Edgartown neighbors rally against house expansion

A public hearing is set for May 18 for 81 South Water Street.

An illustrative site plan for 81 South Water Street. — Courtesy Town of Edgartown

An investor’s plans for an Edgartown property have riled up some residents in town who fear they could lose a view of Edgartown Harbor. 

Goldeneye LLC purchased 81 South Water St. in January for $15 million. Investor David Malm is the manager of Goldeneye, which owns multiple properties on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

According to the Edgartown Historic District Commission’s documents, the plans for the property include the removal of staff quarters, relocating the garage and guesthouse, partially removing a porch, adding a new screened-in porch, lifting and rotating the house, and building a retaining wall and pool. 

In response to the proposed plans, some neighbors of 81 South Water St. have voiced their opposition to the development. That includes letters to The Martha’s Vineyard Times asking for the view of Edgartown Harbor to be protected and advocating for people to oppose the project

The group, dubbed the Concerned Neighbors for the Preservation of Historic Edgartown Harbor Front, also took out a full-page newspaper ad to make their case, and to gain supporters for their cause. 

The two individuals who were called out were architect Patrick Ahearn and investor David Malm, who was listed as the manager of Goldeneye in the mortgage. 

Neither Ahearn nor Malm were immediately available for comment. 

The Wall Street Journal recently reports that Malm has acquired multiple properties on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, which are collectively worth nearly $100 million 

Lucy Dahl, who has lived across from the property for 45 years, said hundreds of Islanders and visitors have stood in front of the house to “take in the view” of the harbor. The proposed change would impact a historic point in Edgartown, according to Dahl. She said this was, to her, equivalent to building a skyscraper in front of Edgartown Lighthouse.

“We are trying to make such a noise about this that it can’t be approved,” Dahl said, adding that she has not met a single person who approves of the proposed plans. 

John Brittain, who has lived near the property for 50 years, and is acting as spokesperson for the opposition, listed several concerns with the plans, including the proposed size of the building. He said that it “far exceeds” the houses in the area; he’s also concerned about the enlarged easterly side blocking the harbor view, and that the architectural integrity of the old house will vanish. From the harborfront side, he said, this would be a Hamptons-size house with a “resort-level pool” with a retaining wall to support it.

According to the plans, removal of a 2001 addition to the property and a 1951 wood deck would remove 1,075 square feet from the property. However, a proposal of a flat roof connector and an addition to the main house would add 1,826 square feet to the property, which increases the total square footage of the building by 751 square feet. 

“The big thing from our perspective … it basically violates the guidelines of all of the historic commission,” Brittain said. 

He also contends that the developers have done no outreach to the neighbors.

Brittain told The Times there are nearly 30 individuals against the proposed project. The goal is to make sure the redevelopment follows historic district guidelines, and to protect one of the “last vistas on South Water Street.” 

The commission will be holding a public hearing regarding the property on Thursday, May 18. 

Until then, opponents of the project plan to continue an awareness campaign by putting up signs and encouraging people to attend the hearing, or to send letters to the commission. 

“We plan to start a revolution,” Dahl said.


  1. Patrick Ahearn’s architecture license should have been revoked following his willful destruction of the centuries-old Vineyard Haven Mill House. He is hell-bent on destroying every shred of architectural legitimacy left in Edgartown in a disastrous effort to shape it into a hideously oversized version of the Levittown he grew up in. His retirement will be a gift to all who love the Vineyard, and it truly cannot come soon enough!

    • I have to agree. There is nothing special about an ahearn design. Everything he does is just some oversize bastardized version of a gambrel.

    • All his designs are the same! Probably worked in 50 of his houses. So boring! Gambrels, silly copper skylights, same ahern white(half China,half Navajo), bead board. And every house gets me turned around and I get lost inside them.

  2. The developer of this project has stated that he plans to rent his properties out. He rents many of his properties out and treats them all as a revenue generating business. He has multiple homes already on the island and they are rental machines. The architect is nothing more than a hired gun who will do whatever the client wants to pay him to do. He has no real concern for the value and aesthetics of Edgartown. Everything needs to be large and oversized, and has changed the character of the town to all looking the same as opposed to individual homes. The historic district should have some smaller homes in keeping with the contrast that the historic district has always had until these architects and developers came along and started super sizing everything and of course, adding pools. And pools have been added to the smallest of Intown properties so they can charge more rent and make more money.

    • Is it immoral to buy a property with the intent of renting it out?
      To make improvements using local vendors?
      Should the government decide who can use my properties?

  3. As someone born and raised in Edgartown I am greatly saddened by this proposal as I was when a neighbor in the area moved a cemetery with my relatives so they could build a garage and when we lost several harbor views on North Water Street. It is really disappointing to see how some people that have been able to purchase property here and then destroyed for sellfish reasons the things that make the island so special and beautiful.
    I would like to think there may be a way to prevent this project from happening.

    • What has destroyed the island is not the absence of views. Depression, alcoholism, drug dependance, lack of accountability, nips and left furniture and boats dumped everywhere. Greater homelessness and more people coming with nothing in order to gain benefits from a naive public.

  4. When theres money, theres a way. If you take a look further into Malms real estate holdings you will notice that he is consistently skating the rules by finding loopholes and apertures in the local laws. Mr. Malm acts in the best interest of one person; himself.

  5. My sister got married on that lawn. That was when it was one big open area, before it was divided in half and a house built on that side. This was in the early 1970’s. Please don’t let them take away the remaining vista!

  6. We are changing the character of the Vineyard with overgrowth, over use, and overdone everything. Isn’t the horse out of the barn on this one? The town and/or MVC will turn it down, and a lawsuit will ensue. Edgartown will threaten to pull out of the MVC because of the legal fees. Same stuff, different day. Why didn’t this conversation start before the house sold? Where is the Land Bank on this one? Could the Land Bank have bought it for employee housing and public access? Or is Edgartown Harbor property too precious (and expensive) to be sold for public use? BTW, the same thing has happened on Harborview Lane in Tisbury. It is hard to see and accept this exploitation, but it is the capitalist American way, isn’t it.

  7. We have been debating oversized houses here for decades.
    it doesn’t seem that there is much of an appetite to regulate it in any meaningful way.
    I guess it only matters when it is literally in the face of the neighbors. And then it really only matters to the neighbors.
    Wealthy developers will do whatever the towns allow them to do.
    Perhaps the concerned neighbors can throw enough money at this and make enough noise to stop this particular project, but what we really need is for the towns to put some limits on this type of insanity.

  8. Sad, that one could look at that historic home & stunning view and see a need to change it. But I guess when you look through greed colored glasses that’s the scene.
    That house, lawn and view are the guts of Edgartown’s classic charm. Walking down Water Street & no water views, classist, not classic.
    Thank you to the neighbors for speaking out.

  9. Here’s the most telling excerpt from the WSJ article about Malm:

    Mr. Ahearn also recently designed Mr. Malm’s personal home in Edgartown’s Herring Creek Farm—the first property he bought on the island. He demolished the existing home and rebuilt, with a pool and cabana overlooking the water.

    “He’s very proud of this certain aesthetic I design and he embraces,” said Mr. Ahearn.

    Recently completed, the project was the subject of a 2021 dispute with neighbors over the size of the home, which the neighbors alleged violated the Herring Creek Farm landowners association building restrictions.

    The LOA rules cap the interior living area of homes built in the community at 7,500 square feet. Mr. Malm’s home, according to Edgartown tax assessor records, was built with roughly 10,500 square feet of interior living space, as defined by the LOA. He filed an application for a building permit for the home in 2018 that listed the living area at 7,497 square feet, with a total building size of 11,603 square feet.

    Mr. Malm said the LOA’s architectural review committee unanimously approved his plans for the home. He didn’t respond to a request for comment on how many square feet of interior living space was shown on the plans approved by the committee. Mr. Malm was president of the LOA at the time his building plans were approved by the review committee, according to association filings.

    Land records show the dispute with his neighbors was settled in early 2022. Aside from that dust-up, Mr. Malm’s real-estate footprint hasn’t ruffled feathers, locals say.

Comments are closed.