Authors Posts by Steve Myrick

Steve Myrick

Steve Myrick
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The tiny lot known as the "mini-park" on Main Street in Edgartown. —Photo by Steve Myrick

The Edgartown Community Preservation Committee scheduled a hearing for Thursday, December 4, to review proposals for projects funded by the Community Preservation Act, including a $2.1 million plan to gain control of Alfred and Marjory Hall Park, known by most as the mini-park, in the center of the Main Street business district. The hearing is scheduled for 4 pm at town hall.

The town has leased the vacant land from the Hall family or a trust controlled by the family  since 1979. It is a tiny oasis for tired shoppers, a spot to sit with an ice cream cone or a brown bag lunch, and a base for local organizations holding charitable bake sales or raffles.

This is at least the fourth time in the past two decades that town officials have taken steps to purchase or take the land by eminent domain, according to town records.

The application for funds came from the town conservation commission and has the support of selectman Margaret Serpa, who is also chairman of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC). The CPC evaluates applications and chooses projects to present to voters at town meeting.

“I think it should belong to the town,” Ms. Serpa said. “Town meeting will decide.”

But the owners of the property say the valuable real estate is not for sale.

“It’s interesting that we have to read about it in the paper,” said Benjamin Hall Jr., an attorney

who represents the Hall family, in a phone interview with The Times. “If they plan on buying it, they should have a conversation with us.”

New use?

While Mr. Hall declined to put a value on the property, he said $2.1 million is not a sufficient amount. Several town officials who did not want to be quoted said they assume the only way the town can acquire the property is through eminent domain, a legal procedure that allows a town to take ownership of private property for a public use, after paying a fair price to the owner. Putting a value on property taken by eminent domain is tricky business, and it sometimes sparks costly litigation.

In 1990, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) approved the Hall family’s plan to build a new theater on the property. Though all local building and zoning permits were in place, the theater was never built. In recent years, the Hall family has discussed other uses, which would require a new round of permitting.

“Downtown Edgartown on Main Street is some of the most valuable property on the Island,” Mr. Hall said. He added that his family has discussed the possibility of creating new retail space in a two-story structure on the rear part of the lot, and has, “sketched out possible use of the upper stories for hotel rooms or suites. It’s just never appeared to be exactly the right time to step into that particular use,” he said. He said that when and if the project is built, the trust hopes to grant an easement to the town so that the front part of the lot remains in use as a park open to the public, in exchange for some form of tax break.

Lease increase

At Edgartown town hall, a two-inch-thick file of leases, proposals, billing records, and sharp correspondence traces the history of the mini-park.

The tiny lot, just .16 acres, 1,680 square feet, was once the site of the Playhouse Theater, a movie house also once known as the Elm Theater. The building burned down in 1961. The lot has been vacant since. It is currently assessed at $1,645,300.

According to town records, Edgartown first leased the land from Alfred Hall in 1979 for an amount equal to the real estate taxes owed.

In 1980, the town paid base rent of $1,000, and additional rent in the form of an amount equal to the real estate taxes owed. Over the next two decades, the base rent increased, until 2002, when the owners set the amount at $10,000. In 2002 and 2003, the town paid only $5,000 in base rent, but in 2004, paid $14,235 to cover back rent, and agreed to a new five-year lease.

The new lease, which began in 2005, began with a base rent of $11,301, and increased to $14,801 in 2009. In 2011, the town agreed to a lease covering the years 2010 to 2015, which began with a base rent of $15,751, increasing each year until it ends next year with a base rent of $22,491. Every year, the town paid additional rent equal to the amount of real estate taxes owed. The tax bill has ranged from $2,569 to $5,667, as property valuation rose and fell over the years.

The current lease is signed by Ms. Serpa, Art Smadbeck, and Michael Donaroma, all members of the current board of selectmen, who also held office when the lease was signed in 2011. The property is now owned by the Playhouse Theater Realty Trust, a trust controlled by members of the Hall family, according to Benjamin Hall Jr., who must all agree on actions taken by the trust. The lease is signed by Charlotte Hall, as a member of the trust.

Record of dissent

Under the most recent leases, the town is responsible for all maintenance of the park, outlined in nearly two pages of detail, including the height and circumference of nearly every tree and shrub on the property.

A 2001 letter to the town conservation commission, signed by Benjamin “Buzzy” Hall, sharply chastised the town for what he called the town’s “negligence and inaction,” in maintaining the park.

