Authors Posts by Michelle Gross

Michelle Gross

Michelle Gross

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A report on the health and well-being of Tisbury Great Pond released last month follows years of bureaucratic wrangling over costs. It is the long-awaited result of a study that began in 2005. The study has confirmed low but significant nitrogen levels in one of Martha’s Vineyard’s largest estuary systems.

Tisbury Great Pond — a 700-acre coastal salt pond that straddles the boundary between Chilmark to the west and West Tisbury to the east — is one of several Island ponds that were subjects of the state-wide study of coastal water bodies comprised in the Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP), a collaboration between the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“The overall goal of the Massachusetts Estuaries Project is to provide the MassDEP and municipalities with technical guidance to support policies on nitrogen loading to embayments,” the study said.

Excessive nitrogen levels have become a common contributor to the decay of coastal ponds across the Island. “Tisbury Great Pond is in better shape than others,” Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) water resources planner Sheri Caseau said this week. “But there’s definitely a need for the study. When the algae grows and then dies, it smothers everything underneath it, and this can cause a major die-off.”

According to the report, “… nutrient related water quality decline represents one of the most serious threats to the ecological health of the near shore coastal waters.”

Tisbury Great Pond supports a healthy population of wild oysters and local fauna, whose existence is compromised if septic wastewater and fertilizer runoff, the prime contributors of nitrogen buildup, continue to be overlooked, Ms. Caseau said.

“Unfortunately, almost all of the estuarine reaches within the Tisbury Great Pond system are near or beyond their ability to assimilate additional nutrients without impacting their ecological health,” the study concluded.

An increase in nitrogen stimulates algae growth, which leads to low levels of oxygen and poor water quality, the 150-page analysis found. The result is, “The loss of fisheries habitat, eelgrass beds, and a general disruption of benthic communities and the food chain, which they support.”

The study added that there is a critical need for “state-of-the-art approaches for evaluating and restoring nitrogen sensitive and impaired embayments.”

About time

While the state picked up half the cost of the report, Chilmark and West Tisbury taxpayers shelled out $80,000.

Although voters approved funding over the course of several annual town meetings, town officials criticized the time taken to produce the report. Disputes between DEP and UMass over rights to the study furthered officials’ skepticism.

“The MEP has not shown themselves to be well administered; it has been a slow, bureaucratic process that has been mired in foolish debate between UMass and the state, with no consideration of the towns,” Chilmark selectman Warren Doty said in 2011. “We authorized them [for funding] three years in a row, and it took them five years before they even came to get their money.”

In a telephone conversation last week, hydrologist Roland Samimy, technical coordinator for MEP, attributed the tardiness of the MEP’s report to what he said was the lack of a regional approach on behalf of the Island towns’ elected officials to see the project through.

“The towns on the Vineyard are not coordinated when it comes to water monitoring basics,” Mr. Samimy said. “It’s high time that we try and develop an Island-wide water monitoring program, because at the end of the day, all you end up with is a patchwork quilt of water monitoring, and it doesn’t become as useful.”

Despite the delays, Mr. Samimy said the study may still be used in an effective way. “The towns can now use it to manage the (nitrogen) loads to the estuary, before they get too high.”

Mixed views

At a selectmen’s meeting in March, Kent Healy of West Tisbury, a well-known civil engineer and longtime pond steward, expressed concern for what he considered to be a significant lack of evidence presented in the draft report.

“The MEP is in the nitrogen business,” Mr. Healy said. “And that’s what they measured. I’m not a not a nitrogen person, I’m a groundwater person, but there are major flaws presented in this study, problems that I consider to be serious errors.”

In a phone interview last week about the final report, Mr. Healy, who has been monitoring the groundwater in and about Tisbury Great Pond for more than 30 years, said, “Any proposal to reduce the level of nitrogen must be based on valid measurements and calculations. But they don’t measure the content of groundwater as it enters Tisbury Great Pond. Based on that alone, their [MEP’s] findings are inaccurate.”

Not everyone is critical of the MEP studies, which include the Squibnocket/Menemsha ponds system.

Wendy Weldon, co-chairman of the Squibnocket Pond Advisory Committee, has endorsed the MEP’s study since it’s inception.

“People worried about the state coming in, but it’s for that reason that I support it,” Ms. Weldon said. “It will help us make decisions down the road on how to manage our ponds that are loaded with nitrogen.”

How conclusive is the report?

“It’s a constant work in progress, to some extent it’s always a constant work in progress,” Mr. Samimy said.

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From left: Bryan Cimeno, Kevin Burchill, Mason Bassett, Martin Aranzabe (front), Lucy Benedetto (front). — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Graduation is a bittersweet moment. One door closes, another opens. But, for the 184 graduates of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), the rain cleared Sunday and the clouds parted just in time to say goodbye to high school, once and for all.

At roughly 1 pm, a sea of seniors, draped in their signature purple and white caps and gowns, gathered around the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. Reminiscing about the good old days, students shared with a reporter their feelings about the day’s events that were about to begin.

