The long-anticipated Beach Road decision has been pushed back further after Tisbury selectmen were unable to reach a conclusion at a meeting Tuesday.
Much to the dismay of those who oppose the plan provided by MassDOT, selectmen were unable to reach a conclusion, as selectman Melinda Loberg, a proponent of the shared-use path put forward by the state, left the meeting early.
Chairman Tristan Israel said he would not feel comfortable taking any sort of action without Loberg present. “I don’t think it’s fair, as much as I totally disagree with her [Loberg], she had to leave, and she had to leave legitimately,” Israel said.
Similar holdups at a prior meeting prevented the board taking a vote on the project.
Selectman Jim Rogers said he supported organizing a public meeting to discuss a revised plan to send to MassDOT. “I am here to act on behalf of the voters. I always have been, and that’s not going to change,” Rogers said. He suggested sending a revised letter to MassDOT, requesting they stop eminent domain proceedings and allow for a meeting with the planning board as well. “We need to look back at the symmetrical plan and see if it will work and address the safety of the road,” he said.
Before Loberg departed toward the end of the discussion, she said she doesn’t think going back to the drawing board would be the right move. “It’s a little too far down the road to tell MassDOT we feel differently now,” she said. “It would benefit the community to have an improved road, a better sidewalk, and ample room for pedestrians and cyclists.”
Rogers followed up by saying he’s not sure if anything the selectmen do will make a difference to the government’s plan. “The majority of people I have spoken to are in favor of a symmetrical plan, not a SUP,” Rogers said.
Dorothy Packer told the board she spoke with MassDOT and they said it is up to the selectmen to make the decision on eminent domain.
Lynne Fraker said Tisbury residents should consider what the entrance to town will look like. “It will look more like a city with eminent domain, it will totally change the character of the road,” she said.
Another opponent of the land takings, Debbie Packer, pleaded with selectmen to make the vote and not prolong the issue. Packer, whose family owns the Shell station on Beach Road, said her family’s livelihood would be hurt by the state’s 100 percent plan and taking of frontage from her property. “We have received eminent domain letters. This is really happening,” she said. “It is very easy for someone who doesn’t own the land to give it away.”
Cheryl Doble, planning board chairman, said the foremost concern for this project should be safety. “I don’t think any of us like the idea of eminent domain, but we have looked for so long at various options. I understand the idea of the entrance to the town looking too urban, but this is about safety,” she said. Doble also supported a meeting with the planning board to discuss a revised plan.
Ralph Packer, owner of R.M. Packer, a large maritime commerce company that provides oil to much of the Island, said he would take a very different approach to the project were he to have any say. He highlighted the importance of improved drainage along Beach Road, along with suggesting the possibility of placing all utilities underground. “Bucket trucks can’t go off the road to fix power lines if winds are above 30 miles per hour,” he said. “I think we are planning a little section of a very large project.”
Ralph Packer explained that his waterfront business is situated on deep water — an important asset to the maritime commerce of Tisbury. “This is not the way the community should respond in this situation,” Ralph said. “If we go back to the drawing board, I would like to provide any help I can to make sure we do this right.”
Packer said if his business is put in jeopardy, the Island may lose an irreplaceable resource. He recalled a time when the SSA was the only entity permitted to ship in bulk quantities. “We were doing it anyway, and the Steamship saw what we were doing and offered us an agreement,” he said. He explained how the SSA signed a release enabling R.M Packer to take part in maritime commerce. “What we do, they can’t do, and they recognize that,” he said. “We can do that for perpetuity.”
“We are down here on Beach Road, this is our livelihood. We will not permit eminent domain on our property where it is not necessary just because you want access to the water. I am very sincere about this one.”
Tashmoo dredging is a wrap
The Tashmoo channel is now much safer for vessels after the month-long dredging project came to a close on Nov. 2. Harbormaster John Crocker told selectmen the initial contract with Edgartown was for a maximum of 22 actual dredge days. The maximum cost established for the project was $193,000. Crocker said there were 16 actual dredge days within the allotted time, bringing the total cost of the project to only $148,000. “I am happy to say we came in under budget because it took less time than we anticipated,” Crocker said. Half of the total cost will be reimbursed by a state grant, and a post-dredge survey is scheduled for later in the month that will determine the exact square footage of sand removed from the channel, Crocker said. He said the actual amount the town will have to pay is about $85,000. “That is a round number,” he said. The final cost will be determined after the post-survey.
Crocker said unless the town looks at a more permanent solution, it can expect to have the channel dredged every two or three years. “We will want to go out in the spring and see if it needs more addressing,” Crocker said.