Authors Posts by Michelle Gross

Michelle Gross

Michelle Gross

— Photo courtesy of Deborah Moore

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath, deep. Meditate and get ready to channel your inner chi.

Starting Sunday, March 9, the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard will host a weekly two-hour alternative exercise and mind healing class called Qigong, which focuses as much on a person’s mental health as their physical health.

“I’d say the biggest gift one gets is learning how to have unconditional joy throughout your body,” Aquinnah resident and Qigong instructor Deborah Moore told The Times in a telephone conversation Monday. “You could be having the worst day, and then a few minutes later you learn to release that stress. That’s the best part about it.”

Ms. Moore, a 30-year veteran in yoga, Qigong, meditation, and sound healing, said that the class is great for people of all ages who are interested in tapping into their happy place.

“Qigong is very broad in terms of what it means and what it actually does,” Ms. Moore said. “So many people are having trouble with various levels of stress, so this is one good way of learning to teach your mind how to be able to let go.”

Qigong, pronounced chee-gung, is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation. Exercises typically have three components — posture, breathing techniques, and mental focus by guiding life energy through the body. This life energy is known both as chi and qi.

With roots in Chinese medicine, martial arts and philosophy, Qigong is considered by some to be exercise, and as a type of alternative medicine or meditative practice, Ms. Moore said.

“Not every teacher is the right teacher for everybody,” Ms. Moore said. “I make my best effort to connect with everybody that’s in the class. What I’ve found on the Island is people come with a very clear intention to optimize their physical and mental health. And that creates such a strong force field of positive emotion. It’s a real gift and it makes it very easy for me to do my job as an instructor.”

Ms. Moore, who also teaches private Qigong lessons on the beach and in her home in Aquinnah, said this form of exercise helps develop human potential, allow access to higher realms of awareness, and awaken one’s “true nature” by creating awareness and influencing dimensions of our being that are not part of traditional exercise programs.

“The best part of being in this particular class is the energy that is shared throughout the room,” Ms. Moore said. “I think of it kind of like a rock concert. The more people that come together, the more there is this positive energy flowing through everyone. It’s wonderful to be able to be a part of it.”

Ms. Moore stressed the importance of adding intention and breathing techniques to each physical movement. When these dimensions are added, the benefits of exercise pay dividends.

The gentle, rhythmic movements of Qigong reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system. It has also been found to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions, according to Ms. Moore.

“What’s beautiful about this is whether you’re 5 or 95, you do the same practice of getting at the core of staying physically healthy, and understanding they are intrinsically connected,” Ms. Moore said.

Registration for Qigong ends February 27 with a maximum of 20 students per class. Members can pay $80, non members $100. Please call 508-696-7171 to register.

Co-sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital,  the YMCA will also host a free monthly meditation and discussion drop-in program starting March 22. The monthly community gatherings will practice guided meditations, explore related topics, and engage in community and dialogue.

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From the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs to the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown and Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury, on any given day, many Island residents and visitors will walk in, drive by, or pass through a building maintained by the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust.

With an operating budget of $1.5 million for 2014, the trust maintains 20 properties around the Island, many of them acquired when the trust was founded in 1975.

A private, not-for-profit organization supported by contributions from the public and through the management of historic properties, the trust has three special events each year, which generate nearly a third of its income. They are the Taste of the Vineyard gourmet stroll, the Patrons’ Party and Auction, and the generations’ picnic.  In 2013, the combined revenue from ticket sales and auction receipts from the three events was $553,260, Chris Scott, executive director of the trust explained this week.

Hosted by the Edgartown Preservation Trust, Taste of the Vineyard is one of the season's most popular events, raising $465,000 last June.
Hosted by the Edgartown Preservation Trust, Taste of the Vineyard is one of the season’s most popular events, raising $465,000 last June.

“The annual return from events varies from year to year, largely based on the items that are donated to the Patrons’ Party silent and live auctions,” Mr. Scott wrote in an email to The Times. “We get different items each year and the attendees differ somewhat as well.”

He stressed the importance of a good economy to the success of his organization’s preservation efforts. “Auction bidding generosity can be affected by the economy. When the economy is robust, people can be generous; when the market has had a very significant setback, that will affect auction performance.  That said, our income each year is generally evenly divided between special events receipts, contributions, and property generated revenues.”

While fundraising events account for some of the trust’s operating costs, the majority of its annual budget is fueled through rentals for events, including weddings and private functions.

“Property income is extremely important to the trust’s annual budget,” Mr. Scott said. “Throughout the trust’s properties, we have numerous tenants that pay annual rent — this provides a stable base to our overall income.  However, as with auction receipts, user fee income is also affected by the health or weakness of the economy.  Weddings, for example, cost more to produce on the Vineyard than on the mainland, and when people are feeling conservative, they will pull back and economize.”

The Daniel Fisher house, on Main Street in Edgartown.
The Daniel Fisher house, on Main Street in Edgartown.

Janet Heath, the trust’s director of special events, said her team is already gearing up for wedding season.

“It’s going to be a good season,” Ms. Heath said. “We’re already ramping up for the summer, and we’re anticipating a lot of activity.”

Ms. Heath said a majority of the inquiries to rent one of the properties comes  from the Trust’s website. “People generally seem to know what they’re looking for even before they call us,” she said. “Our properties are so specific, depending on the type of function or event.”

She said weddings are a big draw to a few of the venues, particularly the Old Whaling Church, Union Chapel, and the Dr. Fisher House in Edgartown.

“Weddings bookend the season with June and September being the most popular,” Ms. Heath said. “The second weekend in September somehow always seems to be the most popular date every year for weddings.  We do take wedding bookings in July and August, too, but September takes the cake.”

Built in 1840, Dr. Daniel Fisher House on Main Street in Edgartown rents for $3,000 per day and is among the most popular venues for weddings and private functions, Ms. Heath said.