“The sums for rent have been and are so ridiculously low, that I cannot believe you would risk being asked not to use the park anymore,” Mr. Hall wrote. “I continue to be distressed at the failure of the town, through your board, to keep the premises maintained and safe as set forth under the agreement.”

Even the name of the park has been a point of contention. While it is known informally by most people as the mini-park, several clauses in the leases insist that the town refer to it only as the Alfred and Marjorie Hall Park, and not by any other name.

Park history

As early as 1982, according to town records, town officials considered taking the park by eminent domain.

The prospect of an eminent domain taking has surfaced several times over the years, most recently at the 2005 annual town meeting. A warrant article that year asked voters to appropriate a sum of money to purchase or take the property by eminent domain, to be held in the care of the conservation commission. The article authorized the town to accept gifts or donations to fund the transaction, and authorized the town to borrow money to pay for the mini-park.

But voters weren’t having it. After some discussion, they voted to send the article to a study committee, and the issue did not come up again at the 2006 annual town meeting.

“This comes up every few years,” Mr. Hall said. He said the funds would be better spent on other uses allowed by the Community Preservation Act (CPA). “That could really go a long way, $2.1 million could go a long way toward a lot of families, whether it’s rental subsidies, or affordable housing.”

While the question of whether the town would negotiate a purchase price or take the property by eminent domain has yet to be decided at this point, the CPA specifically allows CPA funds to be used for eminent domain takings, provided the sale meets all the other requirements of the act.

Katherine Roth, associate director of the statewide CPA Coalition, could recall only one other case, a CPA project in Newton, where it happened.

“It’s very rare,” she said. “It’s not often done under CPA.”

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—Martha's Vineyard Times File Photo

Craig Whitaker, a New York City architect and urban planner who has a home in Tisbury, updated Edgartown selectmen Monday on a plan to create a “highway manual,” a document that would guide future road projects on Martha’s Vineyard, as well as guide improvements and maintenance on current public roadways. Preliminary work on the concept got underway last year, funded by a $10,000 grant through the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), according to Mr. Whitaker. He said that such a manual, effectively a contract between Island towns and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, would allow local officials to influence highway projects and create roads appropriate for the Island.

Mr. Whitaker invited selectmen, and the public, to a meeting of the MVC Island Roads Committee, at Edgartown town hall on Wednesday, December 3, at 5 pm. “He who holds the pencil has the power,” he said. “It’s a chance for us to be proactive. It’s a chance to initiate rather than always be on the defensive.”

The highway manual would govern road features such as lane width, shoulders, barriers, drainage, utilities, lighting, vegetation, and maintenance, according to Mr. Whitaker.

The Island Roads Committee met throughout the summer and selected a consulting firm which will make a presentation at Wednesday’s session. Mr. Whitaker estimated the cost of creating a highway manual at roughly $150,000. He said state Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) money could fund the project.

Edgartown highway superintendent Stuart Fuller advised caution. He said he sometimes feels like a lone voice on the issue of safety and functionality.

“I do feel like a lone voice with having our roads be functional,” Mr. Fuller said. “It has to meet safety criteria. You would be a fool to put the Vineyard at risk legally.”

Art Smadbeck, chairman of the Edgartown selectmen, said the board has faith in Mr. Fuller.

“You’re not the lone voice, you’re the lead voice,” he said.

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In yet another county-airport skirmish, Dukes County treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders is not processing airport invoices, airport official claims.

The Martha's Vineyard Airport Commission is seeking payment on overdue bills. —File photo by Nelson Sigelman

Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission (MVAC) chairman Constance Teixeira said that Dukes County treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders has refused to process invoices the airport authorized for payment despite a preliminary injunction Dukes County Superior Court Associate Justice Richard J. Chin issued August 7 ordering her to pay duly authorized airport bills

The 17 invoices, totaling approximately $42,000, are for routine airport expenses, and are either approaching overdue status or already overdue.

“We received communication from the county treasurer that once again, and despite a direct court order, she was refusing to process airport invoices for payment,” Ms. Teixeira said in a statement read at an airport commission meeting Friday, November 21.

Under strict state and federal funding rules, airport revenue may only be used for airport-related aviation projects. Though there is no legal requirement to do so, the county-owned airport hires the county treasurer to process airport bills, an arrangement that funnels airport revenue into county coffers.

