Yellow House project can move forward

Selectmen get to root of the issue quickly.

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Selectmen have voted to reissue a request for proposals for the Yellow House. - George Brennan

In a quick meeting Thursday afternoon, Edgartown selectmen approved a bid by Trademark Services LLC for a $1.8 million renovation of the Yellow House into retail shops and residential apartments.

Thursday’s vote came with three conditions aimed at protecting a shade tree, a majestic linden that towers over the sidewalk.

The approval comes after a selectmen’s meeting on Monday where selectmen delayed accepting the recommendation of the Yellow House committee because of an email sent by Ben Hall Jr., a member of the family that previously owned the historic house. In that email, Hall wrote that a basement proposed by Trademark Services could endanger the linden tree. While the proposal was accepted by the selectmen, town counsel Ronald Rappaport recommended three conditions that were also approved by selectmen

The first condition, Rappaport said, is that there be no foundation under an addition proposed by the builder. A foundation under that addition could damage the tree’s root structure, he said.

The second condition was that an arborist be hired to examine the renovations of the Yellow House and make sure there was no damage to the tree during renovations, particularly when the building is jacked up to pour a foundation beneath it, Rappaport said. The third condition is that an independent arborist, hired by the town and paid for by the developer, also review the renovations.

Stephen Berger, the financial investor for Trademark Services, was in the audience, and did not have concerns with the decision.

“Congratulations,” selectmen Arthur Smadbeck said, “I’m very pleased that we found somebody to make this kind of investment.”

Two developers responded to a request for proposals to develop the Yellow House, but one of them bowed out after procurement officer Juliet Mulinare determined the application was unresponsive to some of things requested by the town.

It’s been a long journey for the historic but dilapidated house. The Hall family and town have had protracted legal battles over possible renovations of the house, with the town rejecting any construction that would damage the tree. The town took the house by eminent domain in the spring after voters authorized spending $3 million, including $1.5 million in Community Preservation funds.

In his email, Hall wanted to ensure that the town held Trademark Services to the same standards the Halls had faced.

The town will receive $49,000 over the 30-year lease with the renovations.