“We have a fair number of weddings booked in any one of these venues already, but that seems to be the biggest draw,” Ms. Heath said.

Ms. Heath said performing arts events take charge in July and August, with a peak in August.

“The fireworks and fair week is usually the busiest,” Ms. Heath said. “The backbeat to it all is the steady schedule of the Vineyard artisans festivals, farmers’ markets, and the antique emporium at the Grange Hall, Memorial Day through Columbus Day.”

For more information about the Preservation Trust call 508-627-4440 or go to

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Time for tuxedos, designer dresses, and guessing who will win, at the Martha's Vineyard Film Center Oscar party. — Photo by David Welch

Oscar fans turned out in their Hollywood best for the Oscar party at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center Sunday night. Hors d’oeuvres and champagne flowed as guests mixed and mingled in the center’s main foyer before the screening of the Academy Awards.

Oscar night is a time to dig out the designer dresses. From left, Dave Tuminaro, Eve Heyman Jeannie Holenko, Elyse Clark, and Michelle Bettencourt.
Oscar night is a time to dig out the designer dresses. From left, Dave Tuminaro, Eve Heyman Jeannie Holenko, Elyse Clark, and Michelle Bettencourt.

“This event is always a lot of fun and the film center is very conducive to films and events like this,” said Richard Paradise, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society.  “We love doing this on a local level and give people a local experience. It’s also a fun excuse to get people to dress up.”

Geoff Rose, of West Tisbury came prepared.

“I’m a movie nut,” Mr. Rose said. “I’ve seen every movie with the exception of Captain Phillips and I’m intrigued to see what’s going to win.”

The event at the Film Center also drew an international presence. David Wood and Steven McGuniges flew all the way from London to attend Sunday’s affair.

“We go to the U.S every year for the Academy Awards,” Mr. Wood told The Times. “This year we chose Boston, but we’ve always wanted to see the Cape and the Island so we thought we’d come here.”

Geoff Rose (left), Eric Turner, and Jennifer Smith Turner enjoy the party.
Geoff Rose (left), Eric Turner, and Jennifer Smith Turner enjoy the party.

Prior to show-time, guests were invited to strike a pose with a 1949 Oscar statuette. The statue was courtesy of Chilmark resident Robert George, whose late father, George L. George, won the award in 1949 for his film short, “Toward Independence.” Made for the U.S. Army Signal Corps, the film was about military men with disabilities returning home after World War II.

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Alliance Community Church, 1 Ryan's Way, Oak Bluffs — File photo by Michelle Gross

After being denied a permit to expand its building and church activities in December, representatives of the Alliance Community Church are poised to resubmit a new application to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), The Times learned Friday.

The MVC took up the church’s planned expansion project as a development of regional impact (DRI) after representatives of the church, formerly known as Nova Vida, asked for a permit to expand their existing property at 1 Ryan’s Way in Oak Bluffs.

MVC executive director Mark London told The Times that he met with pastor Valci Carvalho Monday to discuss the changes to their application.

“It’s very rare that an application is denied,” Mr. London said. “When that happens, the applicant is entitled to resubmit or reapply,” Mr. London said in a telephone conversation with The Times. “They had talked to me after the original decision and said they intended to resubmit. Now they’re working on a new building plan that will have less impact on the abutters and on the road, and apparently they’re working on a site plan and a revised set of offers.”

Mr. London referred to MVC DRI regulation 8.6 titled “Resubmittal of Denied Application,” which provides that “Any DRI that has been denied may be refiled at any point, but the applicant shall be apprised that should the proposal be identical or substantially unchanged from that which was denied, then the applicant runs the risk of having the newly submitted application meet the same fate since substantially unaltered or unchanged proposals would give the commission no reasons to change the reasoning for the original denial.”

Mr. Carvalho said he is hopeful that the new application will be a win-win for everyone involved.

“We moved the building and changed the parking lot, landscape and lighting design,” Mr. Carvalho told The Times. “It’s a completely new proposal, and we will address all of the issues and concerns the commissioners have, and of course we will try to address the neighbors’ concerns as well.”

The church had applied to build a 4,500-square-foot addition that would include a 4,500-square-foot basement. When added to the existing 7,000-square-foot building already on the property, the proposed expansion would have resulted in a total square footage of 16,084.

Mr. Carvalho said the new plans call for reducing the size and scale of the building significantly as well as moving the building farther away from abutters on Ryan’s Way.

Do over

Located in a residential neighborhood on Ryan’s Way off the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, the size and use of the church have been the subjects of an ongoing debate between neighbors and church representatives ever since the MVC first approved the 150-seat church as a development of regional impact (DRI) in 2008. Then, the church was approved for a 150-seat chapel on the second floor of the existing building and a 28-child day care center on the bottom floor. The day care center has since moved, and building plans have been dormant.

On December 19, the MVC denied the church a permit to expand its building and church activities. The 4-3 vote was based largely on the impact an expansion would have on the residential neighborhood.

Two commissioners who were eligible to vote, Linda Sibley and Erik Hammarlund, abstained. Four of the 13 commissioners present were not eligible to vote due to absences during the public hearing process. They excused themselves from the meeting before the discussion and vote.

Christina Brown of Edgartown, Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs, and Douglas Sederholm of Chilmark voted to approve the project with conditions. John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs, Joshua Goldstein of Tisbury, James Joyce of Edgartown, and Brian Smith of West Tisbury voted no.

Clarence Barnes of Tisbury, Madeline Fisher of Edgartown, Leonard Jason Jr. of Chilmark, and Joan Malkin of Chilmark were present but recused themselves.

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Appraised at just over $2 million, the yellow house on the corner of Summer street and Main street in Edgartown has been at the center of an ongoing debate between the Hall family and the town since 2003. — File Photo by Michelle Gross

In a tangled series of events beginning Monday afternoon, the Edgartown Community Preservation Committee (CPC) met and voted to allocate $1.4 million toward the acquisition of the Hall family’s long vacant “yellow house” property at 66 Summer Street in Edgartown, the focus of a long-simmering legal dispute.

