Letters to the Editor
No to Muckerheide project
To the Editor:
My family and I would like to strongly protest Donald Muckerheide's proposed project for 114-116 Dukes County Avenue. I naively assumed that this overly huge proposal would naturally be rejected by the Martha's Vineyard Commission, and I admit to being remiss in not lodging our family's concerns, either with legal representative or in person. Our property, 115 Dukes County Avenue, is directly across the street from the proposed project.
We have not been able to attend the commission's meetings, as we live in New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut. Having said that, we object to the project for the following reasons: 1) an 11-unit, three-story housing development on slightly larger than a quarter of an acre with room for 21 parking spaces seems to put an unrealistic and an impossible environmental stress on property that size; 2) the architectural designs have been unattractive and reminiscent of cheap motels with open stairways and hallways. It is totally out of sync with the streetscape of the area; 3) the noise emanating from 11 units with open stairways and hallways would put a strain on neighbors' rights to "quiet enjoyment" of property; 4) parking in this area is already at a premium. Based on Oak Bluffs zoning requirements, 4,300 square feet, or about 37 percent of the total .27 acres would be needed to accommodate twenty-one parking spaces. Because of the lot size, crowded parking would inevitably force tenants/owners to park on an already narrow street with existing high usage. Traffic jams at the corner of Oakland Avenue and Dukes County Avenue are a daily occurrence. My family members often have to track down persons who illegally park in front of our driveway, which has a town approved "No Parking" sign, in order to exit our driveway; 5) if the project were to be approved, obtain financing and construction begun, it is likely that several delays would occur. The structures could either remain incomplete and/or abandoned; 6) is there a business plan, and does it include a marketing analysis? Given the current and projected real estate market over the next few years, developers and/or buyers might be difficult to find.
In summary, I find it difficult to view this project, completed or not, as contributing to improving the quality of life or the overall value of the neighborhood, but rather increasing the probability of creating an eyesore and deflating property values even more. We have no objection to Mr. Muckerheide's desire to develop his property and realize a profit. We, however, strongly object to the lack of consideration for his property's neighbors. The M.V.Times September 4 article quotes Mr. Muckerheide as stating, he has "a list of 20 property owners who support the project." My family and I were present most of this past summer. In fact, my wife spoke to him on at least two occasions. Mr. Muckerheide never approached us regarding this project.
We too have dreams for our property and have spent a considerable amount of money expanding, rehabbing and updating systems, with the expectation to move to the Island year-round within the next 18 months. This proposed project, along with the existing traffic and noise, will make our life there unbearable. We would, however, be willing to support a vastly scaled down effort (perhaps two to four units). Since that is not the proposal under consideration, we, therefore, respectfully request the commission to disapprove the proposed project.
Walter L. Isaacs and Family
Trenton, N. J.
More questions on Home Port deal
To the Editor:
The following letter was submitted to the Chilmark selectmen.
Congratulations on negotiating for the purchase of the Home Port property. I had intended to vote enthusiastically for this purchase at next week's meeting. However, the alternative offer to continue the operation of a restaurant on the site from the Nixons, owners of the Beach Plum Inn and the Menemsha Inn, has made the decision a little more difficult. While I favor the acquisition by the town, it would be helpful to me, and I believe to others, to address some questions regarding the two alternatives.
As I understand it, the advantages of a town purchase and conversion of the property for public use are to ensure that the property, with its exceptional views, will be available to all and not be privately developed. In addition, the proposal calls for a new comfort station, some park land, water access for launching kayaks and other small boats, and additional parking.
On the other side of the ledger, there will be some increase in our taxes, and - with the demolition of the restaurant - some loss of employment (while most of the employees are from off-Island, there are some year-round residents working there, as well as those working for suppliers, plumbers, and other maintenance personnel). Also, there will be some loss of business for local growers and fishermen. If the restaurant were to continue under new, private ownership, these negative impacts would not occur.
However, the downside of continuing private ownership would be that the property is not preserved for the town and might be developed at some later date for use other than a restaurant. Also, there would be no new comfort station, public water access for small boats, or additional parking. (In fact, the parking for the new restaurant would be reduced from that available at the Home Port, because the property used for staff parking is no longer available).
There may be ways to address some of these issues with a new restaurant operator. For instance, if the Nixons would agree that in any future sale the town would have the right of first refusal. In addition, if they would agree that the waterfront would be available to the public for launching small boats. Even better, the deal could have the town purchase the waterfront property, which is not needed for the restaurant operation. If these proposals were feasible, the town would be assured that they could get the property if the restaurant were no longer in business, and public water access would be available while the restaurant operated.
While the additional parking that is envisioned in the current plan would not be available with the restaurant continuing to operate, the extent of this additional parking would probably be minimal with a park and a comfort station taking up a portion of the site. If additional comfort station capacity is required, the existing facility might be expanded.
Another possibility might be for the town to purchase the site and rent all but the waterfront piece to the Nixons for the restaurant operation.
