Work underway on West Chop compound
The large lot overlooking a meadow and outer Vineyard Haven Harbor currently resembles a miniature version of Goodale's sandpit and attracts the interest of curious passersby. The owner said that when work is completed his four-house compound, the largest single building project underway in Tisbury, will fit perfectly into the West Chop neighborhood.
James Ferraro, a prominent Miami, Fla. lawyer, is building his new house on two lots along upper Main Street, formerly part of the Jane Douglass estate. Gone is the white colonial house overlooking a meadow owned by the Sheriff's Meadow Foundation that blooms with wild flowers in the spring.
The house now under construction will be considerably larger and feature numerous amenities. In a recent telephone conversation from his office in Miami, Mr. Ferraro could not recall details of the project that might consume the average homebuilder, such as the size of the buildings, or even the number of bedrooms. He did say that the project will include a number of structures, including two main houses (one for each lot), a guesthouse and a pool house.
The two lots on West Chop will include two main houses, a guesthouse, a pool house, a basketball court and a tennis court. Photo by Ezra Blair
According to his web site, Mr. Ferraro specializes in asbestos litigation, products liability, toxic torts, wrongful death, personal injury, and medical malpractice. Mr. Ferraro is also the majority owner of the Las Vegas Gladiators, an arena football team.
The 48-year-old lawyer and his guests should be able to stay fit. The compound will include a pool, a tennis court, and a basketball court.
According to Tisbury building department records, the two-lot project will include 16 bedrooms and other rooms for a total of 21,100 square feet. The nine-bedroom main house is approximately 12,000 square feet. There is also a second five-bedroom, 7,500-square-foot house, a smaller two-bedroom 800-square-foot guesthouse and a pool house.
Mr. Ferraro, who also owns a house off Lagoon Pond Road in Vineyard Haven, said that he bought the two West Chop lots several years ago. He said he has no plans to sell the property once work is completed. "I love the Vineyard, and as I get older I want to spend more and more time there with my kids and my grandkids," he said.
Mr. Ferraro said that the project is large, but that it is in keeping with the style of other West Chop homes.
"We went to great lengths and made a real effort to make it look right," he said. "It took a long time to do the plans, and I think when it is done it will be beautiful and will really fit in with the West Chop style."
Ken Barwick, Tisbury building inspector, said that the architectural firm Handlin, Garrahan, Zachos and Associates, which designed the buildings, worked diligently with the town to shape the project. "They had a number of issues in regard to height and wetlands and they required a number of permits from the ZBA, planning board, and the building department," said Mr. Barwick. "They definitely had a lot of hoops to jump through."
Despite its size and proximity to the road, the Ferraro project has stirred little public debate. That has not always been the case for other houses of similar size where opponents have criticized the projects as out of place and out of character with the Vineyard landscape even when the projects are far from public view.
In 2001, a proposal to build a 15,600-square-foot house on 81 acres on Oyster Pond in Edgartown met staunch opposition from neighbors who opposed its size. The Edgartown conservation commission approved the project only after the house was reduced to about 11,000 square feet. Still, neighbors fought the decision, arguing that the house would harm wildlife and would impact historic views and vistas. The Massachusetts Appeals Court eventually rejected the effort to prevent construction.
In 2003, a proposed 9,670-square-foot house on nine acres of high land overlooking Wasque Point on Chappaquiddick became the focus of another house-size controversy. After failing to win approval from the planning board, the owners revised the plan, shaving off 2,210 square feet from the two-story, eight-bedroom home. The reduction was enough to win approval, but opponents remained critical of the project's scale.
Size was also a sticking point for a proposed 9,982-square-foot house on a peninsula on Edgartown Great Pond. After an outcry from neighbors over the size of the project, the Edgartown conservation commission agreed in 2004 to allow only a 7,250-square-foot home on the site.
Mr. Ferraro said that he hopes to have his new homes finished by the summer of 2007.