O.B. joins state in SUP land taking

Eastville homeowner decries loss of frontage on ‘Dead Man's Corner’.


Oak Bluffs plans to take land from Eastville homeowners to facilitate a shared-use path (SUP) project. The land taking will come in addition to land the commonwealth intends to take in furtherance of the SUP. The reason Oak Bluffs is taking land, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), is because part of Eastville Avenue is owned by the town, as opposed to the state.

“A section of this project is located on state-owned roadway, and a part of the project is on locally owned roadway,” MassDOT spokesperson Judith Reardon Riley emailed. “Right of way acquisitions are traditionally conducted by the respective roadway owner. In this case, the portion of roadway is owned by the Town of Oak Bluffs, and their partnership with MassDOT is appreciated as they work toward acquiring these parcels.”

Oak Bluffs has placed the land takings on the 2021 warrant. An executive summary states the article was placed on the warrant at the request of MassDOT.

“This is a technical article, which the [MassDOT] requests in order to furnish it with the legal rights necessary to perform the actual construction of the SUP,” the summary states. “This [MassDOT] article asks the town to authorize the selectmen to negotiate and acquire easements, both temporary and permanent, to provide for the construction of a shared-use path from the Lagoon Pond Bridge to the intersection of Eastville Avenue and County Road.”

The summary also states that money “will be” appropriated to get the easements, “but it is anticipated that most, if not all, will be secured by donation or gift.” 

Passage of the article requires a two-thirds majority vote. No estimate of the amounts to be appropriated have been provided in the warrant.


‘Dead Man’s Corner’

Meanwhile, the state’s quest to acquire land for the SUP rolls on. Eastville Avenue property owner Caroline Evans is displeased that MassDOT has targeted her land for land taking. “They want to take a fairly large part of my property, including the two ends of my semicircular driveway,” Evans said. The taking will destroy screening trees at the front of her house, she said. 

“I’m losing trees, especially one very large tree,” she said. “When I bought the property in ’89, it was already quite tall.”

Evans doesn’t believe the SUP should go along Eastville Avenue past her home for safety reasons. She doesn’t believe any amount of civil engineering will make the sharp corner in the vicinity safe. “The thing that the town and the state should be concerned about is the safety of this corner,” she said. “It’s never safe and it’s never going to be safe.” 

Evans said she wants the existing bicycle path that wends through the hospital’s property to be incorporated into the SUP — a position her neighbor shares. Evans said she wrote the select board about her concerns, but “never heard from anybody.” 

Alice Butler, office administrator for the select board, confirmed Evan’s handwritten letter had been received. 

Dated Jan. 28, the letter states in part, “I am acutely aware of the dangerous corner in front of my house. I call it ‘Moped Corner,” but Mr. Roma of the Eminent Domain Dept. at MassDOT told me that the state calls it Dead Man’s Corner. (Perhaps Flood Corner?!) It will never be safe. Traffic traveling either way on Eastville will always go too fast, and access to our driveways will always be hazardous.”

The Times has independently verified that a MassDOT official referred to the corner as Dead Man’s Corner, though the agency itself doesn’t condone it.

“MassDOT does not use the terminology ‘Dead Man’s Corner’ to formally or informally describe this location, or any other location in the commonwealth,” Reardon Riley wrote.

 “I built this house,” Evans told The Times. “The one that was here when I bought the land, I donated to Habitat for Humanity, and it’s over at the roundabout. One of the teachers from the high school actually bought it.”

Evans said she closed in the porch and enjoys her home, and now fears the land taking will diminish her property value by creating a nonconforming lot. She said she intends to get an appraisal and look into the ramifications of the land taking. 

“I’m 81 and I’m fine, but I’m tired,” she said. “I can’t do this. I don’t want years of anger and struggle over something that’s a done deal if people want it done. It’s not fair and it’s not right, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.” 


  1. There must be ways to deal with this issue without taking land from this woman. The bike path through the hospital works well. What we should be doing is getting rid of mopeds.

    • You are absolutely right, we need to get rid of those damn mopeds, and the bicycles too, make them drive cars, just like you and me.
      This is the only way to cure the Island’s traffic problems.

