Ernie Boch will tear down Beach Road property, create a park

The derelict building overlooking Vineyard Haven Harbor is scheduled be demolished on Wednesday, June 1.

Ernie Boch Jr. demolished this dilapidated building and will create a park on his harborfront property. – File photo Sam Moore

Seasonal Edgartown resident, philanthropist, and auto magnate Ernie Boch Jr. told The Times Wednesday he plans to demolish a long-derelict building on the vacant lot he owns at 20 Beach Road in Tisbury adjacent to Five Corners, and create a park.

“In the immediate future, I want to make it a beautiful park,” Mr. Boch, president and CEO of Subaru of New England, said. “I’ll go for whatever permits I need; I’ll need to add irrigation; and I’m talking to landscape architects. I just want to do a little beautification.”

The three-quarter-acre lot and beach, known as the “Boch lot,” occupies a prime harborfront spot overlooking Vineyard Haven Harbor between the Black Dog wharf and Gannon & Benjamin shipyard. It is assessed at just under $2 million. This year, Mr. Boch paid about $17,300 in taxes for the property.

Mr. Boch expects the building will be demolished this Wednesday. He will be happy to see the building, the remnants of the Hancock Hardware and Builder’s Co., removed. “It’s an eyesore,” he said. “The second I got the property I wanted to take it down.”

The vacant, rotting building has been condemned for over two years due to structural instability. At a meeting on May 3, Tisbury building and zoning inspector Ken Barwick asked permission from the selectmen to move forward with the process of demolishing the structure. At that time, Mr. Barwick said the next step would be to create a team to inspect the building and decide whether or not removal of the building was necessary.

“We have been dealing with this particular structure on assessor’s parcel 9-C-3 since April 18, 2013,” Mr. Barwick told selectmen. Due to public safety requirements, removing the building was a necessity, Mr. Barwick said. Selectmen approved the request.

It is unclear what steps Mr. Barwick took following the meeting with selectmen. Mr. Barwick did not return numerous phone messages left at his office.

Delayed development

Mr. Boch’s father, Ernie Boch Sr., purchased the property in 1987 for $600,000, and created a valet parking lot that immediately landed him in hot water with the town of Tisbury, and initiated a long regulatory battle and lawsuit.

Since then, the valuable piece of property has sat mostly unused. A part of the property lies in the commercial district, and could be developed into retail, office space, or housing. But some of the lot lies in the waterfront district, and is restricted to marine use under current zoning.

In July 2015, Mr. Boch said he envisioned condos overlooking the picturesque harbor. At that time he wanted assurances from the town that he could use the footprint of the current building.

His plans were complicated by the zoning bylaws that restrict any uses to marine purposes. At annual town meeting in 1996, Tisbury voters approved new zoning bylaws that created a Waterfront and Commercial District. In general, the waterfront district encompasses the land 100 feet back from Vineyard Haven Harbor and 100 feet back from Lagoon Pond. The thin zoning district stretches from the Steamship Authority terminal to the drawbridge, and back to Vineyard Haven Marina on Lagoon Pond.

The bylaws stipulate that any development within the district must be marine- or harbor-related, and specifically mentions aquaculture facilities, commercial fishing and fish processing, boatyards, facilities for tugboats and other vessels involved in port operations, and marine terminals.

It does, however, allow a wildlife refuge or park that promotes public enjoyment of the harbor.