Airport manager Sean Flynn told The Times in a telephone conversation Tuesday that the airport is evaluating additional legal action, which could include filing a complaint asking the court to hold Ms. Mavro Flanders in contempt of the preliminary injunction, or negotiate an out-of-court resolution to the latest dispute.

A woman who answered the phone in the treasurer’s office Tuesday morning told The Times that Ms. Mavro Flanders was unavailable for comment. Asked if the treasurer was in the office or could be contacted later, the woman repeated that the treasurer was unavailable for comment.

Payment procedure

The county treasurer takes a unique approach in order to calculate how much of her office’s time is devoted to airport affairs. Rather than an hourly rate, the office calculates how much to charge the airport based on invoice inches, according to Mr. Flynn.

He said the county treasurer allocates the airport’s share of the county’s total cost for accounting services, by measuring the length of submitted airport invoices, including invoice pages that have nothing to do with billing amounts, against non-airport invoices.

Mr. Flynn is authorized by the airport commission to approve bills for payment. He said he is frustrated that Mr. Mavro Flanders duplicates the effort of his staff to verify and approve invoices every month.

Mr. Flynn said that in an attempt to make the process more efficient and less costly, invoices now include only the necessary information for Ms. Mavro Flanders to process the bills. “She has been provided with cover sheets which show previous balance, previous amount paid, current charges, current due, and total due,” he said.

Mr. Flynn said he reviews each invoice to make sure the charges were incurred by the airport, and that the charges are accurate, in accordance with his legal and fiduciary obligations. “This is in no way an attempt to be secretive, as to what we’re paying various vendors; this is just to streamline the process to meet all requirements, so that we are providing enough information, but not duplicating effort, not doubling the amount of effort,” he said. “We’re trying to use current technology, current ways of thinking, and not staying with a process that is antiquated, just for the sake of staying with an older process. There are accusations we’re attempting to be secretive. That is absolutely not the case.”

Deja vu all over again

In a series of emails to Mr. Flynn, Ms. Mavro Flanders said she was not refusing to make the payments, but reminded the airport manager that there was insufficient detail in the invoices, a point Mr. Flynn disputes.

She said she would file a formal public records request for the bills, if necessary. As of Wednesday, November 19, the disputed bills had not been paid, according to Mr. Flynn.

The county treasurer’s insistence that the airport provide invoice details and her refusal to process law firm invoices approved by the airport was one of the subjects of a lawsuit filed by the airport commission on July 9.

In his August 7 decision, Judge Chin wrote, “In sum, the County Treasurer believes that she has the legal authority to refuse to pay invoices which have already been duly approved by the MVAC, to obtain privileged and confidential communications between the MVAC and its attorneys without notice to and without the consent of the MVAC, and to release those privileged and confidential communications to the public at large.”

Judge Chin rejected the county treasurer’s claim that invoices approved by the airport commission for payment were lacking detail required by state law.

“Where the MVAC is not using any of the county’s funds to pay its invoices for legal services, it may expend its funds without the county’s oversight,” Judge Chin wrote. The invoices “are not so deficient in detail that they fail on their face to comply with the statute.”

Judge Chin issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the airport commission, and against Ms. Mavro Flanders. “The county treasurer is enjoined from refusing to pay invoices duly approved for payment by the MVAC,” he wrote in his decision.

Judge Chin based his ruling on previous court decisions, state law, and legal documents known as grant assurances which the county approved in exchange for millions of dollars in state and federal funds.

In fiscal year 2012, the airport paid the county $103,396 for accounting services, according to Ms. Mavro Flanders. In fiscal year 2014, the airport paid the county $102,994. In May, just before the end of fiscal year 2014, she said she expected to pay a similar amount for that year.

The seven members of the airport commission are appointed by the elected members of the seven-member county commission. By statute, the airport commission is solely responsible for the airport.

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Members of the Brazilian community celebrated faith and culture at the Whaling Church in October. —Photo by Lynn Christoffers

President Barack Obama took action last week that could lead to protection from deportation and a legal right to work for undocumented immigrants who have been living and working in violation of federal laws on Martha’s Vineyard for many years.

The president’s executive action, long awaited by advocates of immigration reform, and long disputed by Mr. Obama’s political foes, would not provide a path to citizenship for the estimated five million undocumented immigrants who might benefit. It would, in general, allow undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than five years, and who have no criminal record, the right to work legally without fear of deportation for a limited number of years.

