Time expires on Chappy affordable lot
A Marblehead husband and wife, part of a group of 10 plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit to block the development of three affordable one-acre housing lots on Chappaquiddick, found an opportunity in the delay caused by the legal action.
According to a quitclaim deed filed Sept. 29, 2006, at the Dukes County Registry of Deeds, Robert S. Finkelstein and Cheryl Finkelstein of Marblehead, purchased a lot owned by Juanita B. Vickers of Melbourne, Fla. at 16 Sandy Road for $287,900.
The price the Finkelsteins paid was considerably more than the $40,000 Joe Spagnuolo and his wife Cheryl Herrick agreed to pay when the couple signed a purchase and sales agreement to purchase the same lot from Ms. Vickers. But when the couple's purchase and sales agreement expired, the Finkelsteins made an offer and Ms. Vickers accepted it.
The lot, which abuts the Finkelstein's house and one-acre lot, was one of three existing lots on Sandy Road, off of Litchfield Road the Edgartown zoning board of appeals (ZBA) approved for affordable housing more than one year ago.
Edgartown zoning bylaws prohibit building on lots less than three acres in size on Chappaquiddick. However, a special bylaw designed to promote affordable housing allows potential homeowners who meet certain income, residency, and age requirements to build on substandard lots.
Following the ZBA approval the Edgartown resident homesite committee qualified Andrea DelloRusso and Luke Riordan; Joe Spagnuolo and Cheryl Herrick; and Clinton Fisher to purchase the lots.
In September 2005, 10 seasonal and year-round Chappaquiddick residents asked the Land Court to overturn the ZBA decision. In a summary judgment dated June 22, 2006, land court judge Gordon H. Piper found that the Edgartown ZBA acted properly and within the scope of the town's zoning bylaws when it issued three special permits.
This September the plaintiffs filed an appeal. In the meantime, the legal delays have delayed the prospect of home ownership for the affordable lot recipients.
"It's really unfortunate," said Philippe Jordi, executive director of the Island Housing Trust, referring to the lot sale. The Island Trust owns one of the two remaining lots.
Ms. Vickers made a lot of money on it, he said, but she is trying to accommodate the Herrick-Spagnuolo family by finding another property they could buy for $40,000. "She has at least a moral obligation," to do so, he added.
Ms. Herrick said last week that she and her husband had been advised not to comment on the transaction.
Mr. Spagnuolo sought a variance from the ZBA for another one-acre lot this fall, but the property did not qualify under ZBA regulations. Substandard lots cannot be created but must be pre-existing for the ZBA to take action.
Mr. Spagnuolo returns to the ZBA on Jan. 24 to seek a special permit for a 2.1-acre lot owned by Ms. Vickers on Jason Drive.
Janet Hathaway, vice chairman of the Island Housing Trust and a member of the Edgartown Home Site Committee, said Clinton Fisher of Edgartown, the third party who was granted one of the special housing permits, has also been approached by the plaintiffs to sell his lot. Mr. Fisher was not available for comment on the status of his lot, which he bought from Ms. Vickers in May 2005 for $40,000, according to a Registry of Deeds filing.
Andrea DelloRusso and Luke Riordan, the couple selected for the lot owned by the Island Housing Trust, are living in a house on Chappaquiddick on land leased from the Land Bank. The plan calls for moving the house to the affordable housing lot, Mr. Jordi said. The couple did not return calls for comment.
Both Mr. Jordi and Ms. Hathaway commented that the delays are unfortunate for the potential property owners. Mr. Hathaway said it was "very, very sad" that the three families had to go through another Christmas without their new homes.
In June, the potential homeowners thought they would be able to go forward with their housing plans after the Massachusetts land court ruled in their favor. If the second appeal moves forward, the process is expected to take more than a year.
ZBA chairman Martin "Skip" Tomassian said he could not comment on the case because of the appeal.
The defendants in the case are the six members of the ZBA, the lot recipients and the Island Housing Trust Corporation, which owned one of the lots.
The 10 plaintiffs are: George Mellendick, James Williams, William O'Connell, Paul Wales, Robert and Cheryl Finkelstein, Frank and Karen Gazarian, Cornelia Dean, and Lionel Spiro.