Simpson Lane plan is on hold
The Simpson Lane property will not become a parking lot or staging area for the Chappaquiddick ferry anytime soon.
Edgartown residents packed the selectmen's hearing room Monday afternoon for a third hearing on a proposed town purchase of three lots on Simpson Lane for that purpose, but their comments were cut short when they learned the property sale is on hold, leaving the controversial issue on hold probably until next year's annual town meeting.
The selectmen had originally planned to schedule a special town meeting in June to seek approval of the $3 million purchase of three lots behind the Shiretown Inn from Gerret C. Conover and Tom LeClair, who had a purchase agreement for the lots and the inn. However, only a few minutes into the hearing Monday, selectman Michael Donaroma announced that the closing date for the property sale had expired and there was no longer a rush to get the approval in June.
Mr. Conover then clarified at the hearing that the purchase fell through at the 11th hour, and he wasn't able to close on the property last Tuesday as scheduled. "At the moment the property is not under agreement," he said, adding that he and his partners will pursue the purchase and plans for the front four lots that include the inn, but they will defer developing the back lots indefinitely.
In the grip of the fresh current, occasioned by the Norton Point Beach opening, the Chappy ferry makes the slip in Edgartown. Photos & video by Danielle Zerbonne
Mr. Conover also said the planning board approved a division of the property into separate parcels, and the project was referred to the Martha's Vineyard Commission for review. The planning board action in February was not required, but the action triggered an automatic referral to the commission earlier this month because the property is in a business district, according to a planning board spokeswoman.
Mr. Conover said it is now up to the town to decide what to do with the back section. "Personally, I think it's a good idea, and it could be properly landscaped and regulated," he said. "It's an important parcel for the town's use."
Most of the residents at the meeting, however, did not agree with him, although three people spoke in favor of the plan.
"It doesn't make sense to spend $3 million for a parking lot that is used two to three months of the year," Charles Hall said. Even more succinct was Eck Wolff, who said, "This whole idea - I think it's crazy."
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Matt Grady reported that the finance advisory committee had voted against the purchase. "The price is exorbitant," he said, noting that the town is facing in the next two to three years needed repairs to the old elementary school and the senior citizens center, and possibly other projects. He also said the $3 million would bring the town closer to its desired debt ceiling of 15 percent.
The Rev. Jack Burton of Edgartown repeated his suggestion from the previous hearing that the town could use the Edgartown School parking lot as a ferry staging area and parking lot in the summer. The selectmen also read letters from residents who stated their opposition to the parking lot.
Donna E. and Frank M. McPartland, who have a home on Simpson Lane, said in their letter they opposed the plan because of the residential and historical character of the neighborhood, and safety concerns for their children. They also said they had not received a notice of the hearings, and asked to get one for any future hearings.
Trudy Carter, a new resident, asked the selectmen if the proposed parking lot was part of an overall traffic plan for the town. Mr. Donaroma said studies and discussions have been held over several years regarding parking for the ferry and downtown.
Three people, including two town employees, spoke in favor of the proposal. Laurie Schreiber, director of the council on aging, said a feasibility study showed that the senior citizens center on Daggett Street could not grow unless its parking is expanded.
No relief for Chappy ferry wait lines this summer.
"This parking would really help," she said. "We have no other solution. The people still like to drive their cars, and the seniors really want to stay in the spot we're in."
Highway superintendent Stuart Fuller also said he supported the parking lot and liked the duel function proposal.
"It could assist the congestion for 10 weeks, and there's a serious need for a downtown parking lot," he said.
Tony Bongiorno, who has an office condominium off Simpson Lane, also strongly supported the lot. "We have to change our infrastructure for today's world," he said. He suggested the town appraise every piece of property in the downtown area that becomes available, and include them in a master plan.
The town board of trade also sent a letter supporting the parking lot.
Selectman chairman Margaret Serpa concluded the hearing, saying that nothing would likely happen on the issue until next year's annual meeting.