“These executive actions crackdown on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay their fair share of taxes as they register to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation,” the White House wrote in a statement issued just before the president addressed the nation on November 20.

Help for families

Pastor Joao Barbosa of the Mission Calvary Church in Vineyard Haven said he believes the changes in immigration policy will help many families on the Island. “It brings good favor for people (undocumented immigrants) who are receiving help from the government, the economy of the country itself,” he said. “When a family knows more about the future, they can buy houses, they can go to school, they can invest instead of sending money out of the country. A lot of people were stressed or worried, now they can make more plans to stay in the country. They’re just thankful this is happening.”

Bishop Paulo Tenorio, spiritual leader of The Growing Church Ministry in Vineyard Haven, also applauded the president’s action. “There are a lot of people that will benefit,” he said. “It’s the right direction. We have a broken system. It’s something that needs to be faced in the country. He’s giving a little push.”

Wender Ramos, a U.S. Army helicopter pilot who just completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan, said he is happy for the change in policy, but he said it came far too late for him.

He came to Martha’s Vineyard at the age of 13 with his mother and sister, all undocumented. He is now a U.S. citizen, and his mother and sister have legal status to live and work in the United States, while they are working toward citizenship. While he said the latest change in immigration policy won’t affect his family, he said he faced significant barriers as he grew up, went to Island schools, and then college.

“It’s something we could have used,” Mr. Ramos said. “Back when I was in grade school and high school, it would have expedited my life as well as my mom’s and my sister’s. We always talked about it, saying we wished this would happen.”

Programs expanded

Mr. Obama’s action expands the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that he initiated in 2012. The original DACA program was intended to protect children who were brought into the United States illegally as children. Eligible were children who have been in the United States for at least five years, came as children, were in school or have completed school, have no serious criminal record, were born after 1981 and entered the country before June 15, 2007. Those who met those requirements could apply for a two-year period of protection from deportation, and were eligible for work permits. According to U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, more than a half-million people, or about 95 percent of those applications accepted for review, have been approved for DACA status. In Massachusetts, 6,596 applications were accepted for review, and 5,318 were approved.

Under the latest executive action, children who came to the United States before January 1, 2010, no matter what their age now, will be eligible, and the period of deferred action will expand to three years.

The largest group of undocumented immigrants who will benefit from the president’s executive action are the parents of children who were born in the United States, who are legal citizens. In order to qualify, the parents must register with the federal government, pass a criminal background check, and pay any back taxes. If qualified, the parents can apply for a three-year deferred action, and remain in the United States without fear of deportation. They can also apply for work permits.

The president’s executive action does not provide a path to citizenship for anyone eligible for deferred action or work permit status. A future president could also rescind the executive actions.

ICE changes

The Dukes County Jail no longer holds immigrants in custody based solely on a request from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain an individual. The change in procedure follows a federal court ruling in Oregon on April 11 that ruled that practice unconstitutional.

Previously, ICE issued detainee orders that asked local law enforcement authorities to hold an individual in jail for up to 48 hours while ICE decided whether to take the person into federal custody.

ICE issued detainee orders for a wide range of reasons: ICE simply wanted to talk to the person, the person did not appear at hearing, the person was wanted for a serious crime, or the person had already been ordered deported.

In April, U.S. Magistrate Judge Janice M. Stewart, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, ruled that a detainee order alone is not a legal justification to incarcerate someone. The case involved Maria Miranda-Olivares, a woman who was ordered released on bail by a local court after she was arrested on a domestic violence charge. Local authorities kept her in custody because ICE had issued a detainer. The court ruled that keeping her in custody violated her rights under the Fourth Amendment, and the court allowed the woman to seek damages from the jail.

Immigrants were often held in custody at the Dukes County Jail solely on the basis of an ICE detainee order. This month, Dukes County Sheriff Michael McCormack changed the procedure.

“We are no longer holding anybody on an ICE detainer, if there is no other reason to hold them,” Sheriff McCormack told The Times. “If we get a hit on a detainer, we will call ICE. But if they would otherwise be able to be released, like they made bail, or they were released by the court, if we have no reason to hold the person except the ICE detainer, then we won’t hold them.”

Mr. McCormack said holding people on ICE detainee orders could leave the jail vulnerable to lawsuits.

