Some Edgartown residents irate at Shiretown ferry staging idea
Several Edgartown residents made it clear to the selectmen Monday that they are not happy with a proposal that the town acquire property on Simpson Lane for a Chappaquiddick ferry staging area and parking lot.
The residents objected to the $3 million cost of the three lots, a resulting tax increase, a decrease in nearby property values, a loss of tax revenue from houses that would be removed from the lots, and aesthetic issues. The offer by local developers Gerret C. Conover and Tom LeClair to sell the property at face value behind the Shiretown Inn to the town came to light two weeks ago at a first hearing on the proposal. Mr. Conover and Mr. LeClair have the entire Shiretown property under contract to purchase.
Only two residents spoke at the first hearing, but a half dozen appeared at Monday's second hearing.
Ann Nevin spoke for her father, John C. Nevin, who owns an abutting property at 61 N. Summer St. She said their extended family, which enjoys the historical house, is concerned about the noise, safety, health and property values that would be affected by a parking lot.
"We do not want a parking lot," she said. Her father was even stronger in his opinion of the proposal.
A plan to stage ferry traffic on Simpson Lane draws fire. File photo by Bob Scott
"It's a stupid plan that costs $3 million and doesn't solve the problem," Mr. Nevin said. He said the only way to fix the problem where the ferry crosses is to build a drawbridge, similar to the one in Vineyard Haven.
"It would cost a lot, but it would cure the problem," he said.
Scott Holcombe of Oakdale Drive took title three weeks ago to 49 N. Summer St., which abuts all three parcels in question. He said he was shocked when he learned the town was considering the abutting property for a parking lot. He has received approval from the historical commission to build a "new, charming bungalow house" to replace the old beaten down bungalow on the property. Noting the "historical charm" of the neighborhood, he said, now perhaps he should reconsider building a house there and instead expand his business. "I'm not happy about a lot of asphalt next door," he said. He went on to outline 12 reasons for opposing the proposal.
Mr. Holcombe said the selectmen were being fiscally irresponsible to use public funds to benefit a few people. "For this price, you could buy plenty of high capacity ferries for Chappaquiddick," he said. He also claimed the proposal might be a smokescreen for
"This might be a clever way to supplement the developer - to get open space for a residential facility," he said.
Mr. Holcombe suggested that if the selectmen approve the proposal they should allocate a 50 percent tax increase for businesses.
James E. Joyce of Edgartown suggested a 50-cent surcharge for everyone who uses the lot, which would be returned to the town. He also noted that the three houses that would be removed from the property for the parking lot result in a loss of tax revenue, and added that the parking lot would also devalue the houses around it.
"All the way around you're losing money," Mr. Joyce said. He also urged the selectmen to delay a decision on the property until next year's town meeting. "Anything of this size should wait until April," he said.
The Rev. Jack Burton of Edgartown said he also was concerned about the property's price and a tax increase, adding that he is on a fixed income. He asked the selectmen to consider using the Edgartown School parking lot in the summer as a staging area for the Chappaquiddick ferry, which would be at no extra expense to the taxpayers. He said a person could be stationed at the lot to release cars for the ferry line.
Peter Herrmann of Edgartown also objected to the town's taxes going up every year. Noting a recent $1.5 million allocation for the cemetery, he said, "I'd like to see the taxpayers get a break for one year. Nothing is ever denied."
Mr. Holcomb said he expected the proposed purchase would probably pass with enough support from Chappaquiddick residents. However, several people said they didn't believe all Chappaquiddick residents would favor it because it would bring more people to the island.
Selectmen Michael Donaroma agreed with the residents at the hearing that it is the selectmen's responsibility to bring the issue to a town meeting, but he suggested it be in June. A date has not been set for a special town meeting, executive secretary Pamela Dolby said.
Selectman Margaret Serpa, the only other selectmen at the meeting, said they might consider having another hearing on the issue since several people complained that few people were aware of the first hearing. She also said residents can submit their comments on the issue to the selectmen's office at any time.
In other business, the selectmen approved a proposal from the marine advisory committee to amend the harbor regulations to allow transient boats to use private moorings in Edgartown harbor on a day-to-day basis during the summer. The change would accommodate 20 or more additional vessels daily at charter boat moorings, harbormaster Charles Blair said. "They sit vacant most of the time," he said.
Mr. Blair said he is working on a 14-year waiting list now for moorings. The advisory committee checked with other shore towns, such as Marblehead, Hull, and Chatham, which have made similar changes to their mooring regulations. He noted that mooring waiting lists grow longer every year and are a problem for shore towns along the whole Northeast coast.
The selectmen also approved a plan to construct two floating docks near the finger piers that also will provide extra mooring for transient boats and sportfishing charter boats.
The selectmen awarded a $750,800 contract bid to Cape Building Systems to construct a new building on Meetinghouse Way that will be used for storage and small offices for the highway, shellfish, and dredging departments, and the harbormaster. The project was rebid after bids received on March 1 came in too high. The previous low bid was $792,000 and the project was allocated for $850,000. The extra money will be needed for demolition and building a loading dock, shellfish constable Paul Bagnall said. "We're hoping we can do the whole thing and keep it under what the article was written for," he said.