Schifter house project is on the move on Chappy


The massive engineering project to save a luxury Chappaquiddick home from dropping off a rapidly eroding coastal bank at Wasque Point is proceeding with relatively few complaints from neighbors, according to Edgartown officials and Chappaquiddick residents.

International Chimney Corporation, the lead contractor on the project, is preparing to move the 8,300-square-foot main house owned by Rick Schifter, complete with its foundation, to a new location.

Aerial photographs of the property, taken April 26, show a deep excavation around the main house. Contractors plan to position 80-foot steel beams below the foundation. They will not lift the house, but move the entire structure through an excavated trench, to a location about 275 feet away from the coastal bank.

It is not clear whether the move is on schedule and according to plans. Mr. Schifter, through his project manager, Rick Pomroy, would not comment on the project, when contacted by The Times.

Contractors have already moved a nearby building, known as the Leland house, on neighboring property that Mr. Schifter bought earlier this year to make room for his seasonal vacation home. Construction of a new foundation for that house is to begin soon.

Contractors have also moved a Shifter guesthouse to a temporary location away from the coastal bank. They expect to move that building to its permanent location after the main house is in place.

Big move

The complex project got underway in late March, with transport of heavy equipment to the site and removal of topsoil and trees from the property. Drivers hauled the material by truck to a storage location off Jeffers Lane.

“They spent a hard week rattling the windows, removing the topsoil and the trees they wanted to save,” Roger Becker, president of the Chappaquiddick Island Association, said this week. “Generally speaking, I haven’t heard too many complaints after that first week. It hasn’t been too bad.”

Mr. Becker said he has not seen any large impact on ferry lines from construction crews and equipment moving to the site.

According to plans submitted to Edgartown regulatory boards, contractors expected to make about 750 truck round-trips over the narrow paved and dirt roads in April. They plan another 1,750 round-trips from now through September.

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

Police chief Tony Bettencourt and town manager Pam Dolby said there have been no issues with the project to date.

Regulatory watch

The Edgartown planning board has scheduled a site visit next week, to see whether contractors are complying with conditions imposed in the project permit.

Conservation agent Jane Varkonda visits the site twice a week. As a condition of the conservation commission permit, the property owner agreed to reimburse the town for ferry fees, mileage costs, and an hourly rate for the extra time required for Ms. Varkonda to monitor the project.

She said some sand from the project was used to replenish beaches on neighboring properties.

Work crews demolished the concrete foundation under the guest house after they moved the building, then filled and compacted the excavation with close supervision of geo-technical engineers. The conservation commission is concerned that if excavations are not filled and compacted to return the soil to the same state it was in before the digging, any future erosion may be more severe.

To date, Ms. Varkonda said she has not observed any serious violations of the conservation commission conditions.

Not watching

The project is proceeding despite a determination by Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) executive director Mark London, which he outlined in a memo sent to Edgartown officials, that the project requires commission review, under at least two provisions of the development of regional impact (DRI) checklist.

In a March 13 memo to the Edgartown planning board, conservation commission, and building inspector, Mr. London wrote that a change in lot lines, as well as moving a new house into a previous DRI require modification of a previous MVC decision. In the memo, he offered to expedite the review, given the urgency of the project.

Edgartown building inspector Lenny Jason Jr., who is also an MVC commissioner, advised town boards the project does not require referral to the MVC. Mr. Jason, the planning board, and the conservation commission have not referred the project to the MVC.

The MVC has limited authority to force a review. The agency has the option to sue the town of Edgartown and ask the court to order the town to refer the project.

Enforcement of conditions imposed in previous DRI falls to the town building inspector. Mr. Jason has the option to withhold an occupancy permit if violations occur.

In 2007, the Edgartown planning board referred a change in lot lines in a very similar circumstance to the MVC for review.

In that case, in a subdivision on the shoreline of Edgartown Great Pond, the applicant asked the planning board to shift a lot line in a previous DRI. The MVC decided the shift was not significant enough to require a review.