On Tuesday, the committee was making plans to undo its action.

Asked about the vote Tuesday morning, CPC chairman and Edgartown selectman Margaret Serpa said the town has been discussing the possibility of purchasing the property for some time, possibly by eminent domain.

Ms. Serpa said the CPC planned to hold a public hearing on March 13 to discuss the vote in anticipation of placing an article on the annual town meeting warrant.

“It was an interesting meeting,” Ms. Serpa told The Times early Tuesday. “We’ve been talking about it on and off. All we hear from townspeople is ‘when are we going to do something with the yellow house,’ so we just thought we would discuss it.”

Later that afternoon, the CPC reversed course. Ms. Serpa said there would not be enough time to hold the public hearing and meet the deadline for placing an article on the warrant for the annual meeting on April 8.

Ms. Serpa said a decision had been made to rescind the vote when the CPC committee next meets.

The home, built in 1850, has housed several businesses recently.
The home, built in 1850, has housed several businesses recently.

Asked why the decision to rescind the vote was made after the CPC had already voted, Ms. Serpa said there was a lack of consensus among CPC members after all.

“I don’t want to speak for the other members of the committee, but there was a lot of discussion back and forth,” Ms. Serpa said. “We are going to discuss at Monday’s selectmen meeting what the best step will be moving forward.”

The property in question, owned by a Hall family trust under the name Seagate Inc., is familiarly known as the yellow house, and it sits on a prime piece of real estate.

At Monday’s CPC meeting, Ms. Serpa said much of the conversation was centered around what the best use for the property would be. “There was some mixed discussion at the meeting, but the big thing was trying to figure out what would we do with it, which isn’t clear at this point,” Ms. Serpa said. “A portion of the space could be used as a park, or part of it could be used for parking. What we want is for it to be something better than what it is now.”

The community preservation act (CPA) permits towns to collect up to a 3 percent surcharge on real estate taxes to be used to fund projects in four areas: to preserve open space, historic preservation, affordable housing, and develop and maintain outdoor recreational facilities. The state provides funds from fees collected on real estate transaction fees to match the town’s money. Edgartown will receive matching funds totaling 67 percent for the 2014 fiscal year.

Ms. Serpa said she hoped the town and the Halls could work together moving forward.

“We’d like to work with them to get something done that everyone is happy with,” Ms. Serpa said. “If it’s possible I don’t know, but that would be the ultimate.”

Plans to rebuild

Reached by phone Tuesday night, Benjamin “Buzzy” Hall said he was surprised to learn about the CPC meeting on Monday.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” Mr. Hall told The Times. “It’s as if they want it to be like a stroke of lightning. They certainly move quickly. But we continue to be pilloried by the town because we haven’t spoken out. Maybe now it’s time.”

Mr. Hall said his son, Benjamin Hall, has been working with Edgartown architect Patrick Ahearn on plans to rebuild the yellow house on its existing location. “It’s in the same location, only four feet closer to the sidewalk,” Mr. Hall said. “The roof has been modified. It’s nothing extraordinary, a nice looking colonial-style building.”

Mr. Hall said the town was made aware of plans to rebuild prior to Monday’s CPC meeting. “We have told them about the plans,” he said. “There’s been a slow up in the way we want to fashion things. We want to make sure it’s done the right way to make it viable for prospective tenants’ use.”

Costly option

Eminent domain is a legal process that allows selectmen, subject to a town meeting vote, to take land from private landowners for public benefit, after paying them fairly for the property. An unhappy owner can bring a lawsuit to contest the price. If the value of the land ends up being higher than what was paid, then the town must pay the difference.

According to online assessors’ records, the yellow house, which was built in 1850, is currently appraised at $2,037,700.

The property, which town officials would like to see improved, and an overgrown linden tree on the property’s Main Street frontage that the family would like to cut, have been at the heart of an ongoing tussle between town officials and Benjamin Hall and the Hall family since 2003.

In an April 2003 public hearing, Edgartown selectmen voted to deny a request by the Halls to remove the tree, despite the owners’ complaints that the tree was impeding their plans to renovate the existing structure and rebuild.

The Halls appealed to Superior Court to have the selectmen’s decision overturned, arguing that the property’s value was being negatively affected by the town’s decision to prohibit removal of the tree. Superior Court ruled in the town’s favor.

According to the town’s assessors records, the property was purchased on March 31, 1946, by Alfred Hall and sold to Seagate Inc., an Edgartown real estate agency owned by grandson Benjamin Hall, in May 1986.

Over the years, the house has been home to several businesses, including the long gone Bickerton and Ripley bookstore, an art gallery, and a jewelry store.

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Local plow drivers have had plenty of work this February. — File photo by Steve Myrick

As snow fell Saturday, the familiar sound of revving engines and clanking plows echoed around Martha’s Vineyard. With 177 miles of paved roads to be plowed across the six towns, snow plows and sand spreaders have been busy this winter season.

From season to season, anticipating how much snow will fall on the Vineyard is anyone’s guess. Island highway superintendents begin planning months in advance of the winter by purchasing and stocking up on sand and salt.

Sand versus salt

Unlike other communities across the state, the Island does not use a straight  salt formula to de-ice the roads, because of environmental concerns, MVC wastewater planner Sheri Caseau told The Times.

After the storm, there is still plenty of plowing to do.
After the storm, there is still plenty of plowing to do.

The Island uses a sand-salt mix to improve traction for vehicles.

Each town buys sand from Goodales at $7.80 per ton. Salt is bought wholesale from Eastern Minerals and delivered by waste management company Bruno’s. The going rate has increased considerably this year, from $75 to $95 a ton, including delivery charges from Chelsea.

While sand requires repeated applications and extensive cleanup, studies have found that straight road salt can contaminate soil and kill plants along the roads as well as bleed into groundwater, contaminating rivers and lakes.

