On the Yellow House

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To the Editor:

Is this just a matter of standards, maintenance, or aesthetics, or something more? The answer is more, much more.

Everyone may have a different idea about what is attractive, but like pornography, although it may be hard to define, you know it when you see it.

Let’s face it, the Yellow House is an old, abused architectural beauty, an eyesore, and yet not a public safety issue. The building is privately owned, and the taxes are paid. This is not about money, unless you care about how your taxes are spent.

The owners of the Yellow House are apathetic to maintenance and civic pride, and have a different set of values aesthetically from the town, and I would venture to guess most people as well. The owners and the town have a legal history. The owners have free legal counsel, and don’t believe the old adage, “The client who represents himself has a fool for an attorney.”

The town thinks the building an eyesore. The town wishes to take ownership of the building, and would like the taxpayers to buy it. The town wants the building renovated. The town has very expensive legal counsel. The town and the owners have legal history.

This is not some righteous fight between individual rights and the power of government. This is a pathetic display of incompetence in government and private ownership. Add a lack of editorial leadership, disgusted citizenry, a little spite and a dash of vindictiveness, and more than a decade of decay, and here we are. I really don’t want to pay for it. Do you think if the taxpayers of Montgomery had voted to buy Rosa Parks a car, it would have solved the real problem?

The only way everyone benefits in this case is if the Yellow House is sold willingly by the owners for a fair price and the town is not the buyer. Every other scenario has negative consequences for either the town buyer or the seller. All but this scenario are negative for the taxpayer citizen.

If the location of the property is a key element of concern because it is highly visible, take a slow ride about town, on the Edgartown Road, through a few neighborhoods and see what’s also highly visible.

Is it because it sits in the historic district and/or business zone, and these are important classifications but have no special or unique enforcement options to go with that? Then they are meaningless classifications. Fix that. Do your job and take some initiative.

Is it the aesthetics and maintenance of the property? Watch where you set the bar. People have very different tastes and standards; take a look around.

Is this purchase in the best interest of the taxpayer? I think the town history in real estate purchases on North Water Street alone speaks for itself. In case you’ve forgotten, millions of dollars lost (the old library and the adjacent building).

Is it lack of enforcement? That too speaks for itself, if you saw the town-owned building next to the library anytime in the past dozen years prior to its new ownership.

If you believe the town government has passed all the bylaws its creative and legal minds could conjure up, and exhausted all applicable enforcement actions before getting to this point — the taking of private property as their solution — and you think government taking private property is acceptable in this case, vote yes to buy the Yellow House.

The owners of the Yellow House have cut off their collective noses to spite their face. No one likes looking at it. Shame on them. The town can’t solve a problem with a bad landlord/homeowner yet again; shame on them too.

It is our turn as taxpayers, but we are given only the choice of which side of a fight to choose. How about an option three? Let the people choose how to spend a few million dollars: in or out of this fight, OR for the people? Given the choice, I’d rather vote for an option three; spend this money directly for the town’s people in need. A lot better good can be done with that much money if the town wishes to improve real estate. There are clearly many occupied homes in Edgartown whose owners are in difficulty of some kind, and their homes in serious need of repair. If this is due to age, health, or financial inability and not a neglectful landlord, help those in need. If it is due to the landlord, do your job and fix those homes. This too is not for the greater good, but it is far better.

Self-defeating behaviors trouble me. The lack of choice in picking a worthy side in this fight troubles me. Taking private property troubles me even more. I will have to vote against this attempt at the seizure of private property under such circumstances.

WHAT I REALLY WANT TO SAY:

Asking town counsel to solve a problem is like asking an unrepentant shoplifter where to install security cameras. It may sound like a good idea because they have experience, but it is not in their best interest. The attorneys involved display characteristics inconsistent with the 1 percent of their profession that gives it a good name.

The behaviors of the Yellow House owners are symptomatic of an untreated personality disorder or worse.

The town leadership has been lazy and handled this poorly. They now wish us to pay a onetime tax increase to solve this problem because they couldn’t. They should lose their jobs next chance they get.

I do not wish tax money spent in a feud.

The neglect of the house is as self-destructive as it is shameful.

I would love to see the house properly renovated.

I abhor taking private property by government.

None of this is for the greater good.

The people deserve to have their taxes spent in a positive, productive manner.

Stephen Caliri

Edgartown