West Tisbury selectmen last week signed off on a conservation commission request to spend up to $5,000 in legal costs to appeal a decision by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), approving a homeowner’s plan to construct a shoreline stone revetment on Tisbury Great Pond.
The town has already spent approximately $5,000 in the opening stage of what is now a two-front legal battle to prevent Wesley Edens from constructing a stone barricade to protect his multi-million dollar house and property from erosion.
The house is west of Long Point on the north side of Tisbury Great Pond, at the end of a point of land. The land between the house and the pond has been eroding at a rate of about two-feet per year, according to court documents.
Initially, Mr. Edens proposed to build a 255-foot stone revetment. Later, during the review process, he agreed to reduce the length to 170-feet. He also agreed to provide 38 cubic yards of beach nourishment to address concerns that the absence of his eroding bank would deprive other areas of the pond of beach nourishment.
However, the main point of contention between Mr. Edens and the concom was the stone revetment. The concom wanted Mr. Edens to try so called soft measures to protect the bank, for example coir fiber rolls made of tightly bound cylinders of coconut fiber.
Mr. Edens presented testimony to the concom in the public hearing phase, that fiber rolls would not be sufficient, according to court documents.
Woods Hole Group, a firm of coastal scientists and engineers, said that the house and associated structures would be at risk of serious damage due to storm events, and the only practical way to stop the erosion is to build a rock revetment to protect the coastal bank.
Stephen McKenna, Cape and Islands regional coordinator for Coastal Zone Management said that a stone revetment was preferable to bioengineered structures such as coir logs because the latter would require frequent maintenance due to material breakdown caused by extended periods of high water.
On March 26, in a 3-1 vote, the conservation commission issued an order of conditions that denied Mr. Eden’s request to build a stone revetment.
In its denial, the concom said that the erosion was not severe enough to justify the construction of a concrete revetment and that other means of slowing the erosion could and should be applied before a revetment was built.
The members of the concom also agreed the proposal was for a revetment to protect property as opposed to a house. Concom members expressed concern about the danger of setting a precedent.
Commission members approved a motion to deny a local and state permit for the project, according to meeting minutes, “as the proposal is for a structure to protect a property rather than a house at this time, and for the failure of the applicant to meet the performance standards of the state regulation that there are no feasible alternatives to protect the structures and that under the bylaw that there will be no adverse effect to the adjacent down-drift beaches.”
Mr. Edens appealed the denial of his state permit to DEP and filed suit against the town in Dukes County Superior Court over the denial of the local permit. In August, selectmen signed a contract with the Boston-based law firm of Rubin & Rudman to serve as special counsel to the concom.
Eric Wodlinger of the Boston-based firm of Rackemann, Sawyer and Brewster represents Mr. Edens, chairman of the board of Newcastle Investment and chief executive of Fortress Investment Corporation. Mr. Wodlinger is familiar with Island issues, having represented the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for a years.
On January 31, DEP issued what is known as a “superseding order of conditions,” essentially overruling the earlier conservation commission order.
DEP said the revetment, initially proposed to be 255-feet, must be no more than 135-feet.
In its decision, DEP said, “A number of alternatives to the revetment were evaluated but were rejected due to on-site conditions that reduce the likely feasibility of softer solutions such as coir fiber rolls.”