Even if these alternatives were feasible, I am not sure that I know which way I will vote at next Monday's public meeting without some issues being addressed, such as:
- What is the total capital cost of the current proposal? The figures presented include only the purchase price. There will be substantial costs in demolition and in the development of the site with a park, comfort station, and parking.
- What are the annual costs with the current proposal? There will be loss of tax revenues and additional maintenance costs.
- How much additional parking will there be, other than just short-term spaces for the comfort station? This can be determined relatively easily by developing a sketch plan for the site.
- Are the Nixons amenable to a town's right of first refusal for any future sale?
- Are the Nixons amenable to either having a town acquire the waterfront access or allowing the public to use it if they own the property?
- And finally, is there a possibility that the town could acquire the entire property and rent it to Nixons for a limited period (say five years)? This option would allow the town some time to analyze more fully the potential long-term use of the site, either as a restaurant or as a park/parking lot.
I fully support the town's efforts for preserving this important site for public use. But, I do think some more information would be very helpful in making such an important decision.
To the Editor:
The proposal put forth by the Chilmark selectmen to destroy the landmark business, the Home Port, is in my opinion shortsighted and narrow of focus. To say that the preservation of a vista, the creation of a place to sit (that is not a beach) and a place to drop in a few kayaks is more valuable than the largest employer and anchor tenant of the village is a plan where the loss far outweighs the gain, a plan without much merit.
The Home Port is a landmark in Menemsha. It has been serving hungry people for more than 70 years. Many people come to Menemsha exclusively to go there, as it is one of the two or three real destinations of the village, a pillar of the Menemsha community. In addition to bringing in a lot of people to its restaurant (more than any other), the Home Port draw attracts shoppers of all kinds. The trickle effect is real. Many other businesses benefit. It is perhaps the first or second largest employer in Chilmark, with over 20 employees per shift. People who work there also spend money in town. As it only serves dinner currently, there is already a place to sit and enjoy the vista, eat some food, read a book or chat during the day.
Mr. Holtham has worked tirelessly for years to offer a family-oriented experience, and it is one of the few types of restaurants around that does it. It also has huge untapped potential to expand its services and only requires a new team with fresh ideas to grow the business. If the expanded services included breakfasts, or jazz brunches for instance, there would be many more people to shop in town at a time when the town is relatively quiet. More people in town means more revenues for many local businesses.
As an avid kayaker, I agree the pond access would be great and remember the days of the Dogfish Kayak Company using that access. Either way, with the town or the Nixons owning the Home Port the kayak access will be opened up. Perhaps the Nixons could be encouraged to create a comfort station there too?
The only way I would support the town's purchase of the Home Port is if we agree to keep it as a restaurant and lease it to an Island entrepreneur looking for an opportunity. Putting out some feelers, I know there is a huge demand for this type of opportunity, and the income from a long-term lease could work well to offset debt taken on by the town and not just dumped on the taxpayers.
Preserving the Home Port is really about preserving Menemsha.
A bad plan
To the Editor:
During the 35 years that I have moored a boat on Nashaquitsa Pond, the volume of boats of all sizes plying Menemsha Channel has dramatically increased. Close calls between boats are becoming more common. The tide is strong, and the channel is narrow and very shallow in parts.
If Chilmark buys the Home Port, part of the plan apparently is to add a launch site for kayaks and small boats. That area in front of the Home Port is one of the most dangerous places in the channel for larger boats to maneuver. Adding a launch site there is asking for trouble. Sooner or later there will be collisions, and people are going to get hurt. I think it's a bad plan.
That's no park
To the Editor:
Caroline and I have owned our house on South Road in Chilmark for almost 20 years. The parts of our life that we live here - and especially the place that it provides for my grandchildren, Jack and Grace - make Menemsha a cherished part of my life. As a property owner in town, and as a professional landscape architect who works from New York and Cambridge, I think there are better uses for tax dollars than purchasing the Home Port property. And I certainly think that a so-called "park" here is not a good idea.
From my professional perspective of designing parks all over the world, Chilmarkers might be misguided to spend this money if they believe that they will be gaining a "park" in the process. The big parking lot planned for this half-acre site could leave room for a green strip at the edge, but this can hardly be considered a park. It's more like those rest stops along the highways that we fortunately have none of on the Island. To borrow an analogy from this year's election, Sarah Palin may call herself a reformer, and there may be some aspects of "reform" that she represents, but we all need to look closely at the full extent of her record before we accept this idea at face value.
Similarly, one could call the site of the former Home Port a park, and there may be elements of "park" as part of the proposed plan, but the results will be little more than a big parking lot with some greenery and stonework at the edge. The rendering being circulated doesn't show the parking lot at all, which makes it more than a little risky in assessing the character of the proposed green space. Even so, the "park" described in the drawing looks experientially bland - and why would anyone want to use it? But more to the point, who thinks a park on this site is a better idea than finding a buyer to continue this much-liked restaurant and treasured up-Island summer amenity? Chilmark is hardly desperate for green space in quite the same way as, say a town or a city, and thus we should be a little discerning about the kinds of sites that we are willing to fund as parkland. With all the beautiful views that surround us in Menemsha, who wants to sit on the edge of a new parking lot, and feel and hear the presence of 30 cars?
