Beach Road stakeholders raise more issues

Beach nourishment and utility easements create controversy.

Ralph Packer, center, says he will take legal action against the state if the proposed beach nourishment plan moves forward. — Lucas Thors

Ralph Packer, owner of R.M. Packer, said he would take legal action against the state if it moves forward with a beach nourishment plan that would affect his waterfront business.

At a meeting Monday night between the Tisbury planning board and selectmen, Packer said the “straw that broke the camel’s back” is a large section of waterfront property located on deep water that is part of the working waterfront overlay district, and is vital to his business and the Island. He said that in July, the Tisbury conservation commission met with MassDOT to discuss beach nourishment. The nourishment plan involves using a coir log — a biodegradable roll of material that prevents beach erosion by holding sand in place. But according to Packer, the coir log is not a viable long-term solution. In recent years, Packer has advocated for riprap as a more efficient way of preventing erosion, but because the area near Packer’s is classified as a barrier beach, the coir log is the only current option. “We realized that it might not work,” Packer said. “The beach washed away, and the state came and put some more material there. You’ll realize today, it’s gone.”

Another issue Packer said is “shocking” is that if the nourishment goes forward, the state has the right to transit the property freely. “To us, it’s taking away a vital piece of working waterfront,” Packer said. “We find that this activity the last two years is impeding on our business.”

The plan proposed by the state to add a shared-use path on Beach Road and address erosion concerns has been a hot issue for months, with the area’s primary stakeholders being the most actively involved. Last week, selectmen again put off a decision on taking a final vote on the state’s final design plans, which would include controversial land takings.

“What we are doing, and this is very sincere, is we are hiring counsel to represent us in this beach taking. If our counsel finds it necessary, we will take legal action against the developer, which would be the state,” Packer said. “We think this taking is unjust, and it has nothing to do with the redoing of Beach Road; it’s just a great big piece of property with great value and future use.”

Tisbury planning board member Ben Robinson said he encouraged Packer to have counsel review the plan, but suggested that the plan is not a land taking or a permanent easement, but instead is a temporary easement for the beach nourishment. Robinson agreed with Packer that it would be good to know whether the state would retain rights to the land after the nourishment.

Additionally, Packer reiterated his offer to grant the state an easement if they agreed to run the power lines underground from the Packer property to Wind’s Up, and remove seven utility poles running along the left side of Beach Road.

Suzanne Tonry, owner of of multiple properties and businesses along Beach Road, spoke out against a proposed power conduit that would feed power to the front of her property. She and her husband don’t need power from the front, because they already have power being supplied from the rear. “We get power from Lagoon Pond, it’s the gas station and the moped shop. There’s a pole across the street at the corner of Boch’s property,” Tonry said.

Selectman Jim Rogers disagreed with Tonry, saying he does not think the gas station receives power from Lagoon Pond Road. “Well, it certainly does, just stop and look at it,” Tonry replied.

Another easement that Tonry vehemently opposed was for a 30 mph speed limit sign after Five Corners, located on her property. Robinson agreed it would be pointless to have a 30 mph sign after Five Corners, only to have it drop back down to 20 at the Net Result. “I don’t care where you put it, it’s not going on my property,” Tonry said.

Tonry’s husband, Patrick Phelan, said there is currently no sign after Five Corners until the Tisbury Marketplace. “It’s a superhighway,” Phelan said. “You are thinking of the people coming here for the summer, they have their feet all the way down on the pedal after they come off that boat.”

Tisbury planning board member Elaine Miller said she has lived on Lagoon Pond Road for 12 years, and has never considered the idea of people speeding on it. “There is no way to speed down that road; I use that road all the time. If I thought it was a hazard, I would be the first one complaining about it,” Miller said. “We have narrow roads with too much activity, and we are trying to accommodate everyone.”

Tonry then brought up the addition of 1.5 feet of sidewalk on either side of the road. She recalled how her fence was destroyed when the sidewalk was being redone years ago. “They took all of our boundary markers all the way around the property, and I made them come back and resurvey the property,” she said. “So now this is going to be uprooted again.”



  1. Wow. Martha’s Vineyard continues to be on the cutting edge of degrading the sensible qualities of property ownership.

  2. I don’t know why coir logs are the “only current option;” make a requirement that if/when they fail that MassDOT replaces with riprap.

  3. It always surprises me that most of this seems to be a SURPRISE. With moneys that generally have come from the tourist dollars. Saying this without siding with MassDOT or locals just yet. The island has one of the most disturbing approaches to civil engineering as a fluctuating high volume area. The fixes will have to be on someone’s property end of story. Unless we enjoy the reminders of decapitations of humans that have happened due to the lack of strict concerns towards PUBLIC SAFETY. With all due respect it is a mockery to watch the same course of events unfold year after year with officials seemingly allowing reality to “slip through the cracks” Every day that lacks a shift towards the safety concerns of people is a day we had talked about what it could be. Get to work on this sooner than later. Your tourist lives that you depend on can not “Die” off unless you want them to.

  4. Truxton: The problem is that safety issues have not been addressed within the current plan. There has been no DRI, no opportunity to present actual data on safety—and other—issues that should be discussed publicly, not just in meetings between Melinda Loberg and the DOT that are not open to the public (and have minutes been taken and posted of these meetings? ).
    The confidecne that an SUP will increase safety is misplaced. Actual data regarding SUPs in a busy commercial district supports the opposite conclusion: SUP are a considerable safety hazard. Furthermore, encouraging bikers to drive against the flow of motor traffic is a recipe for disaster and development of poor biking skills. The idea that bikers should be encouraged to to follow any misbegotten inclinations they have to do this, as stated by Planning Board members, is sheer nonsense and leads one to question the PB’s competence. It is unconscionable that this project should go forward under the blind assumption that an SUP is the safest option. For contrary evidence, and some straight talk about the biking/motorist safety interface, see this:

    Clearly regional in both inception and conception, the project must be referred to the MVC as a DRI.

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