“The underlying reason amounts to probable cause,” Sheriff McCormack said. “The actual detainer has no charges on it, doesn’t say anything about having enough probable cause to be holding them. The detainer just says ICE has an interest in them. We can’t take somebody’s freedom just because ICE has an interest in them.”

President Obama, in his executive action on immigration, ordered ICE to stop asking local authorities to detain people arrested for minor offenses. The federal government will now only ask local officials to transfer custody of an arrested person to ICE after he or she has been convicted of a felony, or three misdemeanors. ICE will not ask jail officials to detain people, but they will ask local police to notify federal agents when an immigrant convicted of a crime is due to be released.

The president made significant changes to the controversial Secure Communities program, which authorized local jail officials to transmit fingerprints of anyone arrested to ICE where they could be checked against a database.

The Dukes County Jail did not participate directly in Secure Communities, but they did forward fingerprints of everyone arrested by Island law enforcement to Massachusetts State Police. State Police then transmitted those fingerprints to ICE. That procedure remains in effect, according to Sheriff McCormack.

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The Martha's Vineyard Airport Commission is seeking payment on overdue bills. —File photo by Nelson Sigelman

The Dukes County Advisory Board, which is responsible for oversight of the Dukes County Commission budget, told the county commissioners on Monday that it would authorize no more spending on legal expenses to fund the county’s battle with its appointed airport commission, a battle a superior court judge has twice advised the county that it would likely lose.

The advisory board, made up of one selectman from each town, did authorize an additional $3,000 but made it clear that the money is to be used to negotiate a final out-of-court settlement in the airport commission’s lawsuit against the county, individual county commissioners, county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders, and county manager Martina Thornton.

The advisory board members also made it clear that future legal action is to be led by attorney Michael Goldsmith of the Edgartown law firm of Reynolds, Rappaport, Kaplan and Hackney, who normally handles county legal matters. The county has been utilizing attorney Robert Troy, of the Sandwich firm Troy Wall associates, to handle the airport litigation.

“I did not want to spend any more money on the outside attorney the county had engaged,” acting county advisory board chairman Art Smadbeck of Edgartown said. “I’m really not interested in voting for more money to continue this.”

Mr. Goldsmith told a joint meeting of the advisory board and the county commission, that in his legal opinion, it would be wise to continue working with Mr. Troy. Complicating the issue is a pending motion filed by Mr. Troy to withdraw from the case, which must be approved by the court.

“I don’t think it makes good sense to change counsel midstream,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “My roadmap would be to work with the current counsel. I understand there’s been overtures by the airport counsel to talk with the county counsel. I think that’s something the county should do.”

The additional $3,000 will be transferred from a county account that authorized $10,000 to adapt Dukes County Courthouse bathrooms for disabled access. County manager Martina Thornton said the county will not spend that money in the current fiscal year, because engineers have determined the cost will be closer to $100,000.

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—Martha's Vineyard Times File Photo

Edgartown shellfish constable Paul Bagnall asked Edgartown selectmen to expand the hours of one of his assistants from 19 to 30 hours per week, time he said would be used to bolster the town’s oyster growing project in Sengekontacket Pond. Mr. Bagnall said family shellfish permit holders began harvesting oysters this fall. He said the oysters also remove nitrogen from the pond, and the town may be able to get credit toward state set targets for nitrogen reduction.

“It’s been a wildly successful program,” Mr. Bagnall told the board at their regular Monday meeting.

Selectman Margaret Serpa was skeptical of the final costs, and noted that the additional hours would make the employee eligible for town-funded job benefits. “It was $20,000 we added for that position,” Ms. Serpa said. “We were told it would be adequate. It almost sounds like you’re creating a position for a person that’s doing this. If he becomes an employee there are many associated costs that will double the cost.”

Selectmen Art Smadbeck and Michael Donaroma were more supportive. Mr. Smadbeck said the removal of nitrogen had altered his initial view. “When I was first looking at this, I was looking at the cold numbers and cold facts,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “I was thinking, no. The issue of nitrogen mitigation is going to become more and more important.”

The board took no action, but advised Mr. Bagnall to consult with the town personnel board, and consider a town meeting article to fund the extra hours.

Also Monday, selectmen unanimously voted to appoint Chappaquiddick resident Geoff Kontje, a building contractor, to the Edgartown conservation commission to fill the vacancy created when commission member Edith “Edo” Potter resigned.