Sand helps to create traction at any temperature, as long as it is spread over the ice, Edgartown highway superintendent Stuart Fuller told The Times.

If the weather is too cold, however, sand can clump and freeze together, becoming part of the ice and providing no traction. Adding the right amount of salt can keep this from happening.

Sand is effective as long it is on the surface: if it is buried under more snow, it must be reapplied. Heavy traffic will move the sand off the road, requiring regular reapplication, Mr. Fuller said.

Town highway superintendents also work to stay within the constraints of their budgets, which melt away with each new storm. This season, all have one thing in common — they have exceeded their snow removal budgets.

In conversation during a lull in the weather, town highway superintendents talked about the challenges involved in keeping the roads clear.

One part of the job

Highway superintendents across the Island have been working overtime to keep the roads cleared this winter season.
Highway superintendents across the Island have been working overtime to keep the roads cleared this winter season.

In the Island’s smallest town, Aquinnah director of public works Jay Smalley said snowplowing is just a part of another hard day’s work in the winter.

“It’s a one man show up here,” Mr. Smalley said in a phone conversation with The Times. “But somebody’s got to do it.”

Aquinnah budgeted $10,759 for snow and ice removal from eight to ten miles of paved roads that needed to be plowed and sanded. There are no set hours in this line of work, Mr. Smalley said. And no schedule. It’s an on-call job, depending on the weather forecast.

“If it starts snowing at two o’clock in the morning, I’m out there at two o’clock in the morning,” Mr. Smalley said. “We’ve got to make sure the roads are cleared for the school buses and workers. It’s a tough job, but an important one.”

Some roads are still dangerous to drive on. Private roads and state roads are not maintained by Island municipalities, Mr. Smalley said. “Every storm is basically its own animal. This year it’s been particularly bad.”

Mr. Smalley said the biggest obstacles in Aquinnah are the high winds. “Some roads I can go down, no problem. Others we can have a real problem with,” he said. “Overall, though, I don’t mind the work. It makes the winter go by faster.”

Springtime, Mr. Smalley said, is the moment to sweep the roads clear of any sand-salt residue. Cleanup after storms is just another part of the job.

“We do this every year,” Mr. Smalley said. “It usually takes three to four days using the street sweeper that goes out and sweeps the roads.”

Override in Edgartown

Edgartown budgeted a total of $35,800 for snow removal this year, Mr. Fuller told The Times.

“This year, I’ve asked selectmen for an override to pay bills,” Mr. Fuller said. “I haven’t had to do that since 2005. But this is a pretty severe winter, and that’s being reflected in the cost.”

Mr. Fuller has spent the last 13 winters keeping the roads cleared. He said he can remember the town using sand for as long as he can remember. “I’ve grown up here, and I can remember seeing the brown stripes of sand pretty much since childhood,” he said.

Mr. Fuller said the cost in overtime pay, which started out at $18,400 in the available budget, has been overspent by $1,100 so far this season.

“We have 45 miles of road to plow in town,” Mr. Fuller said. “Whether it snows one inch or one foot, we still have to treat the roads. So the size of the event sometimes doesn’t change in the amount of dollars.”

Mr. Fuller said the Island is definitely in the minority by using sand. “It gives you traction, helps to break up and grind frozen ice and snow, and it doesn’t melt like straight salt will,” he said.

Mr. Fuller also said there is also a certain psychology involved in using sand.

“I think it comes down to driver satisfaction,” he said. “People can see the sand and they know the roads have been treated.”

There are seven employees and seven trucks commissioned by the Edgartown highway department. “We try to keep everything in house,” Mr. Fuller said. “We hire very few outside contractors.”

Each truck has a plow. The largest truck holds 24,000 pounds of material, a medium size truck 15,000 pounds.

Mr. Fuller referred to long nights of plowing and sand spreading as “sanding events. The long duration, that’s the toughest part,” he said. “It is what it is. Sometimes there’s a lot of traffic on the road when you’re trying to do your job and that can be challenging.”

Oak Bluffs plans early

Oak Bluffs highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. said planning for the winter season starts months in advance by stocking the salt shed at the highway department.

“We start mixing in the fall,” Mr. Combra said. “We generally start with a shed full of salt and sand and we just order more and mix more depending on where we’re at. We like to keep the pile stocked.”

As with other towns, Oak Bluffs uses the same sand-salt formula.

“We started with 200 tons of salt and 500 tons of sand,” Mr. Combra said. “And we just ordered another 200 tons of salt and 300 tons of sand.”

The mixture is kept in a salt shed at the highway department and mixed well in advance of a storm, he said.

The budget allotted to snow removal in Oak Bluffs is$25,000, including the cost of materials and overtime for workers.

Oak Bluffs has three sand spreaders, including two large spreaders and one small spreader, to cover 38 miles of paved roads.

“It’s pretty labor intensive,” Mr. Combra said. “These guys are out there, it’s cold, it’s late at night, that’s really the hardest part.”

Self taught in West Tisbury

Unlike other towns, West Tisbury hires all outside contractors to complete snow and ice removal, highway superintendent Richard Olsen told The Times.

“It’s a long day for these guys,” Mr. Olsen said. “Depending on the storm, they could be out for 20 hours straight. But they’re good about it. I’m really comfortable with the guys we have and the way it works out.”

Mr. Olsen said West Tisbury contracts six plows, not including one plow that is owned by the town. Four plows are owned and contracted by David Merry of landscape contractor Merry & Sons, the other two are owned by Richard Olsen & Sons.

“Some towns like to pre-treat the roads,” Mr. Olsen said. “I don’t like to do that. I don’t think there’s any advantage to it. That’s what the experts say to do. But every storm is different and you have to treat it different. You have to put different quantities down, depending on the temperature or the amount of snow. There are a lot of things that factor in.”

West Tisbury budgets $40,000 for snow removal annually but spent $86,588 last year, a figure which is on the rise, according to town accountant Bruce Stone. Of the $40,000, between $6,000 and $7,000 is budgeted for sand. The rest is dedicated to contract work for plowers.