What Chilmark and Menemsha need more than anything is a buyer for the Home Port who is willing to keep it a good family-friendly place through pricing, and marine-friendly by selling seafood. Since I hear this option is now in the wings, I can't imagine why the town would spend precious dollars by purchasing the Home Port and building a parking lot. These couple dozen parking spots - which, by the way, are already usable much of the summer, anyway - hardly do anything to significantly alleviate the admittedly serious parking condition. A larger parking lot with green at the edges contributes precious little to solving the highly volatile parking problem in Menemsha. My hope is that my grandchildren inhabit a future with a real family seafood restaurant like the Home Port has always been, and that the idea of a park goes away as quietly as every summer ends.
Michael Van Valkenburgh
The molest-less season
To the Editor:
Ah, September. I've been happily parking anywhere I've wanted to go now, including Menemsha. Last time I ventured there on a beautiful beach day in August, I was lucky enough to get a good parking spot facing the water and proceeded to spend the next three hours or so painting the landscape, one of my favorite pastimes. However, soon after I got my easel set up, my view was marred by a couple teens who had set up chairs, tables, and jewelry displays right on the rocks between the parking lot and the jetty. They attempted to sell their wares for those three hours, packing up right before I left. Concurrently, another set of three children, all approximately less than eight years old, came up to me on three different occasions to ask if I wanted to buy bracelets from them. Annoying to me, not cute. I was torn between admiration for their free enterprise, bewilderment that this solicitation was being tolerated, and astounded at the audacity of their parents allowing or condoning such behavior. I finally settled my conflicted feelings on disgruntled, when I suddenly thought, what if these people were Brazilians rather than the caucasian kids living on boats for the summer? I doubt that they would have been allowed to sell their jewelry on Menemsha Beach for those three hours. Thankfully, it is September, and I can go back to landscape painting unmolested by young accessorizers.
Nina Gomez Gordon
Real Questions for Sarah Palin
To the Editor:
Granting Doug Cabral's view that most people will vote in November more on party sympathy than on race (At Large, Sept. 4), McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as running mate is a brilliant move. Mother of five in an apparently stable two-parent family, energetic, hard-working, a crowd-wowing speaker, gladly embracing a Down syndrome infant, keen hunter, NRA member, fiercely anti-abortion even in cases of rape and incest, religiously conservative and highly photogenic - no wonder the Republican base is enthused. And because McCain would almost certainly be a one-term president, thousands of people are thrilled at the possibility that - by succession or election - Sarah Palin could become president of the United States.
Arguing that rising unemployment, health care, Iraq, home foreclosures, the climate crisis and the financial crisis are far more important than Palin's persona misses the point. Like it or not, Palin's religious views and social values are appealing and important to many Americans - important enough to sway their votes. The Republican party has successfully appealed to such values for the past two decades, and is now doing so again.
Carping about Palin's limited experience misses another point. Small town accomplishments are a useful guide to big-time behavior. So here are three highlights of her public record to date:
Alaska is an oil producer and has a budget surplus due to the high price of oil. Instead of investing it in technology to assist energy independence and efficiency, Governor Palin proposed distributing the surplus to every individual in the state. Though such a move might be popular with some voters, it shows short-term thinking, not long-term vision. How would President Palin behave?
Palin campaigned for the mayoralty of Wasilla as a "fiscal conservative." During her six years as mayor, she increased city government expenditures by one third and taxes by 38 percent. She inherited a small city with zero debt and left it with debts of over $22 million. Depending on how you calculate Wasilla's population, that's between $3,100 and $4,400 per inhabitant. The money went not to overhaul an antiquated sewage system but on a park and sports complex. Nice addition, but built on land to which the city did not have clear title and was still in litigation seven years later. Sound judgment? Fiscal conservatism? How would those attributes play out on the national stage?
Finally, when Sarah Palin became mayor, she tried to fire the city librarian, because he refused to remove from the library books she wanted removed. A city-wide campaign forced her to withdraw the termination letter. Where would such personally motivated micro-management and censorship take us if Governor Palin were to sit in the Oval Office?
These are the issues our mainstream media ought to be looking into. And asking questions like the following: Based on her published views and record, what kind of jurist would President Palin nominate for the Supreme Court? How does Palin deal with criticism - from other Republicans, colleagues, and co-workers? How does she treat the people whose jobs she controls? Who does she listen to? From whom does she seek or take advice? What are her views on the climate crisis? What books did she want removed from the Wasilla city library, and why?
To the Editor:
Would you please be so kind as to let me know just what an outreach coordinator does for the people in our town for our seniors? Thanks for any and all information.
Catherine A. Curran