Sparks flew briefly in the Chilmark town hall this week after the zoning board of appeals approved a plan to turn the long-established Inn at Blueberry Hill into a members-only private club.
The zoning board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the plan by Lifestyle Development Company, a New York-based for-profit organization. The inn must keep its restaurant open to the public and must allow 25 per cent of the inn guests to be from the general public.
Lifestyle Development bought the inn and restaurant, which sit on 50 acres of restricted conservation land, in February 2006 from Samuel Mandell of West Tisbury. The sale price was not released at the time, although Mr. Mandell had been asking $7 million.
The company bought the inn with the intent to turn it into a private, members-only club, and part of a network of about 15 properties around the world in places such as Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean devoted to sports and recreation.
In 2006 the zoning board voted 3-2 in favor of the plan, short of the four fifths majority needed for approval. The decision was appealed to the Massachusetts Land Court.
Last October the company came back to the board with a revised plan, which included maintaining a public restaurant and ensuring that a minimum of 25 per cent of inn guests be members of the general public.
The plan was approved on Tuesday afternoon.
The approval includes three conditions: that a shed on the property not be lived in, that a public walking trail on the property be maintained and that the inn provide a certified and detailed account of the rooms rented each year to the town zoning officer.
At the regular selectman’s meeting Tuesday night, selectman J. B. Riggs Parker lambasted the zoning board decision. “There are two uses currently regulated by town zoning bylaws,” he said. “One is as an inn and the second is for a private, not-for-profit club. This is a decision that creates a new use — an inn in transition to a time sharing resort. This does not fit into either category in our bylaws, in my opinion.” He continued:
“I think this is a wrongheaded decision.”
Mr. Parker’s comments came before the board heard a request for an innkeeper’s licence from Niall Reid, who will manage the property. Mr. Reid attended the meeting with Robert McCarron, an Edgartown attorney who represents the Lifestyle Development Company.
Zoning board chairman William Rossi, who also attended, disagreed. “Our decision was made on sound legal ground in consultation with town counsel giving us a blessing on our decision. I think we’re perfectly within our boundaries,” he said.
Selectmen voted unanimously to grant the innkeeper’s licence.
In other business, selectmen heard from Carl Stunkle, who has signed a three-year lease on the Chilmark Store. Mr. Stunkle, who began working at the store following his graduation from college in 2006, will take over the business from William Rossi. Mr. Rossi, along with his wife Stephanie and Chilmark couple Frank and Judith LoRusso, bought the business and property from Primo and Mary Lombardi in 2004. The foursome will retain ownership of the building. “It’s an intense experience working at the Chilmark Store,” Mr. Rossi said. “It’s been a great experience, a fun experience.”
Mr. Stunkle said customers will notice few changes in the coming years. He plans to open in early May and keep the same store hours. He has even secured the pizza recipe from Mr. Rossi, who had it passed down to him from Mr. Lombardi. “The only thing that will really change is you’ll see my smiling face instead of Bill’s,” he said.
Elsewhere in town, another new face will be greeting hungry Chilmarkers. In February, Island contractor Michael Lieberman took over operation of the Menemsha Deli. The deli will open May 1 as Helmans Menemsha Deli, a name which nods to the men at the helm of the fishing boats in Menemsha harbor. Mr. Lieberman, an Island resident since 1999, plans to keep the basic menu the same, but will add waffles at breakfast and is bringing in a snow cone machine. In the future, he hopes to serve dinner. “We’re trying to keep it up as a family environment,” he said this week.
Farther down the harbor, Frank Fenner of the Menemsha Galley is working hard to rebuild the popular dockside ice cream and snack shack which was extensively damaged last August in a fire. He hopes to open May 15. “Things are progressing beautifully,” said Mr. Fenner, who is also a selectman. “It’s going to be very much the same as it was before. Hopefully customers won’t even notice any interruption of business.”