‘Truly dangerous’ house demolished



Updated Nov. 11

A dilapidated West Tisbury house on Longview Road was demolished Monday after the town deemed it a hazard the previous week. John Keene, owner of John Keene Excavation, told The Times his staffer Matthew Merry razed the house with an excavator. 

West Tisbury building inspector Joe Tierney taped off the house off Thursday morning following a discussion of the dangerousness of the building with the board of selectmen the previous evening. 

At the meeting, chair Cynthia Mitchell brought forward the issue, which wasn’t on the agenda, under the parliamentary license of topics that the chair couldn’t have reasonably anticipated. 

Tierney said a neighbor recently reached out to him to express fears children could be injured by the house, which they felt was poised to collapse. 

“Oh dear,” Mitchell said. 

Tierney described the matter as an “emergency situation.” “There’s nothing to keep people from wandering in the yard,” he said. 

He pointed out part of the building is precarious, and collapse may be imminent. Furthermore, he said the portion of the building that’s most dire is close to or above an oil tank. “We could have an environmental problem, as well as injuries if kids are playing around there,” he said. 

Tierney asked for access to town counsel, and told the selectmen the house was not new to them, that a couple of years earlier he’d also requested access to town counsel following an accident at the property. 

“Somebody went by the house,” Tierney said of the past accident. “There was a smoke detector going off. They went in through a window, and fell through the floor.”

He later told The Times the person heard the smoke detector, and tried to remove the battery. After the accident, the owner, who is listed as Daniel White, was required to board up the windows, he said. 

At the meeting, Tierney described a 30-foot-radius collapse zone around the house that required protective measures. 

“The building needs to be fenced in or demolished,” he said. 

Asked by selectman Skipper Manter if he’d been in contact with the owner, Tierney said only via mail, as he doesn’t have a contact phone number. 

Town administrator Jennifer Rand said the issue appeared too pressing for a paper chase to be the town’s primary response. Because, she said, the house is “truly dangerous” in its present condition, “we may need to use town funds to take care of this, and then figure out how we go after getting the money back.”

The board voted unanimously to give Tierney access to counsel. Tierney later told The Times there are a lot of kids in the neighborhood, and that’s a concern to him. If White doesn’t address the situation, he said, it was likely the town would order a demolition. 

On Thursday, West Tisbury Fire Chief Manuel Estrella III told The Times the oil tank is the main concern of the fire department. He expected someone from R.M. Packer Co. will visit the property and assess whether they can safely pump out the tank. Ultimately, he was doubtful of the prospect of safe entry. 

“It’s really a danger for anybody to go inside that place,” he said. 

On Tuesday, all that remained of the house was a rubble-strewn foundation and a few large pieces of metal, including the tank. 

A worker on the site said the tank was empty, and appeared unused.

Tierney told The Times that day, “Problem solved.”


Updated with reporting on the demolition of the house.