Halls file shade tree appeal, Warren House deal closed
Town counsel Ronald Rappaport told Edgartown selectmen on Tuesday that attorney Benjamin Hall, representing his family's real estate company, Seagate Inc., had filed an appeal of a Superior Court decision that found for the town in a public shade tree dispute that dates back to 2003.
"Its already been 10 years, now we can add another 10," disgruntled selectman Arthur Smadbeck said when he heard the news that the long-running legal dispute has not ended.
The linden tree in question sits on the corner of Main and Summer Streets, next to a long vacant and deteriorating building owned by the Hall family and known as the Yellow House. The property has been at the heart of an ongoing tussle between town officials and the Halls, since Edgartown selectmen voted to deny the owners' request to remove the tree in order to renovate the structure.
Superior Court Judge Cornelius J. Moriarty ruled in the town's favor, following a brief trial in July, and dismissed Mr. Hall's claim for damages. Judge Moriarty issued a written decision laying out the reason for his July ruling on October 11.
Last week, Mr. Hall took the judge's findings of fact, claiming they were in error, and asked for a new trial. He also filed an appeal of the judge's decision with the state Appeals Court.
In an email to The Times Wednesday afternoon, October 30, Mr. Hall described his unhappiness with the portrayal of his efforts to find a resolution and his future plans.
"We continue our efforts to find a resolution to the shade tree issue. We have asked the court to reconsider and correct the technical basis for its decision on the trial with the town. For many years, due to the requirements of the law that one can only appeal from a final judgment, we have not been able to seek an appeal of the prior ruling that the tree was a public shade tree as defined under G.L. c. 87 §1. We disagree with the prior court ruling from many years ago that protracted the dispute, but, in order to appeal, we had to see the case through to judgment. Once a final judgment is issued, and only then, can we appeal the issues raised throughout the long history of the case.
"Regardless, these legal issues are not impeding efforts to try to plan a building that we hope can address the concerns of all, so we can take the building down, and get a new building built there. We had hoped the tree could have been removed so that a truly viable plan could move forward, but have been trying to find a work around."
In other business, Mr. Rappaport asked selectmen to meet on Friday, November 1, to prepare for a November 4 meeting with Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC) to discuss a contract between the electricity coop and the town.
"They have proposed numerous changes to the agreement that we signed," Mr. Rappaport told selectmen. "I think the way CVEC has handled this is really poor, particularly given that they're a government."
Mr. Rappaport explained that the original lender for the project has withdrawn, and CVEC has found a new lender in Deutsche Bank. Meanwhile the cooperative amended the language of the original deal offered to the town, which is why he'd like to meet and go over the new terms on Friday.
In July 2011, Edgartown selectmen signed off on an ambitious three-site utility scale solar energy project they expected to generate enough solar electricity to power all town buildings and excess power to sell.
One of three arrays of solar panels would be built on about six acres of prime agricultural land, part of the 188-acre, town-owned Katama Farm.
A second solar development site is off Pennywise Path behind the Morgan Woods housing development. The third site is between Edgewood Drive and Briarwood Drive, near a town well.
It wasn't all downbeat Monday. Selectmen expressed a sense of joy and relief as they signed the deed for the sale of the Warren House.
"This is so exciting," town administrative assistant Kristy Rose said as selectmen signed the deed.
On September 23, selectmen voted to accept an all cash $2.5 million offer from Chestnut Hill resident Jeffrey Wolk, who plans to turn the deteriorated building into a private residence.
"I sure am glad to sign this," selectmen Michael Donaroma said.
Mr. Rappaport told selectmen there had been a slight delay due to some technical language in the contract. We had to go back out after the bids came in to readvertise," he said.
The sale will be final on Thursday, October 31, Mr. Rappaport said.
In other business, Edgartown selectmen approved an aquaculture license for Roy Scheffer Monday. Mr. Scheffer plans to grow oysters in an area known as Middle Flats, just north of eel pond in the outer harbor.
Mr. Scheffer was unable to attend Monday's meeting, but town shellfish constable and marine biologist Paul Bagnall was on hand to address the selectmen.
"Mr. Scheffer has been in touch with the shellfish committee, [which] has signed off on the location," Mr. Bagnall said.
Selectmen approved a request from longtime town clerk Wanda Williams to place an article on the annual town meeting warrant to change the job of clerk from elected to appointed.
"There's so many things going on," Ms. Williams said. "And if we don't have someone who's going to stay around and work with it and be with it, we're gonna be kind of up the creek for the next presidential election and stuff like that that's going on."
Ms. Williams said she's been in the clerk's office for 26 years. Although she has no plans to retire, she highlighted the changes she has seen during her tenure and said now is the time to plan for the future.
"I can't count the number of changes that have gone on in that period of time," she said.
Selectmen Arthur Smadbeck said he thought the change is a good idea. "I think in today's world, it's so complicated and there so much that you do in your office now," he said.
The article will appear on the April meeting warrant.
Selectmen approved an annual evaluation from information technology (IT) manager Adam Darack, made Monday.
"I think we're very fortunate to have you, and we're not letting you go anywhere," selectman Margaret Serpa said.
The town hired Mr. Darack as its first information technology manager in 2008.
"I'm just as happy with you guys, everyone in town has been great," Mr. Darack said. "In this position I can never catch up."
Mr. Darack said he plans to launch a new website in the coming weeks. "It's pretty much ready, I just need to test some stuff out," he said. "We're going to be integrating in some social media, cleaning up the website, easier navigation."
Finally, selectmen took a bid for custodial work at the Edgartown Police Department under advisement Monday. The bid was placed by Ms. B Housekeeping Services, based on Mercier Way, in the amount of $18 per hour.