Edgartown con com mulls plans to save house from sea

In a well attended public meeting Wednesday, the Edgartown conservation commission discussed issues surrounding the Schifter house move for several hours. The con com will return to the issue on Monday. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Engineers and contractors presented a revised plan to move a luxury seasonal Chappaquiddick home back from the rapidly eroding Wasque coastal bank at a meeting of the Edgartown conservation commission Wednesday night.

The changes are intended to mitigate concerns by residents over the amount of truck traffic the massive project is expected to generate.

The news comes as Rick Schifter, the house’s owner, and his team of engineers are racing time, tide, and the regulatory process to save his family vacation house from the sea, now only a baseball pitch away.

Contractors had planned to truck excavation material off site, then truck it back to fill the excavation after the buildings have been moved. That would have required approximately 2,000 round-trips with large dump trucks along Chappy’s dirt roads.

The plan now is to store most of the excavation spoils on site. That would reduce the number of truck trips needed for the excavation to fewer than 600, according to the contractors.

The plan is to move the Schifter’s main house, guesthouse, and garage to the adjoining Leland property, which Mr. Schifter bought to facilitate the move. But before that plan can be put in place, the Leland house must be moved to an abutting property. The Schifter house, with its foundation intact, will then be moved through an excavated trench.

Engineer George Sourati, who presented the plan to the conservation commission on Wednesday, pleaded for a decision so contractors can begin preparation work for the site. He told the board that after significant erosion during the latest storm, the coastal bank is now 20 feet away from the pool enclosure, and 82 feet away from the main house.

“We’re in a position where we need to move as soon as possible,” Mr. Sourati said. “I would like to be able to go ahead with the project today.”

Conservation commission members were divided on whether to act on approving the application to move the buildings that night, or wait and consider the latest changes to the project.

The commission took no action Wednesday evening, but agreed to meet again Monday, March 18.

“I don’t think there’s any way we’re not going to approve this project,” commissioner Christina Brown said. “But we need to pin down some things.”

The Edgartown planning board gave approval to begin moving the Leland house, and approved a lot line change at its meeting last week.

Wednesday afternoon, Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Mark London issued a memo that says the project should be referred to the MVC for review.