The House on the Corner After a cold wet spring, a week of simmering weather on the mainland brought tourists out in force last week for the Fourth of July parade in Edgartown, and our charming little seaside village has rarely looked so good. That is, except for a certain house on a certain corner.
Year after year, we’re asked by friends and visitors about the blighted property that occupies a most visible spot at the intersection of Main and Summer streets.
“How can the town allow it?,” “Why doesn’t the owner fix it up?” “Wouldn’t that be a perfect spot for…?” The questions about the building known as Yellow House are as predictable as the answers are stubbornly inadequate.
Owned by the Hall family trust,which also owns multiple commercial properties in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven, the Yellow House has been hostage to a prolonged dispute between the town and the Halls over a certain Linden tree that sits on the property. The standoff might have been quaintly amusing once, but now is just embarrassing.
It began well over a decade ago when the town of Edgartown decreed that the Halls could not cut down the old shade tree on the Main street side of the increasingly decrepit building. Now in full leaf, the Linden tree contributes to the extended canopy that overhangs the town’s central thoroughfare in the summer. The Halls appealed that decision and lost in court.
Just over a week ago, the family trust was shut down again by a judge who dismissed their claim that they were entitled to damages from the town. The trust had claimed the value of their property has been negatively impacted by their inability to cut down the tree.
Through their attorney and a member of the family, Benjamin Hall, the trust contends that the town keeps throwing roadblocks in the way of efforts to remove or rebuild what even he acknowledges has become an eyesore. The town, of course, sees things differently.
At a minimum, there has been a colossal failure to communicate over many years. As the dust settled after the recent court case, however, there were hopeful indications that both sides were willing to talk constructively about a solution.
Surely a creative architect could design a cost-effective building that would pass muster with the town’s historic district commission, retain the lovely Linden tree and replace a dilapidated structure on a prime piece of real estate with an attractive, income-producing property for the Hall family?
The time has come for the Halls and town officials to put aside past differences and find a way forward for everyone’s sake.