“I would expect we’re up to $90,000 for the snow and ice removal budget,” Mr. Stone told The Times. “I’ll find out later this week when the bills come in. This has been a bad winter so far.”

At a West Tisbury selectmen’s meeting February 12, selectmen voted unanimously to pay snow removal expenses of $37,000 that have exceeded the current budget. Mr. Stone said this type of additional expense is traditionally added to the next year’s budget.

“We were in a similar situation budget-wise last year,” Mr. Stone said. “But the year before that we came in way under for snow and ice removal. So you never really know.”

Mr. Stone referenced Massachusetts General Law Chapter 44 Section 31D, which provides that snow and ice removal are the only line budget item that towns can over spend on, with the approval of selectmen and the finance committee. West Tisbury has used 550 tons of sand so far this year.

“I’ve been doing this kind of work for 50 years,” Mr. Olsen said. “I’m self taught. I know the state does things differently, but I know how to treat our roads. We have a good system here.”

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The dilapidated hangar at Katama Airfield is due for replacement with a new, larger structure. — File photo by Steve Myrick

Edgartown selectmen agreed on Monday to the terms of a deal hammered out with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) that would allow the town to replace one of two hangars at Katama airfield with a much larger hangar and bring an end to a tussle with the national conservation organization that’s lasted more than eight years.

The town could not alter the size of the hangar without first coming to an agreement with TNC, which holds the conservation restrictions on the historic grass airfield. The agreement, which has changed little over the past year, would amend a conservation restriction on airfield property granted by Edgartown to The Nature Conservancy in 1988. That amendment would, in effect, remove the land where the airfield’s buildings are massed from some conservation restrictions.

“In terms of the conservation restriction, we resolved everything with The Nature Conservancy,” town counsel Ronald Rappaport told selectmen Monday. “We’re ready to go.”

Under the terms of the current deal, the town would be required to put 21 acres of town-owned land off Pennywise Path under new permanent conservation restrictions. The existing uses of the land include five acres reserved for solar energy, two acres for wastewater, seven and a quarter acres for recreation, and five for conservation, Mr. Rappaport said.

The land surrounds a town well, and town officials have previously said it is not likely to be developed, but the new conservation restrictions would prevent any use, in perpetuity.

The proposal would also convert about 6,700square feet of land, currently mowed and used for airfield operations, to wild, protected land; add a 62-acre parcel that was left out of the 1988 agreement by mistake; and designate a zone for specifically defined airfield operations.

“There’s nothing new that’s being added that wasn’t in the deal before,” Mr. Rappaport said. “What I said when I was last in front of you was that the town is giving up a lot to effectively double the size of this small hangar.” Mr. Rappaport continued, “People ought to take a deep breath and see if what we’re giving up is worth it.”

Mr. Rappaport reminded selectmen that voters have already approved the expansion at a special town meeting in 2010.

Also present Monday were airfield commission members Mike Creato, Jim Harrison, former chairman Bob Stone, and current chairman Jamie Craig. The airfield officials have pressed Edgartown selectmen for support of their hangar project. Planning began in 1996 and the airfield trust began raising funds in 1998. They have raised $330,000 to date.

In the past, selectmen balked at signing a conservation restriction agreement with TNC, after being advised that it placed too many restrictions on the town’s control over the hangar project, and they blamed TNC for long delays and unreasonable demands that have delayed the project.

Selectman Arthur Smadbeck asked airfield commissioners why the airfield officials seemed to be on board with this new agreement when they had expressed “vocal opposition” before.

“Our major opposition was that we didn’t have assurance that we would get what we want,” Mr. Stone said. “I wouldn’t sign anything unless we knew we’d get what we’d want, which is a larger hangar. I haven’t seen assurance of that yet.”

Airport manager Mike Creato said the agreement now provides clarity that was lacking before.

Mr. Creato also said the hangar project will be a benefit to the town. “I think there’s a benefit to having a building that sort of cleans things up out there,” he said. “It’s a pretty nice little oasis. It’s a little messy and overridden, but I think it’s a worthwhile effort to make it a viable facility. It’s not without a pretty good return.”

Since TNC has signed off on the deal, the decision now rests with the selectmen, Mr. Rappaport said.

“I think we’re on our way, hopefully,” selectman Margaret Serpa said.

Selectman Michael Donaroma was not present Monday. Selectmen are expected to sign the new conservation restriction at their meeting next Monday.

In other business, selectmen approved a request from John Roberts, owner of the former 11 North restaurant building, to block part of a loading zone on Mayhew Lane. Mr. Roberts told selectmen he plans to install a dumpster, effective immediately through May 15, in order to make repairs following a flood on December 13, that caused significant interior damage to the building. Selectman Serpa approved the request on the condition that nothing is poured or spilled into the storm drain.

Finally, selectmen gave town administrator Pam Dolby the go-ahead to sign off on a grant application to pay the salary of an energy manager who will oversee energy projects in Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, and Edgartown.

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A recent drone aerial photo shows just how close the home of Jerry and Susan Wacks is to the eroding bluff on Wasque Point, Chappaquiddick. — Photo by James Flynn

On the southeastern most point of Chappaquiddick, 19 feet from the eroding bluff at Wasque Point, Jerry and Susan “Sue” Wacks’s house sits precariously close to the edge. Its fate rests with the natural forces that first attracted the couple to the remote location.

In a letter to Jerry Wacks, dated December 19, 2013, Edgartown conservation commission agent Jane Varkonda wrote; “The conservation commission conducted a site visit to your property on Monday, December 16, 2013. Since Norton Point beach eroded and migrated approximately 800 feet to the West, the erosion at your property has worsened significantly.”

The letter continued; “Therefore, to prevent the house from ending up in Katama Bay out into Nantucket Sound or washing up on adjacent beaches, which would cause damage to resource areas under our jurisdiction, the commission has the authority to issue an emergency permit for the construction of the access route and removal of the house.”