In other action, selectmen approved a plan to replace seven trees of varying species, sizes, and health, with five new shade trees at 96 South Summer Street, where a new home is under construction. A week earlier, the board declined to approve a plan calling for two or three new trees.

“I think the five trees help the streetscape,” Mr. Donaroma said.

The property is valued at 1.8 million. It is owned by the Jeffrey S. Nolan Trust, which lists an address in Cohasset, according to assessors records.

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Mr. Nichols, and his wife Diane Sawyer, were frequent visitors to Martha’s Vineyard, where they owned a summer home.

Director Mike Nichols, with actress Mia Farrow, at the Martha's Vineyard Playhouse in 2004. — Photo courtesy Martha's Vineyard Playhouse

Updated 12:15 PM, Friday, November 21. 

Mike Nichols, the celebrated director whose career spanned Hollywood to Broadway and beyond, died in New York City Wednesday night of a heart attack. He was 83.

Mr. Nichols, with his wife, Diane Sawyer, former anchor of ABC News, were longtime seasonal residents of Martha’s Vineyard. The couple were married on the Island in 1988, and in 1995 purchased Chip Chop, the former home of actress Katharine Cornell, located overlooking Vineyard Sound on the west side of the entrance to Lake Tashmoo.

Mr. Nichols was known for his generous participation in Island charitable causes, including the Possible Dreams Auction to benefit Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. He was involved in the local arts community, and was a supporter of the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society.

Last summer, Mr. Nichols hosted a special screening of “The Graduate,” the 1967 film for which he won an Oscar, at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

“He was very frail when he came to the film center,” founder and executive director Richard Paradise said Thursday morning. “But he had great enthusiasm. He was planning on coming back to the film center next summer to do some more questions and answers on films that inspired him as a young director. The audience just loved Mike, how open he was. I’ve already heard from two or three people who were there, reflecting on that evening.”

Mr. Paradise remembers the legendary film and stage director as a man whose humanity showed in his work, as well as his private life.

“Very lovely, very sweet,” Mr. Paradise said. “He and Diane were such a wonderful couple, there was such an aura of love between them. He was so passionate about his craft. He was a great friend of the Vineyard. They loved coming here and relaxing, getting away from the big city environment.”

MJ Bruder Munafo, artistic and executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, said Mr. Nichols and Ms. Sawyer attended several productions at the playhouse, often with their friends William and Rose Styron. She said Mr. Nichols was also generous with donations to the nonprofit theater. While he liked to keep his visits low-key, Ms. Bruder Munafo said, Mr. Nichols was very approachable and open.

“When you were with him, you knew you were in the presence of greatness,” she said. “It’s such a privilege living on the Island, and having the chance to meet people like Mike Nichols. You think about how a life such as his inspired millions of people in so many different ways, people who got to work with him intimately, and people who saw his films. I was sad to hear he died suddenly.”

The Nichols and Styron families were close friends for more than 50 years. Writer and educator Alexandra Styron, the daughter of William and Rose Styron, has fond memories of growing up with Mr. Nichols, who was a frequent houseguest at her parent’s West Chop home. As she grew into adulthood, Mr. Nichols was a mentor.

“There was nobody more exciting to be around,” Ms. Styron said, “nobody who was a better blend of being both brilliant and hilariously funny, and also extraordinarily generous. You always felt a kind of a thrill being next to him. He knew everyone, he’d met everyone, he’d been everywhere. He’s going to be terribly missed. He was a great man.”

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) also benefited from his generosity. “Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer were tremendous supporters of MVCS through the years,” said Nell Coogan, MVCS director of development and community relations. “They also attended many Possible Dreams Auction events when Art Buchwald was our auctioneer, and the staff at MVCS and Possible Dream Auction committee members were saddened by the news today.”

According to an obituary in the New York Times, as a young child Mr. Nichols fled with his family from Nazi Germany shortly before World War II and settled in New York. After a difficult childhood, he found his calling in comedy and theater, joining a Chicago theater troupe which eventually became the famed Second City group.

While he began as a performer, he soon moved to directing, where he earned acclaim for working with actors to draw out their best performances. He was one of only a handful of people to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, and a Grammy. He was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, and was also honored with a National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given to performers by the U.S. government.

In addition to his wife, Ms. Sawyer, Mr. Nichols is survived by two daughters, Daisy and Jenny, and a son, Max. He is also survived by a brother, Bob Nichols, and four grandchildren.

