Helicopter Pad Cited as Illegal

Chappaquiddick Landowner Is Issued Cease and Desist Order, Bringing Extra Peculiar Twist to Affordable Homesite Case


The Chappaquiddick affordable housing saga continues with a bizarre twist.

William O'Connell, one of ten plaintiffs now arguing in the Massachusetts appeals court that eight one-acre lots on Chappaquiddick contain environmentally sensitive habitat and should not be used for affordable homesites, has clear-cut a portion of the area in dispute for use as a helicopter landing area.

This week the town of Edgartown issued a cease and desist order to Mr. O'Connell to prevent him from using his recently-acquired property for a helicopter landing site. The planned heliport is located on Lot 7 on Sandy Road, bought by The 36 Carlson Street Limited Partnership on Sept. 29, 2006 from Juanita V. Vickers and the Vickers Trust for $287,900. Mr. O'Connell is the resident agent for the 36 Carlson partnership. The helicopter landing lot is adjacent to Mr. O'Connell's residence.


In the order dated July 27, building inspector Leonard Jason Jr. noted that the use of residential property as a helicopter landing site is prohibited by Edgartown zoning bylaws which have been upheld in prior litigation.

In a footnote in the cease and desist order, Mr. Jason also noted the irony: the 106 by 104-foot area which has been clear-cut is part of an eight-acre subdivision that the landowners want the state appeals court to declare environmentally sensitive.

The appeal involves an attempt by a group of Sandy Road neighbors to block three affordable homesites planned for the area, located off Litchfield Road. The suing neighbors lost their case in the land court earlier this year and are now appealing.

Yesterday Edgartown town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport said there has been no response to the cease and desist order. "The clear-cutting of this lot for use as a helicopter landing pad is directly contradictory to the position taken by the plaintiffs in the pending litigation. The actions speak more eloquently than any words I could utilize. My question is: why is there silence?" Mr. Rappaport said.

The case in the appeals court relates to nearly three years of moves and countermoves by proponents and opponents of a town-approved plan to use three of the eight one-acre substandard parcels for affordable homesites. One of the plaintiffs in the action, Robert Finkelstein, purchased Lot 6, one of the acre sites designated for affordable housing, on Sept. 29, 2006, after a purchase and sale agreement with the would-be affordable homeowner had expired. Mr. O'Connell bought Lot 7 on the same date. Mr. O'Connell's lot was not designated as an affordable housing site but is part of the eight-acre package now under appeals court review.

Recent photographs of the land show a clear cut area, a green and white sign that reads "heliport" with an image of a helicopter with tail number N406DK, and a windsock on the property. Efforts to reach Mr. O'Connell for comment yesterday at his residence in Marina Point East in Quincy were unsuccessful as were calls to Quincy-based Marina Bay Properties and the Marina Bay Co., companies with which he is affiliated.

Neighbors are not thrilled at the prospect of helicopter landings. "I don't think we need this kind of noise, disruption and danger on Chappy. People come here from Boston, New York, Chicago and L.A. for a respite from this kind of activity. It's not a good precedent," said Terry Forde, president of the Chappaquiddick Island Association. Mr. Forde said he has not seen helicopter comings and goings but has heard them. "One morning two or three days ago, I heard a helicopter take off and a neighbor told me she saw a blue or grey copter flying low over the neighborhood," Mr. Forde said.

The CIA board will take up the matter at its August 11 meeting, he said.

Meanwhile, the young homeowners await the outcome of the appeals court case.

The buyers plan to acquire their lots for $40,000 if they prevail.