      • I didn’t say get rid of bikes…I ride my bike daily and love it. There’s a bike path there.it’s mopeds I have issue with and the taking of land.

        • Mopeds and and bicycles are approximately the same size and speed capability.
          What specifically do object to about mopeds?
          Is it the noise?
          That the riders are not all sweaty.
          That most of mopeds on the island are driven by daytrippers?

          I have been riding the same Schwinn bicycle on the island for over 20 years.
          It has a small gasoline engine that friction drives the front tire.
          Do you have an issue with my mode of transportation?

          Do you have an issue with the taking of land for bicycles?
          Fire engines?
          FedEx trucks?

          What is is your take on these new stealth electric bikes that that go 40 mph while you pretend to pedal?

          We all have our favorite way to get around the island, the others are no damn good.

      • Bicycles have a right to be available for people that want to use them! Healthier and you don’t need gas to ride a bike!

  2. 15.8 Practices to Avoid
    Two-Way Bike Lanes
    Two-way bike lanes create a dangerous condition for bicyclists (see figure 15-23). They encourage illegal riding against traffic, causing several problems:

    At intersections and driveways, wrong-way riders approach from a direction where they are not visible to motorists.
    Bicyclists closest to the motor vehicle lane have opposing motor vehicle traffic on one side and opposing bicycle traffic on the other.
    Bicyclists are put into awkward positions when transitioning back to standard bikeways.
    If constraints allow widening on only one side of the road, the centerline stripe may be shifted to allow for adequate travel lanes and bike lanes.


  3. I cannot believe that anyone especially MassDot would ever recommend one of the most dangerous curved roads on the island as part of a bike path. It seems that the best choice( since there is an option) for a bike path is the one that avoids the dangerous curved road and that is the path that passes through the hospital’s property.

  4. This is infuriating that they can just take land… what kind of precedent is this setting? Caroline you have my support.

  5. The summary also states that money “will be” appropriated to get the easements “but it is anticipated that most, if not all, will be secured by donation or gift.”

    Really?? You have to be kidding.
    This owner already donated a house to the community, has built herself a pleasant home with tree screening, has every right to enjoy this property in its entirety in her golden years.
    And now someone in OB Town Hall piles insult to this injury?

    Ms. Evan should just give away her property? I am tempted to use a bad acronym and it starts with W.
    I wonder whether this madness would withstand a legal challenge. I thought land takings were to be used only as a *last resort*. This taking is not necessary. There is already a route through the hospital.

    This situation is patently outrageous and involves elder abuse to boot.

    • No one is asking her to give her property away.
      “The summary also states that money “will be” appropriated to get the easements “but it is anticipated that most, if not all, will be secured by donation or gift.””

  6. No sane person would look at this situation and say the bike path should go around that 90 degree turn and through that flood prone corner – instead of up the path that already exists (or maybe addd to it by taking a small portion from the rear of the affected lots) The only thing adding that bike path where it is currently proposed will accomplish is more visits to the ER and perhaps a few more $3,000 / 50 yard ambulance rides!

    • Agreed, Kate Scott has a valid point but as a Commissioner representing Tisbury you haven’t responded to critics of the dangerousness of the MV Commission designed bike path itself, and the fact that not only does this design damage properties such as this, but a great many properties, businesses, and the environment. The National Transportation Safety Board, Mass DOT, AASHTO publications related to the design of highways and
      streets, all advise that the bidirectional bike lanes promoted by the MV Commission are never to be used on two lane roads and that this is the fundamental problem. Yes, eminent domain should only be used for reasons of extreme necessity but bike paths are necessary, just not dangerous ones that maim or kill cyclists as this design is. Moving the fog line to allow a narrower vehicular travel lane will accomplish 90% of making a safe bike path and is a matter of moving a white line. All DOT recommendations then advise a minimum shoulder of 5 feet and this would require eminent domain of a total of 1 foot and be safe and not harm businesses or homes. In some areas, it can be 4.5 feet where it is not possible but the issue is the faulty design. As Commissioner it is your responsibility to read the pertinent publications and make a comment. It is not your duty to support a dangerous bike two way design specifically not recommended including on the first page of the original 2009 pre-feasibility study. Please respond. Thank you.