“It’s very overwhelming,” said Jacob Oliver, 18, as he waited. “Between graduation and graduation parties, it’s a lot.”

“But we’re excited,” his friend, Darci Whitney, 18, said.

Eighteen-year-old Margaret “Maggie” Riseborough, is excited.

“It’s definitely a bittersweet moment,” Maggie said. “I love this class, but I’m really excited to go to college.” She will attend UMass Amherst in the fall.

Seniors Alayna Hutchinson, 18, Fionnuala Howell, 18 and Skylah Forend, 17, posed for some photos and a few laughs before the ceremony began. Fionnuala, who is the 2013 Class Essayist, said, “I feel a little sick.” She had the pre-speech jitters. “I’m nervous, but I’m excited.” She will go to U.C Berkley in the fall.

“It’s a tight class,” Alayna said. “We’ve definitely gotten closer, especially in the last couple months.”

While some students chose to punctuate their costume with pops of color in the form of fancy footwear and other accents, others took a more traditional approach.

Young Brothers to Men – a mentoring and community service group on campus – saw a surplus of students add multicolored scarves and pins over their robes as a sign of solidarity.

“This is a group that represents minorities in the school,” said the group’s vice president, Brandon Watkins, 17. “Students wear these every year so we’re carrying on the tradition,” he said. He said he had become involved, thanks to the inspiration of advisor W. Leo Frame Jr.

Mr. Frame, an MVRHS teacher, started the group back in 1990, but he will retire this year.

As graduates slowly marched to “Pomp and Circumstance,” parents, relatives and the occasional tourist looked on. Faculty members relished the sweet success of another senior class on its way.

Master of ceremony Madeline Webster opened the festivities saying, “This is intense,” before reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. She invited Class Salutatorian, Julia Cooper – “one of the wittiest people I know” – to the podium.

“I cannot imagine a struggle more real than applying to college,” told her fellow graduates. “It’s all like one really long, twisted episode of Say Yes to the Dress, where the dresses end up choosing you … But now, that struggle is over and you’re ready to walk down the aisle to your intellectual future, high school diploma in hand.”

Following Julia, Class Essayist Fionnuala Howell reminded her fellow classmates to seize the day.

“Today we should appreciate what this Island home has taught us, which is that we have the ability to kick back, relax, and enjoy the moment,” she said.

Highlights of the ceremonies included a commentary by the president of the Cape Cod Community College, Dr. John Cox, followed by a performance of the senior’s chosen song, “The Road Not Taken,” and a presentation of the Vineyarder and Principal’s Leadership Awards.

Student council president Samuel Oslyn, received a rousing response from his opening line “Good afternoon, muggles.” Continuing in that vein, Samuel said, “There are going to be so many wonderful new discoveries for us to make, such as perfecting the art of the microwaveable meal, finding a cost-friendly solution to weekly laundry obligations, and inventing new, more ‘grown-up’ excuses for our self-perpetuating habits of procrastination.”

He added a few words of wisdom. “Take risks. Learn from your mistakes. Be a boss. Have fun. Get smart. Make good decisions, children.” Valedictorian John “Jack” Roberts took a more subdued approach, opening with a quote from Mother Teresa. “We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”

He continued, “The day we took our first steps, our first words, our first day of kindergarten, our first time riding a bike, are moments of relative insignificance in the ultimate scheme of life. Yet they are all moments that shape us. They are the ripples of our life, and these ripples became the wave that carried each of us to this day.”

Before presenting diplomas, principal Stephen Nixon had some parting words for the class.

“Leaving a mark takes time and dedication,” Mr. Nixon, a musician as well as an educator, said. “Leave your mark on the world and remember, as the Beatles said, ‘And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.'”

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Deborah Farr, Director of Real Estate for The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, presented the proposal to a small gathering of Vineyard Haven merchants. — Photo by MIchelle Gross

Representatives for Stop & Shop hosted an informal meet and greet at the Mansion House on June 5, to discuss the store’s plan to renovate its current Water Street store.

“We see tonight as a casual evening to answer questions,” Greg O’Brien, a Stop & Shop consultant, said last Wednesday. “We felt that as a courtesy to neighbors, we should invite them to a friendly event, and this is the first of several outreach opportunities we’re gonna have.”

Deborah Farr, director of real estate for the Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, presented the proposal to a small gathering of Vineyard Haven merchants. “We’re pretty excited about the plans for this expansion and for the store that we’ll be able to provide,” Ms. Farr said. “It’s a major renovation, and the town of Tisbury deserves better.”

The plan would dramatically reconstruct and expand the Water Street, Vineyard Haven, market, changing the appearance and size of the nondescript building the grocery store now occupies and adding enclosed parking for 43 cars. “We can have rotisserie chicken,” Ms. Farr said, in response to a question about how the extra space will be used.

