Heavy equipment needed for Schifter house move is due Friday

Contractors last week excavated sand from around the guesthouse foundation in preparation for moving the building back from the edge of the eroding bluff, now approximately 40 feet away. — Photo courtesy of Edgartown Conservation Commission

Edgartown selectmen Monday gave permission to contractors to use the Chappaquiddick ferry parking lot to stage the heavy equipment they need to begin the complex effort to move a large, luxury house away from the rapidly eroding coastal bluff on Wasque Point.

International Chimney Corporation barges carrying hydraulic jacks, 70 foot steel beams, and other equipment from Maryland are scheduled to arrive on Martha’s Vineyard as early as Friday, March 29.

The evolving plan calls for contractors to move a house from the adjacent Leland property, bought by Richard Schifter to make room for the relocation of his threatened shorefront guesthouse, garage, and 8,300-square-foot seasonal main house.

Engineers plan to dig a trench 250 feet wide to move the main house on beams, with the basement and foundation intact, to its new location.

Excavation and clearing began on the site last week, after the Edgartown planning board and conservation committee approved preliminary site work. The two boards are waiting for more information from the Schifter team before taking action on the approval needed for the entire project.

Crews will need several days to stage crane equipment. Selectmen granted permission to use the roads and parking lot from March 27 to April 3, with the provision that the selectmen be notified of any delays before they meet next on April 1.

International Chimney Corporation plans to place two barges just north of the Chappaquiddick ferry slip, and stage a large crane in the parking lot to transfer equipment from the barges to waiting trucks.

The contractor estimated transferring equipment would require 34 truck trips from Chappaquiddick Point to the job site on Wasque, over a four- to five-day period. All of the trucks will comply with weight regulations, but four trucks would be over length, requiring police escorts, and perhaps road closures for short periods.

Selectmen asked contractors and engineers to meet Monday to answer some questions and address some concerns.

Highway superintendent Stuart Fuller said he is concerned about heavy truck traffic over a section of road near the Chappaquiddick fire house that is scheduled for temporary repair this spring, then paving in the fall.

“There is a good possibility, depending on how much trucking goes over the road, this road may need more substantial repair,” Mr. Fuller told selectmen. “I don’t know how to deal with that. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but if it gets worse, it’s going to increase our cost to repair the road.”

The contractors pledged they would restore all roads damaged by truck traffic or equipment to their original conditions.

Residents are concerned that extra traffic associated with the project may increase the length of ferry lines.

“The key thing concerning residents would be to have some forewarning when all this is going to happen,” Roger Becker, Chappaquiddick resident and president of the Chappaquiddick Island Association, said.

Ferry owner Peter Wells said he is satisfied that the plans presented so far will not significantly impact ferry operations.