      • “Yes, eminent domain should only be used for reasons of extreme necessity but bike paths are necessary, ”

        Well, I ride my bike more than most—I have never seen an MVC commissioner on a bike anywhere, and certainly not on Beach Road!
        So I am a supporter of bike paths. Just not stupid ones.

        My comment re eminent domain as last resort was not directed to the value or need of a bike path per se but in this particular case to the fact that there is already a bike route that takes bike riders off the road at that dangerous corner. And it is a better option than the one that requires a taking. TIABA. There Is A Better Alternative.

        Thus, this proposed taking is not a “last resort” but a preference of some bike path designers somewhere who probably never actually get onto their bikes either for recreation or to, say, ride over to Reliable Market in OB to buy meat.

  7. Evidence that this curve is exceptionally dangerous is the fact that very often a police crusier is parked in the empty lot at the apex of the curve in order to discouraged cars from speeding as they make the curve.

  8. After a good rain, that corner half fills up with water running down the street from the hospitals’ direction. The collection of water, from my amateur reasoning, is that that is the corners lowest point and is barely above the water table so it can’t be drained properly.

    My suggestion is to keep the hospital route, what with tthe rate of global warming, Dead Mans Corner will be moot….

  9. Just to chime in with a few opinions, based on comments here.
    I take the hospital route when going towards O.B It’s not really a bike path but it serves the purpose. it could be improved upon pretty easily. I stay on the road when heading to V.H.
    The outside of that corner doesn’t flood, and riding with traffic there is not really that hazardous. You also don’t have to cross traffic to be riding with traffic.
    I have no idea why they designed the north walkway of the bridge to end the way it does. When I am on my bike, I just stay on the road–
    Speaking of my bike– I have a pedal assist system. It, as do most e-bikes require the rider to pedal– no “pretending” . Mr. Hess- bicycles have as much right to the roads as cars.
    Mopeds are dangerous because many people who rent them in the summer have no clue as to how to ride them. They are unstable when they are starting off, go faster than bicycles, often have 2 people on them who are sightseeing rather than going someplace, and if something startles the driver, it is almost instinctual for the right hand to retract, thereby causing an acceleration.
    It was nice that Ms. Evans donated her original house to the community, but unless she paid to have it moved, she saved a lot of money on demolition costs.
    I think they should leave her property alone.. She is correct– that corner will always be a problem.
    The concept of eminent domain has been in use since 1879.
    In a particularly scary 2005 decision, a conservative supreme court ruled that the government can even take land and property from an individual and give it to a private business to increase tax revenue. It was widely criticized and is rarely used.
    Frank Burnell was, as usual, right on the money with his comments.

      • EXCUSE ME — my most sincere apologies to Mr. Brunelle for misspelling his name. please forgive me . Frank .
        This is my second mistake on this thread–
        my most sincere apologies to everyone.

  10. Mr Keller you are wrong on the 5-4 decsion on Kelo vs London CT. Scalia and Thomas and Oconnor and Rehnquist dissented. The majority opinion was Breyer and Souter and Kennedy and Bader Gisnburg and Stevens. It was not the conservatives who supported this.

  11. Andrew– I stand corrected.
    Thank you for pointing out my misinformation.
    I will more careful with my opinions in the future.

  12. If a Town takes a person’s property by eminent domain isnt it only for an emergency situation? If this is not a dire emergency and the Town has other available options (even if those choices are less ideal) then I hope that the good people of Oak Bluffs will stand up and support their neighbor.

  13. A safe, lit, paved bike path already exists that avoids the perils of Dead person’s corner. How much money would it cost to construct additional one? What about the existing wetlands that would be devastated in the proposed bike path area? (It teems with wildlife. Birds, deer, rabbits, skunks, pollinating butterfly and bees, frogs and snakes and the flora and fauna that support that wildlife). And, what about the owner’s that live on this corner? (Privacy vanishes, and property values diminish). Please donate the money that would be spent to study, demolish the current bike path, and build another one to Island Services to our needy Island families.

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