Looking west, this photo shows the migrating breach in Norton Point beach and the newly formed sandbar that has formed just off Wasque Point.
Looking west, this photo shows the migrating breach in Norton Point beach and the newly formed sandbar that has formed just off Wasque Point.

Built as a summer retreat in 1984, the flat-roofed, single-story home was emptied of furniture and contents in December. It is facing partial demolition of its shore side, depending on the natural forces at work, Martha’s Vineyard superintendent for The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), Chris Kennedy said Friday.

“Right now, the Wackses are taking a wait and see approach,” Mr. Kennedy told The Times. “Nothing’s happening right now, it’s so strange. Until about a month and a half ago, that portion of Wasque Point was losing about a foot a day. But now everything’s turned eastward, and it’s provided them with some protection.”

TTOR, the private nonprofit conservation organization that manages Norton Point Beach and owns or manages much of the outer Chappaquiddick beachfront, has been keeping a close eye on the Wacks house and the continual erosion of Wasque Point.

The current cycle of erosion began in April 2007, when a one-two punch of storm-driven ocean waves and powerful spring tides scoured open a cut in Norton Point Beach. The result was two long narrow spits of sand stretching east and west toward one another. Over the past six years the cut has steadily migrated eastward toward Wasque Point.

While the rate of erosion along any shoreline is unpredictable, Mr. Kennedy said that for now, the change in tidal currents is providing some reprieve for the house.

A distant view of the breach and the sandbar. Wasque Point is to the left.
A distant view of the breach and the sandbar. Wasque Point is to the left.

“Right now, the erosion is pretty minimal,” Mr. Kennedy said. “But in early December, Norton Point was completely open to the ocean waves. Now, the house is in protected water.”

Geoff Kontje, a Chappaquiddick resident and general contractor for 41 Degrees North Construction, said a special permit has been issued by the Edgartown Conservation Commission for the demolition of a portion of the Wacks house, should it become necessary.

“At present, no demolition is scheduled,” Mr. Kontje wrote in an email to The Times. “All resources are in place to carry out the removal of the portion of the house nearest the bank, when and if erosion encroaches to the point that further inaction is inadvisable.”

The Wacks’s are not the only Chappaquiddick property owners to face the harsh reality of erosion. Last July, a team of engineers and moving crews completed a massive house moving effort for Rick and Jennifer Schifter of Washington, D.C., whose  8,313-square-foot, seven-bedroom main house, including its foundation, basement bowling alley, and massive two-story chimney, were moved back from the brink to an adjoining lot 275 feet away from the eroding bank at Wasque Point.

“Certainly since the Schifters moved everything back, they have a bit of room to go,” Mr. Kennedy said. “But we are losing on that end of Wasque, maybe about a foot a week.”

For now, Mr. Kennedy said they will continue to keep an eye on things.

“The Wackses may escape Armageddon here or they may not,” he said. “But right now they are afforded quite a bit of protection. We’ll see what happens here.”

Natural pattern

A 1884 map of the southeast corner of Martha's Vineyard, from Katama to Wasque Point.
A 1884 map of the southeast corner of Martha’s Vineyard, from Katama to Wasque Point.

The growing sandbar and migrating opening is part of a natural pattern that has been documented on charts and in studies for several hundred years.

A recent study described the process.

The Woods Hole Group (WHG), an international environmental, scientific, and engineering consulting organization headquartered in Falmouth, prepared an eight-page analysis of the historic shoreline changes and coastal geomorphology for the south-facing shoreline of Chappaquiddick for Mr. Schifter. Dated December 11, 2012, the report described the situation on Wasque Point at that time.

“The wide beach and dune resources that once existed have completely eroded, and recent erosion since August 2011 has caused a loss of 120 to 150 feet of coastal bank. When the Schifter residence was initially completed in 2006 the top of the coastal bank was approximately 200 feet away from the building, however recent erosion has brought the bank to within 73 feet of the residence,” WHG coastal geologist Leslie Fields wrote.

In her report, Ms. Fields described a three-stage pattern of geomorphologic evolution, or the science of land and undersea changes, all of which are inextricably linked to the larger coastal system.

Inlet breaching

In the first stage, ocean waves and tidal levels combine to punch a hole in vulnerable spots in a barrier beach. “Inlet breaches typically form near the center of Katama Bay, although slight variations east or west have occurred. Over the past 75 years, storm-induced breaches have developed into semi-permanent inlets on three separate occasions: 1938, 1953, and 2007. Other cuts through the barrier have also occurred; however these have been short lived.”

Spit grows, channel lengthens

During stage 2, the inlet begins to migrate east towards Chappaquiddick and the dominant easterly flowing shoreline current causes the Norton Point spit to grow. As that spit extends to the east, the barrier beach on the Chappy side of the inlet tends to shorten and erode. Often the eastern barrier will also rotate north into Katama Bay as incoming tides push sediment into the Bay. During the early phase of stage 2 the shoreline along the south side of Chappaquiddick is relatively stable, with little or no erosion. “This is true as long as the eastern barrier spit is intact and can supply sand to the south side of the Island,” according to the report.

End stage

In stage 3, the tidal channel that connects Katama Bay to the Atlantic Ocean eventually closes as tidal currents are not strong enough to flush sediment from the opening. Waves gradually push the Norton Point barrier spit to the north and the beach eventually welds onto Chappaquiddick.

The site of the previous tidal channel forms a new cat-eye pond as the barrier spit moves onto the island. This process results in a relatively quick and dramatic accretion along the south facing shoreline of Chappaquiddick as the beach/dune and cat-eye pond deposits weld onto the coastline.

Finally, during the last part of stage 3 the beach/dune system begins to retreat as ocean waves, tides, and currents cause erosion. The process continues until a new breach in the Katama Bay barrier forms and then the cycle starts over with stage 1.

