On Thursday, the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals resumed a discussion with Gerry Lynch, the owner of the White Brothers–Lynch construction company and of a large excavated parcel along County Road. The hearing had been continued from Oct. 20, when Mr. Lynch proposed a change of use at the site from excavation and hauling to the temporary storage of building materials. Only four members of the ZBA were present, and chairman Kris Chvatal noted that this would not be enough to vote on the matter, but the board members had a lot of questions for Mr. Lynch and his attorney Edward Kirk.
“We’ve already ruled that the commercial use is a pre-existing one,” said Mr. Chvatal, “as it began before 1928, and in 1948 it became a nonconforming one [after zoning was put in place]. There has been increased use of the site since the 1970s.” Mr. Chvatal said that the ZBA’s role had been to work with the applicant for the special permit and for the abutting neighbors to come to an agreement that both parties could live with.
Mr. Lynch has ceased commercial use of the northern portion of the parcel. Although zoned for residential development, Mr. Lynch characterized the area as wet and not well suited for residences. He said it was better used as a buffer between existing residences and his commercial site.
Mr. Kirk noted that two problems discussed at the Oct. 20 meeting — an overflowing retention pond and a drainage problem — have been resolved. The pond has been cleaned out and a new catch basin has been added to prevent flooding on Pennsylvania Avenue.
ZBA member Llewellyn Rogers had many questions for Mr. Lynch and Mr. Kirk. He was concerned that aerial photographs showed excavation and filling activities moving from place to place around the parcel over time. He also noted that “paper roads” (roads that exist on town maps, but not on the ground) cannot be closed without permission from the town or Land Court, and yet one paper road passed through the retention pond. “The town wants to put affordable housing in there,” Mr. Rogers said. Mr. Kirk said that activities within the parcel had proceeded as per an earlier decision with the town.
“Do you have any plans for employee housing?” asked Mr. Chvatal.
“No,” said Mr. Kirk.
“Are you planning more onsite screening [of soil and sediment]?” asked Mr. Rogers.
When Mr. Lynch said that he was, Mr. Rogers immediately pointed out that the backup beeping by the vehicles associated with screening would be a detriment to the neighborhood.
Mr. Lynch replied that there was far more beeping going across the street at the town’s wastewater treatment plant and transfer station. “If we put up a gate with a lock on it,” he suggested, “then we don’t need to use the backup alarm on the trucks.” Building inspector Mark Barbadoro objected to this proposed measure on safety grounds.
Mr. Chvatal and ZBA member Andrea Rogers both asked Mr. Lynch if he would be willing to fence off the entire parcel. He agreed to do so.
The recent increased activity at the site — which is what prompted the request for a special permit — was related to the construction of the Lagoon Pond bridge, which required temporary storage of several kinds of building materials. Mr. Lynch said that he had no more big projects in the immediate future. “We are more apt to be there four days a month, eight months of the year, than four days a week, eight months of the year,” he said. In response to questions from ZBA members, Mr. Lynch said he had no plans to receive customers at the site, to build any sheds, or store any equipment.
Mr. Barbadoro noted that there are two large subdivisions being built in the near future in Oak Bluffs; would Mr. Lynch be screening loam for those projects? The contractor said that he did not work with the subdivision business and did not anticipate getting involved in those projects.
Mr. Rogers asked the lot owner if he would be disposing of any materials at the site, and Mr. Lynch said that any kind of waste material is taken off-Island for disposal.
The ZBA and Mr. Lynch agreed to reconvene in January 2017.