Pool or spa? Edgartown project under review again

81 South Water St. got past the historic district commission, but will have to get approval from the conservation commission. 

81 South Water Street has gone to the Edgartown Conservation Commission. —Courtesy Town of Edgartown

The Edgartown conservation commission voted to continue a public hearing for a contentious Edgartown property until after additional materials have been submitted and commissioners can visit the site. 

Neighbors have voiced their opposition to the 81 South Water St. project in the past, some who felt that additions would eliminate a view to Edgartown Harbor. But the project was approved by the Edgartown Historic District commission in August after a number of meetings. 

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

Project representatives came to the conservation commission on Wednesday, Sept. 13, for permission to make additions and renovations to the existing dwelling, to build an exercise spa, and for approval for some landscaping and related site activities. 

According to Douglas Hoehn, who gave the project presentation, the entire property falls within the conservation commission’s jurisdiction. 

Among the project details, the spa caught people’s attention. Conservation commissioner Maximillian Gibbs asked the project architect, Patrick Ahearn, the difference between a pool and a spa. “It just looks like a pool,” Gibbs said, referring to the presented plan. 

Conservation commissioner Lillian Province added that Ahearn referred to the spa as a pool twice during the meeting. 

Ahearn referred to the state building code and said the maximum depth for an exercise spa would be around 6.5 feet. Hoehn said the spa on the property would be 6.5 feet. 

Some abutters felt that a four-foot high security fence, which is required for swimming pools, should be built around the spa. Others felt the spa was also too big. 

“From my viewpoint, a 12 foot wide, 24 foot long, six and a half foot deep enclosed water is a pool, it’s not a spa,” abutter John Brittain said, adding that further review should be done by town officials. “We believe — the abutters — that by putting in this spa, which is really a pool, we are going to invite a significant amount of nighttime noise and activities. This is a residential community. This is not a community where we have a resort, with people partying late at night and making a lot of noise. I think it’s important we protect the community in that regard.”

Ahearn reiterated the elimination of the pool from the original plan and said a fence was not required for a spa. Ahearn also said how the house was used by his client was not in his purview. 

Another aspect the commission focused on was on input from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). During a previous meeting, Aquinnah Wampanoag tribal historic preservation officer Bettina Washington underscored that the property was in an archaeologically sensitive area. When Edgartown conservation agent Jane Varkonda asked whether the tribe had been notified about the project, Ahearn said the tribe was aware of the project, and his team was aware of the tribe’s interests. 

“When the construction would start, they would be onsite,” Ahearn said. 

Conservation commission chair Edward Vincent Jr. asked whether there were any burial sites on the property, to which Ahearn said, “Not that we’re aware of.” Varkonda said a plan will need to be developed; if something important to the tribe was found, excavating it will likely not be an option. 

“Those are just some things you need to think about,” Varkonda said, later adding that additional considerations should be made and additional materials submitted. 

Other points brought up during the meeting included managing the property’s lawn so it doesn’t encroach on swampland, whether the applicant would consider a view easement to the town, and the flooding that the area sees during the winter due to storm surges. 

The conservation commission voted to continue the public hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 11, after conducting a site visit and receiving additional materials.


  1. I co-authored (with Victoria DeStefano) Edgartown’s Historic District By-laws in 1986, creating the Boundaries and the Historic District Commission. What a shameful joke they are today – almost all contractors, developers, commercial owners, no one with any real architectural or preservation background, just waiting to approve new projects to make money from projects that never should be. After 42 years there, I finally sold my 1849 Main Street home in 2021 and have never once wished I hadn’t. It’s gone. Period. I’m going to sell my cemetery plot too.I hope everyone enjoys my and others’ preservation ’legacies: Old Whaling Church, Dr Daniel Fisher House, Flying Horses, etc. etc. At least there’s something left of real and lasting value, even if today those who should be carrying on with preservation have no idea what it is and do not care about the future

  2. David Malm continues to use his wealth to support his sense of entitlement. For years he has treated the people who service him as if they were expendable and irrelevant. He has a very poor reputation.

  3. This is what this country has come to, how can we manipulate the English language and common sense. And old expression if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck chances are it’s a duck. Nothing to see here move on please and let their tenants swim in the Pool, while the owners go to the bank. These new people do not care about the town and its history. Will one of these town boards please have a backbone and say no.

    • Bob, when will you run for a town board, and say no?
      Do you have the backbone?
      Screeching from the cheep seats changes nothing.
      Come on, man, put some skin in the game.

  4. When does it stop? We are being told people who buy properties should be able to do what they want with them. In the next breath we are told the island isn’t what it used to be and we did it to ourselves. It’s heartbreaking is what it is

  5. Dude paid $15M incl taxes and conservation and can’t build a pool like everyone else building a pool? People think of him as selfish for making his property the way he wants. Has anyone else ever done that to their home? Please … preserving history, burial grounds … not buying it, just most effective and sanctimonious way to interfere with this persons freedom.

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