When Michael Valentino, owner of Chappy clothing store on Main street Edgartown, addressed selectmen this week he was careful to preface his comments with pleasantries about his fellow merchant at Number Two Main street.
“Gerry has been very cooperative,” he said, referring to Gerret C. Conover, of the Boathouse private club and the Atlantic, previously known as the Navigator restaurant. The building, which is next door to Chappy, has been undergoing extensive renovation since September 2007.
Then Mr. Valentino launched into it.
“I’d like to express the strongest concern,” he said. “No one’s walking on our side of the street. It’s impeding business for the rest of the community. There’s unreasonable activity, every day the clock is ticking forward it’s doubling the impact.”
Mr. Valentino said he had seen carpenters working on planks of wood with a skillsaw on the sidewalk and moving lumber over the heads of pedestrians. He said cranes are holding up traffic and causing unnecessary disruption.
Selectmen were sympathetic but offered no immediate solution. “It’s not been easy for any of us,” said selectman Arthur Smadbeck. Selectman Margaret Serpa said the board has received no other formal complaints about the work.
Last September selectmen granted permission for work on the building up to May 1, 2008. The permit allowed workers to occupy a portion of the sidewalk which includes the entrance to the parking lot at the foot of Main street. In April selectmen agreed to allow work to continue past May 15; now if workers want to occupy the sidewalk or cordon off public areas for longer than 10 minutes they have to schedule it with town police.
Mr. Valentino asked for a fixed date when the work might end.
“We don’t control the project,” responded Mr. Smadbeck. “It’s the contractor. If this isn’t done in a couple of weeks they’re in the soup themselves.”
Mrs. Serpa agreed. “I don’t think we can give that drop-dead date,” she said. “We’ve tried to cooperate with a lot of these big projects.”
Speaking to the Gazette yesterday, Mr. Valentino suggested that while other merchants may be affected by the renovations, they will not speak out.
“The politics are delicate and it’s one of the most prestigious projects in Edgartown for the past 30 years,” he said of the Boathouse. He emphasized that aside from renovation problems, he sees the project as a boon for the town.
He then brought up the portable toilets. “Sixty workers are coming out of these porta-johns, zipping up their trousers and buckling their belts in front of high-end customers,” he said.
At Monday’s meeting, Mr. Valentino pressed selectmen to get involved, arguing that town leaders elsewhere would intervene in such circumstances.
“We don’t operate the same way as in Sarasota,” Mr. Smadbeck replied. Mr. Valentino operates 11 businesses, six in Florida.
“More than running to the authorities and asking to shut it down, it’s [a question of] working together,” Mr. Smadbeck said, adding that the support shown to the project was not evidence of favoritism. “We would bend over backwards for you too, if you have problems.”
Selectman Michael Donaroma spoke little. Mr. Donaroma, who owns Donaroma’s Nursery and landscaping business in Edgartown, is doing the landscape work at the Field Club at Katama, a private club connected with the Boathouse.
Mr. Convover and co-owner Tom E. LeClair plan to stage a partial opening of the Atlantic bar and restaurant this summer. Mr. Conover said yesterday he hoped to have the work finished by early July. Upstairs, the Boathouse, a new high-end members-only club is also scheduled to open at this point. Retail space is also being built at Two Main street. The owners have no plans for the space this summer.