In conclusion, she said, “While all information in this report is presented to the best of our understanding, there is no crystal ball that can be used to predict future shoreline and bank locations with any greater degree of accuracy.”

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Gabriel Nascimento holds a dirt bike helmet, goggles and gloves he received from the Massachusetts's Make-A-Wish foundation. — Photo by Michelle Gross
From left, Gisele, Gabriel, Emanuel and Joey Nascimento.
From left, Gisele, Gabriel, Emanuel and Joey Nascimento.

Joined by his family, a few close friends, and two representatives of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Massachusetts and Rhode Island (MAWF-MRI) at the Ocean View Restaurant in Oak Bluffs Saturday, 13-year-old Gabriel Nascimento was all smiles and in good spirits as he spoke excitedly about his upcoming trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

“I had a lot of stuff that I wanted to do for the wish,” Gabriel told The Times. “But I really wanted to do something where I could be with my family. Also, I’m really excited about the waterpark and the safari adventure.”

At first glance, it is not obvious that just a couple of months ago, Gabriel, an eighth grader at the Tisbury School, was undergoing regular chemotherapy treatment.

“I’m feeling much better,” Gabriel said. “When I was in treatment, I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. Now I can.”

In 2012, Gabriel was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes. It was found in lymph nodes in his neck, which grew to about the size of a ping-pong ball.

A few of Gabriel's classmates at the Tisbury School shaved his initials into their scalps as sign of solidarity.
A few of Gabriel’s classmates at the Tisbury School shaved his initials into their scalps as sign of solidarity.

“He’s a tough kid,” his father, Joey Nascimento, told The Times. “It’s an experience that I don’t think any parent should have to go through. There are no words to explain what your feelings are with this type of cancer.”

For seven months, Gabriel underwent chemotherapy treatment. In November, he received good news.

“When we went there and they told us he was clean, he just started screaming,” Mr. Nascimento said. “I just got as light as a feather; all of the pressure, everything just goes. You have the whole world in front of you again.”

Mr. Nascimento said Gabriel will continue getting regular checkups to make sure the cancer remains at bay. But for now, the family is looking forward to the future and their visit to one of the happiest places on earth.

On February 17, MAWF-MRI will send the teen and his family to Disney World for a week.

“Disney has been a fantastic partner of ours,” said MAWF-MRI media relations manager Jordan Salvatoriello. “They really do a great job of making every child feel like a prince or princess.”

Make-A-Wish America began in 1980 by granting the wish of 7-year-old Chris Greicius, who wanted to be a policeman for a day, before he died of leukemia. The national organization now grants 14,000 (and rising) wishes a year to children between ages 2½ and 18. MAWF-MRI was started in 1987 as a local chapter, but operates as a separate 501(c)(3) non-profit.

After a doctor confirms that the child has a life-threatening disease, the youngster makes a wish and staff members handle the logistics of making it come true. Ms. Salvatoriello said each child can choose any wish they want.

“We’re focused on the impact of the wish,” Ms. Salvatoriello said. “Family is certainly impacted by the child’s illness as well, so we want to strengthen families and try to make it an all-inclusive experience.”

Community support

Planning for the celebratory lunch began when Ocean View waitress Ali Smith heard what Gabriel had been through and decided to do whatever she could for him and his family.

“Once I heard about Gabriel and everything he’s gone through, I just knew I had to do something,” Ms. Smith told The Times. “I wish I could do more.”

In addition to helping coordinate the lunch, Ms. Smith and a few members of the Ocean View wait staff pitched in to buy Gabriel a Flamengo soccer jersey, because they heard it was his favorite team. Ms. Smith said the owners of the Ocean View, Peggy and Ron Jackson, donated all of the food for Gabriel’s send-off lunch.

“I’ve lived here three years, and it just gets better and better,” Ms. Smith told The Times. “People don’t know what a caring community this is and how everybody is so close-knit, especially in the winter.”

Family and friends, including Oak Bluffs police chief Erik Blake (right) joined Gabriel Nascimento at the Ocean View restaurant on Saturday.
Family and friends, including Oak Bluffs police chief Erik Blake (right) joined Gabriel Nascimento at the Ocean View restaurant on Saturday.

In addition to the love and support of friends both on and off Island, many people pitched in to help Gabriel and his family in their time of need.

Angel Flight, a non-profit organization serving patients in need of transportation, provided Gabriel and his family with several round-trip flights to Boston.

The Nascimento family has lived on Martha’s Vineyard for 12 years. Mr. Nascimento, who works for the Steamship Authority (SSA) part-time, said the family has traveled between their native Brazil and the Island since Gabriel was nine years old. The Nascimentos live in Vineyard Haven in the winter and West Tisbury in the summer. Gisele, Gabriel’s mom, was working as a house-cleaner before Gabriel got sick, but now takes care of him full-time. His sister, Emanuel, 9, is also a Tisbury School student.

The SSA provided the family with a medical travel rate while Gabriel was undergoing treatment, Mr. Nascimento said.

“I don’t know how I could have done it without the help of the community,” Mr. Nascimento said. “I don’t think I could do it, plus all of the expenses we had. But everyone was extending their hand to us. It was really something.”

For more information on the Make a Wish Foundation go to or call 617-367-9474.

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Various strains of medical marijuana are grown on site at Greenleaf Compassionate Care in Rhode Island, which had hoped to partner with Susan Sanford of Greenleaf MV Compassionate Care Inc. in West Tisbury.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) Friday announced the statewide recipients of a limited number of registered marijuana dispensary (RMD) licenses. None of the four Martha’s Vineyard applicants for a license in Dukes County made the list.

The DPH list of approved dispensaries listed Berkshire, Franklin, Nantucket, and Dukes counties as those counties not chosen for a dispensary license.