This story has been updated to reflect the addition of quotes from MJ Bruder-Munafo and Alexandra Styron.

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The Dukes County Court House. —Photo by Michael Cummo

A Dukes County Grand jury last month indicted Carlos Stevenson, owner of Mosher Photo in Vineyard Haven, on multiple charges of molesting and raping a child more than a decade ago.

The grand jury returned five separate indictments of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14, and one indictment of aggravated rape of a child with force. According to the indictments, the allegations stem from incidents that began in 2001.

Mr. Stevenson entered not guilty pleas on all charges, during his arraignment in Dukes County Superior Court on October 20. He remains free on $9,000 bail.

On July 14, Mr. Stevenson was arraigned on charges stemming from the same case in Edgartown District Court. There he faced 11 separate counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and one count of rape of a child by force. The Cape and Island District Attorney notified the District Court this week that it would not move forward with those District Court charges because of the indictment, which effectively moves the case to Superior Court.

Prosecutors often seek indictments in order to give judges an option for longer prison sentences. In District Court, jail sentences are limited to a maximum of 2.5 years.

The penalty for aggravated rape of a child by force ranges from a minimum of 15 years in state prison, to life in prison. The penalty for indecent assault and battery is up to 10 years in state prison on each charge.

At the District Court arraignment in July, Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Laura Marshard told the court that the allegations stem from a period of stalking and sexual contact which began when the victim was 10 years old, and continued for several years.

An attorney for Mr. Stevenson said at that July arraignment that there is no physical evidence of a crime, that he maintains his innocence, and that the charges are incompatible with his record as an Island businessman.

Architectural drawings show different views of the proposed mixed-use development at Mariner's Landing in Edgartown. —Drawing by Sullivan + Associates Architects

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) voted unanimous preliminary approval on November 6, and is set to vote on final approval Thursday evening, for a mixed commercial and residential development at Mariner’s Landing in Edgartown.

The 24,000 square foot development is proposed for a lot of just under one acre in the commercial area off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, adjacent to the Triangle business district.

The developers, doing business as Mariners Property LLC, are James Brennan, who owns a heating, air conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC) company, and Paul Pertile, a local businessman.

There was disagreement during the regulatory process over interpretation of the MVC’s guidelines on affordable housing mitigation. The applicants offered to pay $7,000, but the commissioners set the mitigation fee at $39,000, though they offered an alternative that would put conditions on renting or selling the residential units.

Mixed use

The project is a mixed-use development totalling 24,000 square feet of living and commercial space, combining commercial condominiums and small apartments. Plans call for four 2,000-square-foot commercial condominiums on the first floor, and four 2,000-square-foot units of storage space in the basement. On the second floor of the proposed building, would be eight 2-bedroom apartments of 1,000 square feet each. The developers each intend to occupy one of the commercial condominiums. Their plan does not include any retail business on the property.

The building would sit at the back of the small development, which includes a mix of office buildings and retail. Plans call for the structure to be built into a hill, so that it would appear as a two-story building from the front, but look like a one-story building from the back.

The development is the kind of growth the MVC is trying to encourage.

“The mixed-use combination of residential housing units and commercial units in an opportunity area is consistent with Smart Growth Principles and the MVC’s Island Plan,” the MVC staff wrote in its report.

Commercial condominium owners would have some control over the rental apartments. According to the plans, when the living units are offered for rent or sale, the condominium owners would get the first chance to rent or buy them to use as employee housing.

Housing issue

A significant point of contention between the developers and MVC commissioners was affordable housing mitigation. In commercial and residential developments, the MVC requires most applicants to make some contribution to alleviate the chronic shortage of affordable housing on Martha’s Vineyard. The contribution is based on a policy adopted by the commissioners. The mitigation can come in the form of making a certain percentage of residential units available under state guidelines to families who qualify for affordable housing based on income. It can also come in the form of monetary payments to a designated organization, which uses the money to create new affordable housing.

Mr. Brennan and Mr. Pertile offered to donate $7,000 to an affordable housing organization, according to their interpretation of the MVC’s affordable housing policy. The developers said the eight units fall below the 10-unit trigger that would require them to provide one affordable housing unit, or alternatively, a sum of money equal to 20 percent of the property’s assessed value.

The MVC guidelines call for a payment of $7,000 for a new commercial development of 8,000 square feet. The applicants say the basement storage space and residential space should not be counted, but the MVC commissioners disagreed. They figured the affordable housing mitigation fee on the total square footage of the project, resulting in a fee of $39,000.

In the conditions imposed with approval of the plan, the MVC commissioners offered the developers a choice. They can pay the $7,000 offered, and restrict at least two residential units to be occupied by staff or year-round residents, with restrictions that would prevent short-term rentals. Alternatively, they can pay the $39,000 mitigation fee.

Affordable issues

In a letter to the MVC clarifying their offer of $7,000 for affordable housing mitigation, Mr. Brennan and Mr. Pertile asked the MVC to consider several factors.

“The intent of the residential space is reasonably priced housing,” they wrote. “An additional contribution to affordable housing if added to the residential portion of the project would increase the cost of each unit making each one less affordable.”

They also asked the MVC to consider that the restrictions on short-term rentals would require deed restrictions, which could make it more difficult or more expensive to finance the project, because lenders devalue property with deed restrictions attached.

They also wrote that they already donate money to several Island nonprofit organizations, and the $39,000 fee would force them to reallocate those contributions. In their letter, they offered the commissioners a pointed choice.

“The applicants would seek the commission’s recommendations to select which contributions should be reallocated in favor of affordable housing,” they wrote.

Mr. Pertile said he and his business partner have not yet decided which affordable housing mitigation option they will choose, but neither option will be a deal breaker. “We’re very happy, very pleased being able to move forward with the project,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“The project was spearheaded on doing something good for the Island,” Mr. Pertile said. “The project went well, everything was good. You’re always going to run into a small hurdle here and there.”

Mr. Pertile said he believed that the Island is in dire need of a mixed-use condominium project. “These are not luxurious condos,” he said. “They’re geared toward working class people, and they’re going to be priced accordingly. Both of us need these resources, and we could never find them.”

The November 6 preliminary vote on the project was unanimous, with commissioners Clarence “Trip” Barnes and Josh Goldstein of Tisbury, Christina Brown of Edgartown, Fred Hancock and John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs, Joan Malkin of Chilmark, Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, and James Vercruysse of Aquinnah all voting in favor. The MVC has scheduled a final vote on the written decision on Thursday evening, November 20.

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Traffic officer Neal Condlin serves up the first course, with help from Detective Michael Snowden. —Photo by Steve Myrick

Annie Heywood of Chappaquiddick offered quite a review of the Edgartown Police Patrolmen’s Association annual feast for the town’s senior residents.

“The crab cakes are not too spicy and you really taste the crab,” she said. “And it was served royally by the handsome young servers.”

Jean Bishop was also quite impressed with the crab cake appetizer followed by choice tenderloin, roasted garlic and chive mashed potatoes, and haricot verts. She may be forgiven for a somewhat less than impartial review. Her grandson, Officer William Bishop, is one of the key organizers of the annual senior feast.

“I’m so proud of him,” Ms. Bishop said.

The Patrolmen’s Association, aided by members of the fire department and ambulance service, hosted more than 70 people for the feast. In the fire station kitchen, Officer Michael Gazaille, the department’s unofficial, but very much admired chef, led a kitchen full of cooks and an enthusiastic wait staff of more than a dozen volunteers dressed in police blues and ambulance whites. Three of the fire trucks sat outside the station, and the hungry diners sat in the truck bays at elegantly decorated round tables. Defibrillators, a personal watercraft patrol unit, and the town’s newest fire truck lent an air of public safety chic to the proceedings.

The annual dinner gives the officers a chance to meet some of the people they serve. The officers introduced themselves as the first course was served, and offered a short summary of their time on the force. Traffic officer Neal Condlin, a summer fixture on Main Street, drew a laugh.

“I’m Neal Condlin, I’ve been here since 1875,” he said.

Officer Bishop thanked Island Food Products for providing all of the food at generously discounted prices, as well as Stop & Shop, the Lookout Tavern, and Dairy Queen for donating raffle prizes.

The dinner also gives public safety officers a chance to address more serious issues.

“You’re not doing us any favors by going to bed with chest pain, and waiting until 6 am to call us,” said Chuck Cummens, a paramedic and training officer with the Edgartown ambulance service. “Time is so important. ‘I’ll feel better in the morning’ doesn’t work. If you feel bad now, call us now.”

With new bonds made, and perhaps a few future emergencies averted, the officers wrapped up dinner with generous servings of homemade pumpkin pie.