MVC unanimously approves East Chop Bluff repair project

Falling rocks and erosion plague the bluff along East Chop. — Gabrielle Mannino

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission voted to approve the East Chop Bluff repair project at its regular meeting on Thursday night. The major bluff in Oak Bluffs has sustained considerable damage in the three March nor’easters, according to CLE engineering project manager Carlos Pena. “Two sections collapsed, and a third section is ready to go,” he said.

In light of damage from the last storm, Oak Bluffs selectmen voted unanimously on Wednesday to close East Chop Drive to vehicle traffic from Brewster Avenue to Harrison Avenue, indefinitely.

In deference to East Chop resident concerns stated at public hearings, CLE offered to ban construction between Memorial Day and Labor Day. After lengthy debate, the commission did not accept the offer, and added a condition to allow flexibility for year-round construction, if deemed necessary.

“There won’t be any abutters if we don’t do this,” Doug Sederholm, commissioner from West Tisbury, said.

In other business, the commission unanimously approved, with two abstentions, the demolition of the former West Tisbury town hall and fire station on Old Courthouse Road. Although there had been discussions to move the building to the site of the Agricultural Hall, commissioner Trip Barnes of Tisbury said the Agricultural Society voted the previous night not to take the building, due to work the MVC required prior to moving it, which he had offered to do for free.

Michael Kim, the governor’s appointed member to the commission, who is also an architect, said he was dismayed by the prospect of the town demolishing the building. “I think it would be easy to convert to affordable housing,” he said. “They’re about to do something very stupid, which is frustrating to watch. But I don’t think we should save them from themselves.”

Barnes said he agreed “100 percent” with Kim.

Part of East Chop Drive is closed due to considerable damage done to the fragile bluff by the recent series of nor’easters. —Gabrielle Mannino

MVC executive director Adam Turner said the commission vote did not make the demolition a fait accompli, it only gives the town the option to tear it down.