The building site includes the block of land that houses the present grocery store, the space at the rear previously leased to Midnight Farm, the adjacent, former Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant, and a residential building behind the Golden Dragon building, at 15 Cromwell Lane.

“Everything will be under one roof,” Stop & Shop store manager Sam Koohy said. “It’s something I’ve been fighting for, for a long, long time.”

In their comments Wednesday, many town merchants favored a wait-and-see approach. “I need to see the plans,” Mansion House co-owner Susie Goldstein said. “It affects me, you can see the store from the cupola deck.”

“We were scheduled to be in front of the (Martha’s Vineyard) Commission tomorrow night, but we had to delay a little bit,” said Geoghan Coogan, a former Tisbury selectmen and a lawyer who represents Stop & Shop. “We’re still working on some of the floor plans, so we don’t want to go forward with the MVC until we have it right.”

The first public hearing to discuss the permits is scheduled for July 11.

April Levandowski, owner of Le Roux at Home, was one of about 20 business people who attended. “It sounds like there’s still some pieces that really aren’t decided; the MVC is going to make all the difference,” she said.

Elaine Barce, owner of the Green Room at 71 Main street, only a couple blocks away from the Stop & Shop, said she hopes the new store will bring positive change to the community.

“Initially, I think it’s a good proposal for town,” Ms. Barce said. “There’s been so many changes over the years in Vineyard Haven, we should have a grocery store that reflects those changes.”

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Edgartown wants to unload the decaying Captain Warren House on North Water Street, bought by the town in 2004. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Edgartown selectmen had a look Monday at a two-part bid for the decaying town-owned Captain Warren House. Maggie White, a businesswoman in town, offered two possible options, one a straight cash deal and the other a partnership with the town.

Ms. White, owner of the Hob Knob Inn on Main Street, as well as a construction company, and Nancy Kramer and Christopher Celeste, a seasonal Edgartown couple, submitted the two proposals as part of one bid.

One option is payment of $1 million with a 40 percent profit-share to be paid to Edgartown by spring 2015. The other is an all-cash bid in the amount of $1.25 million.

The selectmen had little comment. They said town administrator Pam Dolby would present an analysis of the bid and its parts at next week’s meeting.

The town bought the historic structure at 62 North Water Street for $3.5 million in 2004, as part of a plan to expand the Edgartown Library, which abuts the Warren House property.

Within a year, however, it was apparent that the structural condition of the building was not suitable for a library. The library expansion on that site was eventually scrapped. The Warren House has been vacant and deteriorating for nine years.

“This is a very unusual situation, because we’re selling town property,” selectman Arthur Smadbeck said in a phone conversation Tuesday. “In this particular case, the town borrowed a certain amount of money to put toward a property, and I can’t remember the last time that’s happened.”

Mr. Smadbeck, a real estate agent as well as a selectman, said the White proposal is the first bid the town has received. “Once we know what can be done with it, we can start making some business decisions,” he said.

Ms. White, a resident since 1995, owns Hob Knob Construction. She just completed work on the Captain Ellsworth House, at 52 South Summer Street, now for sale.

“We’re very hopeful that the town will work with us on this project,” she said in a telephone conversation Tuesday. She said her plan is to use historic elements of the property to create an authentic “village-like compound.”

South at Eleven North

In other building news, the owners of the Eleven North Restaurant returned to selectmen with a letter from the Cape Organization for Rights of The Disabled (CORD), urging them to approve plans to install a required handicap access ramp.

Selectmen earlier said the issue was not the ramp but the fact that it would land on town property.

Last month, Edgartown selectmen gave the owners until September to provide access to the restaurant for people with disabilities. The decision on whether the restaurant can continue operating rests with the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board.

The restaurant is open under a temporary occupancy permit and has missed a deadline set by the Architectural Access Board for compliance with state disability regulations.

Chip Williams, one of three Eleven North owners, gave selectmen a letter from CORD assistant director Cathy Taylor, who wrote “mistakes were made, but people with disabilities should not have to pay the penalties for these mistakes by being denied access to the restaurant.”

Mr. Williams followed up on the Taylor letter by telling selectmen he thought there is no issue.

“I think the issue is the use of town property,” selectman chairman Margaret Serpa said. “There is an issue.”

“I don’t think this board’s ready to say yes, but it’s not ready to say no,” said selectman Michael Donaroma.” “But we’ve already sort of decided to give you guys until September to come up with a plan, and you just came back with the same plan to say that you legally can do it. Well let me assure you, we legally can say no,” Mr. Donaroma said.

In the meantime, Eleven North will continue to do business under a temporary occupancy permit.

“Think about this plan and maybe come up with a better plan in the meantime,” Mr. Donaroma said.

“You’re trying to make this our problem. This is your problem,” said Ms. Serpa.

And finally, in other news, fireworks will light up the sky over Fuller Street beach at 9 pm on Friday, June 14. Selectmen approved a fireworks permit for a 190-person rehearsal dinner to be held there, hosted by the Lobianco family.