Tempers flare at concom meeting over Rankow pier application


A pier application by Norman Rankow, former longtime Edgartown dredge commission chairman, dominated an often heated discussion at a meeting of the Edgartown conservation commission (ConCom) on June 6.

Mr. Rankow, a building contractor, resigned from the dredge committee after it was revealed that he had instructed the dredge crew to remove sand around the dock of a client, without proper permits or committee authorization.

Mr. Rankow has applied to install a timber pile on his property at 31 South Water Street. He also asked to install a 4-foot by 14-foot timber landing adjacent to an existing bulkhead.

Dick Barbini of Schofield, Barbini & Hoehn Inc. spoke to the project. “What we would do is basically make a slip. It will have two piles in the harbor one pile in shore so that he can back his boat in, tie to the two piles and tie off to the wall,” Mr. Barbini said.

Following Mr. Barbini’s explanation, David Nash, former dredge committee member, raised Mr. Rankow’s transgression as a member of the dredge committee. “I would like to know how the commission is going to consider Norman Rankow’s application considering his illegal dredging,” Mr. Nash said.

Edward W. (Peter) Vincent Jr., the ConCom chairman, said the commissioners were “well aware” of Mr. Rankow’s history but that “this application is totally unrelated.”

Attorneys representing Mr. Rankow’s neighbors argued against the project, though for different reasons.

Attorney Ellen Kaplan, representing the Reed family who own property south of Mr. Rankow, protested the legality of the project. “Just because you have a property in the water doesn’t mean you have the right to a pier,” Ms. Kaplan said.

The new pile would be 34 feet away from the property line and the landing would be 25 feet from it. Edgartown zoning bylaws require piers be at least 50 feet from the property edge.

“The purpose of this is to back the boat in, jump off the back of your boat onto this little landing,” Mr. Barbini said, which would make getting on and off Mr. Rankow’s boat, “safer for older folks.”

Mr Barbini said the landing is “a pier, in simplest terms, yes it is, but it is not a conventional pier.”

Ms. Kaplan said, “it is quite clear that Massachusetts court has defined a pier and this is definitely a pier.” She said Mr. Rankow is attempting to bypass laws through a special permit.

Currently, Mr. Rankow owns two piles on his property. “I don’t believe there is a reason he cannot back a boat into the piles. They were sold to him by the Vietors,” Mr. Barbini said, in a heated tone. “If he wanted to, tomorrow he could back his boat into there and tie it to the two piles.”

Attorney George Davis, representing the Vietor family, who sold a portion of their property to Mr. Rankow, disagreed. “There is a private agreement between the parties that no boat can stick beyond the middle pile, the outermost one he bought, which would preclude him from putting the boat out there as he suggests.”

Mr. Rankow, who had little to say throughout the discussion, said, “I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m trying to be reasonable.”

The committee voted to continue discussion at their next meeting, on June 20.