Digging In

From Gazette editions of January, 1986:

The prospect of a town hotel-motel tax stirs fear and loathing in the pocketbooks of innkeepers on the Vineyard and around the commonwealth, on a par with the shudders that Proposition 2 1/2 gives town officials. The fears converged the other night at the Edgartown town hall, where the Duke’s County selectmen’s association considered the pros and cons of the rooms tax the state legislature recently allowed cities and towns to impose. Selectmen cringed at the news that the state may reduce aid to municipalities that fail to take advantage of this potential revenue source.

Chilmark selectman Elizabeth Bryant said she feels it is wrong for the state to hold a sword over the town heads on legislation that appears to carry no mandate to charge the tax.

“It’s them Democrats up there, Betty,” Chilmark selectman Herbert Hancock called to the proudly partisan Mrs. Bryant from the back of the room. To which West Tisbury selectman Fred Fisher piped up: “Good boy, Herbie! There’s not many of us left.”

The owner of the building housing the Vineyard Haven A& P has moved again to evict the supermarket from its quarters. Claiming the A& P executives failed to live up to an agreement which canceled an earlier eviction notice, landlord Douglas Abdelnour sent a certified letter that he will proceed with eviction plans. “They can go straight to hell,” Mr. Abdelnour said this week. He and his attorney, Edmond G. Coogan, said A& P management has not done anything it promised to do.

Mr. Abdelnour’s quarrels with A& P extend back some time. Earlier this year Vineyard Haven officials ordered the building’s septic system upgraded, and Mr. Abdelnour and the supermarket manager argued over who fouled the system. And Mr. Coogan said the A& P has yet to pay its share of the rental fee for the parking lot next to the building.

Representatives of the West Tisbury conservation commission, fire department and board of health this week registered their objections to a proposed 86-lot subdivision on 200 acres stretching from the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road to the shore of Deep Bottom Cove. At a town planning board meeting Monday night, officials called the subdivision a potential polluter to the cove and a likely fire hazard to the town.

But Peter Rosbeck, the planner hired to develop the land, said his proposal is a well formulated and sensitive plan which deals with a large tract of land in its entirety. The alternative, he said, is piecemeal planning.

The 200 acres extend along the western side of Deep Bottom Cove Road, which leads to Long Point. The land falls in the 1.5-acre zoning district, so developers could potentially build 155 units there. But town residents and officials criticized the plan, saying it is too large. “The impact of this number of lots on the town is going to be tremendous — the impact on the school system, septic system, nitrate into the pond, water supply,” said James Millett of the conservation commission. Fire chief William Haynes said: “Unfortunately there is no water for fire protection. Even though the whole Tisbury Great Pond is out there it is hard to get to and it is not dependable. We’re concerned about that. It’s a large development, lots of houses and great potential for fire.”

Deborah Yennie and Woollcott Smith asked about the future status of several ancient ways running through the land. “Whoever has rights to those old roads will continue to have them, but to publically announce they are open to the public is not a good idea,” said Mr. Rosbeck.

The historic Cape Pogue Light now stands just shy of 22 feet from a ragged, eroding cliff. A strong gale this winter could claim enough of the Chappaquiddick barrier beach to put the lighthouse in serious trouble. It is in danger right now.

But we are reassured by Coast Guard officials that they are prepared to move the lighthouse this spring, or earlier if necessary. It is not a moment too soon. The moving of this lighthouse is a historic event which is not without precedent. There are many sites now covered by the Atlantic Ocean which once sat beneath the Cape Pogue Light. The present tower was built in 1893, and has been moved several times as the land succumbed to the will of the ocean. The tower was last moved in 1960.

Toward the end of that summer Henry Hough wrote: “Sperm oil was first used to keep the light burning, then lard oil, then welsbach mantels, and now there are batteries and a generator. But the point is that from the sea there has always been the light, dependable, meaningful, cautionary, or reassuring. The vessels that watched for it are gone from the seas, but the importance of old Cape Pogue can hardly be said to have diminished. In it’s new location, the light gleams on.”

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner