News in Brief
October 6, 2005
Consultant concerned with condition of drawbridge
Photo by Tim Johnson
A consultant hired to examine the aging Lagoon Pond drawbridge told the Lagoon Pond Drawbridge committee yesterday that he is concerned with the condition of the structure.
Paul Norton, of Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers, based in New Jersey, said that movement of the bridge and the condition of its concrete approaches are among the most pressing issues.
"I have a lot of concerns about the bascule span, the motion of the bridge and its creeping," said Mr. Norton. "I don't think the structure is going to last that long."
Along with his concerns, Mr. Norton listed a number of possible improvements to upgrade the health of the bridge and prolong its life.
Mr. Norton said that he would present his findings and a list of recommendations in a final report next week.
Mr. Norton's examination of the bridge comes as MassHighway continues to move ahead with its plans to replace the drawbridge - first with a temporary structure, and then with a permanent bridge.
MassHighway officials have repeatedly said that they want to build a temporary bridge because state engineers believe there is a risk that the bridge could fail before a permanent bridge is constructed. If the bridge fails, U.S. Coast Guard regulations require that the lift deck be left in the upright position to allow boats access to Lagoon Pond.
Although the bridge committee voted to endorse the state's two-bridge solution last year, some members fear the state will construct the temporary bridge, which has an estimated price tag of $5.2 million, and forgo the permanent replacement, which is expected to cost $24 million. Several members have suggested that the state should nurse the existing bridge along until a permanent replacement is built.
Although pressed by several committee members, Mr. Norton did not provide a clear recommendation on whether or not the two-bridge solution was the best solution. He said that he would outline each of his specific concerns and suggest ways to minimize the risk of a bridge failure in his final report.
Land Bank has
Last week's revenue set a record for the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank. The public land conservation agency posted its highest grossing week ever, recording a total of $938,710 in fees.
James Lengyel, land bank executive director, said 67 percent of that total was generated by Chilmark transactions of which two stand out.
On September 27, the Rosemallow Farm Trust purchased two upland lots and a house in the Abel's Hill section totaling 8.9 acres and a half interest in a Chilmark Pond beach lot for a total purchase price of $12,750,000.
On September 30, the Blue Heron Farm and a Quansoo beach lot formerly owned by Anthony Fisher was sold to William J. Van Devender of Mississippi, one of the principals in the Vineyard Golf Club, for a total of $20,350,000.
Those two transactions alone generated $597,638.
The Land Bank, established in 1986 by an act of the state legislature, purchases open space with funds raised through a 2 percent surcharge on real estate transactions.
Property is purchased after extensive private deliberation among six elected Land Bank commissioners representing all six towns, office staff, and town advisory boards. Once acquired, lands are studied in depth before management plans are developed.
Across the Vineyard, the Land Bank currently owns 2,608 acres of land which is open to the public for a variety of recreational activities.
Owner of Oak Bluffs Hotel appeals MVC decision
Attorneys for Jack E. Robinson, owner of the Martha's Vineyard Hotel, filed an appeal in response to a decision made by the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) in July to deny his expansion plans.
"The court will have to hear the whole case again," said Mark London, executive director of the MVC. "It will be a de novo hearing, meaning all testimony would start over again."
The July decision marked the second time in 12 months that the MVC denied Mr. Robinson's plans, which were reviewed as a development of regional impact (DRI). Mr. Robinson's initial proposal called for a 19-room expansion, which the commission denied last year, advising him to return with a scaled-back plan. Mr. Robinson complied with their recommendations, returning in June to submit revised expansion plans for adding eight guest rooms and two employee rooms, instead.
"The Commission finds that this project, at this scale and with this number of guest rooms, may have fundamentally changed the residential neighborhood," the commissioners concluded in their written decision denying Mr. Robinson's application on July 28.
MVC decisions must be appealed through the court system, Mr. London explained. The same application from Mr. Robinson to the MVC will be reviewed, but he and his attorneys have the opportunity to present it.
"The commission staff could be brought in to deal with various aspects, and could bring in various experts," said Mr. London. However, the commissioners are considered a quasi-judicial body, he said, and cannot be asked to testify about how they made their decision.
"A judge would determine whether a reasonable board could come up with the same decision," Mr. London said. "The burden of proof actually is quite high on the part of the complainant. He has to demonstrate it was unreasonable for the MVC to come up with that conclusion."
The appeal process can be lengthy, Mr. London said, noting that a decision regarding an appeal on a gas station denied by the MVC three years ago is still pending.
According to Mr. London, the MVC has been involved in about 25 lawsuits in its 31-year existence and has won every case on its merits, except for one that was lost on a technicality of how the project was referred to the MVC.
Edgartown Board of Trade to meet Tuesday
The Edgartown Board of Trade will hold an open house meeting Tuesday, at 5:30 pm at the Navigator Restaurant on Main Street in Edgartown.
The guest speaker for the meeting is Edgartown harbormaster Charlie Blair.
According to a press release, the board of trade was revived this winter and currently has 142 active members. Next week's meeting is meant to encourage Edgartown business people who are not already members to come to a meeting to learn more about the Board of Trade, its mission and future events.
For more information, contact Christina Cook at email@example.com.
Free lead screening offered for children
The Visiting Nurse Service of Martha's Vineyard Community Services, Island boards of health, and Martha's Vineyard Hospital will provide free lead screening for Island children between the ages of one and four on Tuesday, October 18, from 3 to 5 pm at the Hospital's outpatient laboratory.
While there is no fee for the screening. For an appointment, which must be made in advance, call Leslie at Martha's Vineyard Community Services, 508-693-7900, ext. 365.
Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, anemia, growth problems, and behavioral difficulties, according to a hospital press release. The public is encouraged to learn more about lead poisoning through the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's web site: http://www:mass.gov/dph/clppp.
Rotary Club seeks Portugal trip group study members
The Rotary Club of Martha's Vineyard is currently seeking applications for team members for a Group Study Exchange (GSE) to Portugal from May 11 through June 11, 2006.
The program provides an educational opportunity for young professionals between the ages of 25 and 40 to travel in the host country as part of a four-week program. Last year, Island residents joined an exchange team that traveled to the Philippines. In May, John Clift of Vineyard Haven and Colleen Garrett of Edgartown were members of a team that traveled to Brazil.
Interested persons should contact John Rancourt, International Service chairman of the Rotary Club of Martha's Vineyard at 508-696-6122 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are due to the Rotary Club of Martha's Vineyard by October 20, 2005.
Information and application materials are also available through the Rotary Foundation web site at www.rotary.org/newsroom/downloadcenter/ foundation/educational.html#gse.
All expenses except for personal items are paid for by the Rotary Foundation and the GSE program.
Farm Institute hosts
Field Day at Katama Farm
The FARM Institute at Katama Farm in Edgartown, a non-profit educational farm, invites the public to a Fall Open House Field Day on Sunday from noon to 4 pm.
The afternoon activities will provide an opportunity to meet Matthew Goldfarb, the institute's new farm and education director, and Melinda Rabbitt DeFeo, the new education program manager who will describe plans for the property and the programs on Katama Farm.
The day's events will include sheep shearing, cider pressing, hay rides, pumpkin carving, and music by Cicada.
To learn more about upcoming programs and events at The FARM Institute, visit their web site at www.farminstitute.org.
Passenger and auto traffic declines through August
In the first eight months of 2005, including the three heartiest months for mainland-Island travel and for Steamship Authority revenue, the boatline recorded a decline in passenger and auto traffic, compared with 2004 figures for the same period.
Passengers to and from the Vineyard were off 3.1 percent and autos 1.4 percent. Freight numbers rose 9.7 percent over 2004, but comparisons are not entirely reliable because of changes in the way the boatline defines trucks.
Over the first eight months of this year, Nantucket passengers rose 2.3 percent, autos fell 1.5 percent, and freight leapt 12.8 percent.
For the line as a whole, passengers were down 2.1 percent, autos down 1.5 percent, and freight was up 10.7 percent. The auto and passenger declines follow several years of similar year over year shortfalls.
On the revenue side, passenger income rose 1.5 percent for the eight months, auto revenue declined 1.2 percent, and freight income jumped 11.4 percent. As of the end of August, passengers had generated $13.6 million, autos $16.3 million, and freight $11.7 million.
Last week, in the account of Eric Larsen's Arctic Ocean adventure, we incorrectly located Ellesmere Island as part of Greenland. Ellesmere Island, Canada, the tenth largest island in the world, lies just northwest of Greenland.