said.

While neither of the restaurant proposals came from Wampanoag members, Ms. Vanderhoop said it was a disservice for the space to be slated for any business without an option of first refusal by the tribe.

“I feel that we’re doing a disservice to our cultural district if there are not Wampanoag people at the table,” she said.

Ms. Vanderhoop added that she believed the tribe had a right of first refusal for the space based on a 2003 town meeting decision she said codified such a policy for town land. But select board member Gary Haley said he was unsure whether that rule needed to be adhered to as that 2003 vote did not reach a two-thirds majority and likely needs to be referred to counsel.

“We did not in any way ignore, or know about, this right of first refusal,” Mr. Pickman said.

While some members of the community spoke in agreement with Ms. Vanderhoop, others said the town’s financial stability needed to be taken into account when deciding who will be allowed to lease the property.

“I respect the interests of the tribe,” John Davis said. But he added that the space should serve the town’s economic interests. “Both of these things need to be adequately considered in any decision the town makes,” he said.

Ms. Vanderhoop said the needs of Wampanoag tribal members should come first.

“We can’t be comfortable at the detriment of the Wampanoag [people],” she said.

Board member Tom Murphy said the needs and interests of all community members need to be considered when the town makes such decisions. He added that he believes under state law, the highest and most qualified bidder has a right to leases granted by the town.

But Ms. Vanderhoop maintained that the tribe should be a top priority when it comes to the leasing and sale of land.

“There’s the right thing, there’s the legal thing [and] there’s the wrong thing,” she said. “And those are not always clear.”

Ultimately the board voted unanimously to defer to legal counsel, seeking guidance on the matter.

“I anticipate that this matter may best be referred to counsel,” Mr. Murphy said.