Four Vineyard applicants were in the running for the Dukes County license to own and operate an RMD. They included Complementary Medicine practitioner Susan Sanford of Greenleaf MV Compassionate Care Inc., Oak Bluffs businessman Mark Wallace of Kingsbury Group Inc., Our Island Club co-founder Geoffrey Rose and Jonathan Bernstein of Patient Centric of Martha’s Vineyard Ltd., and Michael Peters, doing business under the name MV Greencross.

DPH said the selection committee made their selections using objective scoring guided by state procurement principles. “The process included extensive background checks and was based on factors such as overall quality of the application, appropriateness of the site, local support, and the applicant’s ability to meet the overall health needs of registered patients while ensuring public safety,” DPH said.

Greenleaf MV Compassion Care received a score of 118. Patient Centric of Martha’s Vineyard came in at 125. MV Greencross scored 91. Kingsbury Group scored a 65 on their Duke’s County application. Kingsbury also applied for licenses in Plymouth County and Barnstable County. Kingsbury Group was among the lowest scoring applicants.

Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, the highest scoring applicant with a total of 160 points, won licenses for Barnstable, Bristol, and Plymouth counties.

“We are pleased to announce that qualified patients will soon have full access to marijuana for medical use in Massachusetts,” said MMJ Program Executive Director Karen van Unen. “Only dispensaries with the highest quality applications were selected to be a part of this new industry, which will create hundreds of jobs while maintaining community safety.”

“Eight highly qualified applicants who were not granted their proposed location will be invited to seek a change of location to a county without provisional approval for a Registered Marijuana Dispensary,” DPH said. This phase will allow the selection committee to review high-scoring applicants who wish to seek a change of location to an underserved county to maximize patient access.”

The eight standby applicants scored between 137 and 149 points. No Island applicant is on that list.

Applicants comment

Reacting to Friday’s news, Geoffrey Rose of Patient Centric said that he remained optimistic that his company would be considered if the Dukes County slot goes unfilled. “I’m hopeful based on the fact that we received the highest score in our county,” Mr. Rose told The Times Friday immediately following the DPH announcement.

“I’m speculating that those entities that have been invited to apply for a license in another location, should they choose not to seek a license, will open a window of opportunity and it is likely that they (DPH) will choose the highest scoring applicant.”

Founders of Our Island Club — a community-based service that offers savings to year-round Island residents for products and services, such as groceries, home heating fuel, and gasoline — Mr. Rose and Mr. Bernstein said in August they were confident that their community-based effort would lend itself to opening a dispensary in Duke’s County. The pair had eyed a West Tisbury location.

Licensed physical therapist and acupuncturist Susan Sanford filed for a medical marijuana license under the name Susan Sanford of Greenleaf MV Compassion Care. President and chief executive of Vineyard Complementary Medicine on State Road in West Tisbury, Ms. Sanford was planning to open in the same location. Ms. Sanford had partnered with Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center (GCCC) on Aquidneck Island just outside Portsmouth, Rhode Island, which she  described as a model for the type of facility she would like to operate.

“As part of a collaborative team effort in the application process, I feel I gave my best effort and earned the trust and respect of the Island community,” Ms. Sanford wrote in an email to The Times on Friday. “The entire process has been enlightening and I look forward to continued involvement in facilitating a medical marijuana program on Martha’s Vineyard that provides our community and patients with the best care possible.”

Jordan Wallace formed the nonprofit Kingsbury Group Corporation. The group was legally organized prior to filing their application with the DPH for a state license under the name Mark Wallace, Jordan Wallace’s father, in both Dukes and Barnstable counties. Mr. Wallace could not be reached for comment.

In comments last August, Mr. Wallace told The Times, “I became interested when I saw the support of the law by the people of Massachusetts, and specifically by my fellow Islanders. I recognized, along with the people of Massachusetts and of 19 other states, a need currently unmet.”

Politics charged

Critics of the licensing process, including the Massachusetts Republican Party, questioned the level of transparency, describing it “politicized and secretive” and alleging that state Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett is too closely associated with former Congressman William Delahunt, who is among the license applicants with political ties, the State House News Service reported Friday. Mr. Delahunt’s group — Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts — was awarded provisional licenses for dispensaries in Mashpee, Taunton, and Plymouth.

Middlesex County, the state’s most populous county, received the highest number of dispensary licenses, four, one each in Lowell, Ayer, Newton, and Cambridge.

DPH in January appointed Karen van Unen, the former chief operating officer of a Dorchester public health program, as executive director of its medical marijuana program and empowered her with the final decisions on all licenses. The Massachusetts Medical Society cautioned Friday that marijuana’s effectiveness as medicine has not been scientifically proven, and it said its increased availability presents implications for occupational safety, and “poses health risks of toxins and cognitive impairment.”

Zoning regulations in place

“All successful applicants will be required to demonstrate compliance with municipal rules, regulations, ordinances, and bylaws before opening,” DPH said. “Dispensaries must also pass the MMJ Program’s inspection process prior to receiving full licensure. The inspection includes security, architectural review, growing requirements, and compliance with local zoning and laws.”

According to state law, an RMD may not be sited within 500 feet of a school, daycare center, or any facility in which children commonly congregate. Municipalities may implement local zoning code changes or establish regulations and fees that will affect RMDs.

Only one Island town has established RMD zoning regulations. At a special town meeting in November, Oak Bluffs voters approved a zoning overlay district that would allow a medical marijuana dispensary in three areas of town: a small parcel off Holmes Hole Road that abuts the Tisbury industrial area, several parcels near the Goodale Construction sand pit on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, and the health care district where Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is located.

Massachusetts residents who have a prescription for marijuana will need to register to purchase or grow marijuana.  According to DPH, “Qualified patients would pay a $50 annual registration fee, and patients who qualify for a hardship cultivation license would pay an additional $100 annual fee.” Patients with financial hardships could appeal the fees, but they would only be waived with approval from state officials.

Voters approved the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions that include cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease in November 2012.

DPH enacted regulations and last November, dispensary applicants were required to hand deliver an extensive proposal for their medical marijuana facility, along with a $30,000 non-refundable application fee.