Four Island organizations are asking Tisbury selectmen to hear what they have to say about an expansion of the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard before the board takes an official position on it, but it appears the board won’t be giving them that chance.
In a letter to the board of selectmen sent last week, the Lagoon Pond Association, the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, Tisbury Waterways, and Friends of Sengekontacket asked for time to make a presentation to counter a presentation made earlier this month by James and Phil Hale about their $2.5 million marina project.
“We believe that the Hales’ presentation does not fairly represent the devastating effects such expansion would have on Lagoon Pond and its surrounding environs,” the letter states. “The Hales were given an opportunity to advocate for themselves, and the [board of selectmen] would be remiss in their duties if they did not also give the stewards of the Lagoon Pond the opportunity to speak on its behalf. To not do so would put the [board of selectmen] in the precarious position of making a decision with only half of the relevant information.”
The town’s fledgling natural resources committee has not heard a presentation by the Hales, despite inviting them twice — something also pointed out in the letter. “Converting a natural resource enjoyed by the public into a private resource enjoyed by a few is a weighty decision, and all relevant information should be reviewed,” the letter states.
In closing, the letter requests the same amount of time granted to the Hales for their presentation.
Selectmen said at a meeting earlier this month that they would deliberate on a letter of support for the project at their Feb. 4 meeting.
But this week, the board’s agenda came out for Wednesday, and it includes a discussion of a draft letter of support for the project.
In a telephone interview with The Times, Doug Reece, president of the Lagoon Pond Association, said there is growing support for the association’s position, with 1,781 people signing a petition. “It’s disappointing and frustrating that we’re not getting the same opportunity to talk to town officials that the M.V. Shipyard people got,” Reece said. “In a democracy, you would think we’d have that opportunity.”
Melinda Loberg, chair of the board of selectmen, said because the board is not part of the decision-making process on the expansion, she suggested the Lagoon Pond Association’s comments were better suited for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission process. She said the board has the association’s letter, and will take it under advisement.
Selectmen were scheduled to consider a letter of support for the project at a meeting Wednesday, as The Times went to press.
In a previous interview with The Times, Reece said while the Hales have made attempts to address some of the concerns raised by the association and others, there are still serious concerns about the project.
“They’re doing a great job of saying, ‘We can handle this, we can do this,’” Reece told The Times. “It’s a very impressive presentation. The town’s behind it, but the town is looking at it as a business that’s good for the town, and have sort of looked away from the environmental effects. Something like this, if things do go south and things happen in the pond, then shame on them.”
During the selectmen’s meeting, the Hales said they’re committed to not allowing boats that use copper paint on the bottom, they’re restricting overnight stays on boats, and have equipment to capture runoff from cleaning boats.
Reece and others remain concerned with adding an additional 48 boats to the Lagoon.
“If there is only one gasoline tank that gives way — it can happen with any boat in there now — but to add 48 more boats to the west arm, which is now closed to shellfishing because of buildup of bacteria and fecal coliform … any other pollution could be detrimental,” Reece said.
Lagoon Pond is already identified as a “sick pond,” Reece said, mostly because of nitrogen from houses and septic systems. “Why add more pollutants to the water?” he said. “Our mission is to maintain the water quality we have, and make it better.”
At the selectmen’s meeting, the Hales pointed out that they are a Vineyard family that’s worked the waterfront for generations. “This project is not a 58-unit subdivision on Meetinghouse Road,” Phil Hale said, referring to a controversial project in Edgartown. “It’s being brought to you by a boatyard that’s been a boatyard a long time — two men that live in town and were brought up in town.”
In a phone conversation Friday, James Hale reiterated that point: “We want this community to be great, too.”
Reece said he would like Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard and the town to look at alternatives — boat rack storage is one idea, and a way to add boats to the Vineyard Haven Harbor by adding more protection from wave action is another.
“I think things are moving a little too fast, and they need to slow down from a town standpoint, and take a look,” he said.
The boatyard project is going through the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) process, and requires multiple permits from the state and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
Hale said he continues to be open to work with the town, commission, and state to resolve all the issues. “I’m listening; there’s not any part of me that isn’t listening,” he said. “This project is going to be fully vetted.”