For decades, fishermen have used the parking lot at the Chatham Fish Pier, which is actually property of the Chatham Bars Inn.
The parking has been allowed but the agreement between the town and the resort is informal and is not legally binding, according to Chatham Selectman Sean Summers.
Summers says the town needs to take action to look out for the fishermen.
“The town felt it has to take action to protect its historic access and access for the fishermen to get out and fish. That’s a big part of what Chatham’s all about,” Summers said.
The Chatham Bars Inn has filed an injunction in Barnstable Land Court to try and prevent the taking of the land by the town through eminent domain.
Summers said fishermen have been using the lot since he can remember.
“The lot precedes my memory and I’m a native Chathamite, so it’s been there ever since I was a kid. It’s always been used,” he said.
As the case makes its way through the court, the town and the resort have an agreement to keep the status quo on the property, meaning the town uses the bottom portion of the lot and the resort uses portions of the top lot.
Summers estimated that about 50 fishermen use the lot on a daily basis, essentially the entire Chatham fishing fleet.
“We wouldn’t have taken that action if we weren’t feeling pushed. It was sort of like the Sword of Damocles over our heads every time ownership wanted a new project to get supported. They would look to the town for support and say, ‘you know we do own that parking lot down there and we can make the parking lot go away,'” Summers said. “We just couldn’t live with those perpetual threats or concerns. We have to make sure working folks have access to the water.”