MVC begins DRI review of Girl Scout camp
A public hearing by the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) to review the plans for a new Girl Scout camp building on the scouts' property off Middle Road begins tonight at 9:30 pm at the Tisbury Senior Center on Pine Street.
In preparation for reviewing the project as a development of regional impact (DRI), last Thursday John Breckenridge, Oak Bluffs commissioner, and Kathy Newman, Aquinnah commissioner, MVC staff members, and neighbors from abutting properties met Tenney Lance, Girl Scout Council director of administration, at the camp for a site visit.
The Girls Scouts established their camp about 50 years ago. They are proposing to demolish their existing 900-square-foot, three-season lodge and replace it with a 1,996-square foot building that can be used year-round.
Part of the old camp building consists of an old garage, to which a rectangular room in the middle and a small room at the other end were added. The plywood floors inside are worn and uneven, with weakened areas that sag noticeably when walked upon. Problems with rodent infestation in the crawl space and dampness in the building have resulted in a musty, moldy odor permeating the rooms. A brick fireplace in the main room is unusable. The kitchen sink and showers are located on the outside of the building.
As an educational non-profit organization, the Girl Scouts' proposed camp project was exempt from requiring a special permit by the town of Chilmark and from a zoning board of appeals hearing.
Although the project would not have triggered review as a development of regional impact (DRI), the Chilmark selectmen referred it to the MVC as a "discretionary referral." Selectman Chairman J.B. Riggs Parker said the board felt the MVC process was the only way to provide a forum for discussion, particularly for the abutters. The MVC voted in favor of reviewing the Girl Scout project as a DRI at a meeting on June 22.
During last week's site visit, architect Doug Ulwick, who drew up the plans for the new Girl Scout building, provided drawings showing three possibilities for placing the new building on the site. The first choice for him and the Girl Scouts would have placed the camp building so that the play area surrounding it would measure 15,000 square feet.
However, attorney Eric L. Peters, who represents abutters Robert Fokos, William and Emily Meegan, and Donald Nitchie, said by retaining the large play area, the plan maximizes disruption to the neighbors.
Instead, he and Mr. Fokos argued in favor of an alternate plan, which would push the building closer to Mr. Fokos's property so that it would act as a sound barrier for a play area located on the other side.
Mr. Meegan, who serves on Chilmark's planning board and lives on the opposite side of the camp from Mr. Fokos, agreed. "It's not the issue of the building; it's the issue of the activities around the building," he told Mr. Peters.
Ms. Lance said she was willing to compromise, but explained that her reluctance in moving the camp towards Mr. Fokos's property was based on the cost of having to move the septic tank.
Mr. Meegan also requested that Ms. Tenney consider moving two of four tent platforms, located up on a slight hill closest to his property. She had reservations about moving the tents, because it is easier to supervise all of them when they are closer together, she explained.
The Girl Scouts observe camp rules against noise between 10 pm to 7 am. However, Mr. Meegan said he had to reprimand the girls twice the previous Sunday when they were giggling and telling jokes in their tents after 10 pm. He said the noise from the tents closest to his house carries, and it sounds like the girls are right under his bedroom window, disrupting his family's sleep. Ms. Lance agreed to consider his request.
Mr. London commended Mr. Meegan, Mr. Fokos, and Ms. Lance for hashing out some of their differences before tonight's meeting, and added with a smile that he would not mind at all if their efforts shortened the hearing's duration considerably.