Edgartown boards green light Schifter house move

Preparations are underway to move the Schifter house back from the edge of the bluff. — Photo by Steve Myrick

The Edgartown planning board has approved a complex plan to move Richard Schifter’s large, luxury house on Chappaquiddick away from the quickly eroding coastal bank at Wasque Point. The planning board acted Thursday, the town conservation commission on Wednesday.

Both boards will issue a list of conditions to ensure that contractors preserve the sensitive ecology of the shorefront site and limit the impact on Chappaquiddick residents. The move is expected to take several weeks. In the meantime, the boards will allow work on the project to proceed.

Edgartown selectmen gave permission Monday to contractors to use the Chappaquiddick ferry parking lot to stage the heavy equipment needed for the move.

International Chimney Corporation barges carrying hydraulic jacks, 70 foot steel beams, and other equipment from Maryland are scheduled to arrive at Martha’s Vineyard today.

The evolving plan, presented by lead engineer George Sourati of Vineyard Haven, calls for contractors to move a house from the adjacent Leland property, bought by Mr. Schifter to make room for the relocation of his threatened shorefront guesthouse, garage, and 8,300-square-foot seasonal main house.

Engineers plan to dig a trench 250 feet wide to move the main house on beams, with the basement and foundation intact, to its new location, about 275 feet away from the current edge of the coastal bluff.

Work has already begun, based on approval of preliminary site work two weeks ago.

With this week’s green light from the town boards, contractors will immediately begin to remove topsoil and truck it offsite for storage, remove a pool and basketball court, excavate around the four buildings involved in the move, and begin to move a guesthouse which now sits about 40 feet from the receding bluff.

The two town regulatory boards and abutters of the property have complained about the amount of large truck traffic that will have to share the road with summer motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

According to plans submitted to the planning board, trucks will need to make about 2,500 round-trips over the narrow paved and dirt roads from now through September.

About 750 truck trips are planned in April. Contractors estimate 34 truck trips will be needed to move heavy equipment from a barge on Chappaquiddick Point to the southeastern corner of the remote island.

About 215 truck trips will be needed to remove topsoil from the site and truck it to property owned by Gerald Jeffers where it will be stored, then returned it to the site after the house move is complete. An estimated 85 truck trips will be needed in April to remove construction debris, including a pool, concrete foundations and septic systems.

Another 1,000 trips are planned from October through the summer of 2014, to complete utility work and landscaping.

Also a major concern is stockpiling of more than 40,000 cubic yards of excavation spoils on the site. The contractors submitted detailed plans to prevent migration of soil or silt into nearby wetlands bordering Poucha Pond. The plans include building a coir log wall on the outside of the stockpile. Coir logs are large tubes of biodegradable plant material. Engineers have used the coir logs to mitigate erosion of the coastal bluff in front of the Schifter property since last fall. When it rains, the contractors will cover the top of the pile with tarps.

The conditions will also require the contractors to compact the excavation sites, to return the land to its orginal composition, to mitigate the possibility of more severe erosion of the coastal bluff.

Town officials have taken no action in response to a memo dated March 13, addressed to the Edgartown conservation commission, planning board, and building inspector, in which Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Mark London said two changes in the original 1990 Leland subdivision plan subject the Schifter plan to MVC review.