The Edgartown Yacht Club secured planning board permission last Tuesday to operate a junior sailing program for up to 50 students on a residential property next to the Chappaquiddick Beach Club.
The planning board approved three special permits — two for use of an existing pier and walkways and one for a change of use for the property from a private residence to a not-for-profit business. The property, currently owned by the Zizza family, contains a main house, two smaller outbuildings, 250 feet of beach and a dock. The club plans to buy the property for an undisclosed price; a purchase and sale agreement was contingent on obtaining town approval for the change of use.
The planning board vote last week followed extensive discussions with members of the Roger Neuhoff family, whose property abuts the proposed site. In the weeks leading up the meeting the Neuhoffs sent several letters to the planning board detailing concerns over the project. Edgartown attorney Philip J. (Jeff) Norton Jr. represented the family at last week’s meeting.
In a letter sent to the planning board at 5:30 p.m. last Tuesday, members of the Neuhoff family made a series of requests designed to limit use of the property to the operation of the junior sailing program. With a few minor exceptions the board approved the requests as conditions for the special permits.
The conditions will be fine tuned in the coming weeks between Edward W. (Peter) Vincent Jr., an Edgartown attorney representing the yacht club, and planning board assistant Georgiana Greenough.
The conditions stipulate that a maximum of 50 students and four teachers will be allowed at the property at any one time, that hours of operation be limited to between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., with an exception for occasional parent events, that no food or beverages will be served to members or guests, and a desalination system which the yacht club plans to install on the property be out of earshot and aesthetically appropriate.
A request to limit parking to four vehicles on the Chappaquiddick Road was scrapped on the grounds that it is a town road and not the purview of the planning board.
Extreme tidal conditions in the Edgartown harbor following the breach at Katama 18 months ago have had a dramatic effect on the junior yacht club sailing program, which previously operated both in and out of the Edgartown harbor. Now the program operates exclusively outside the harbor due to the dangers posed to young and inexperienced sailors by tidal conditions inside the harbor.
One sticking point last week centered on whether the facility will be restricted solely to use by the junior yacht club.
Pointing out that adult sailors would also use the beach from time to time, yacht club commodore Owen Smith requested that language refer to the Edgartown Yacht Club rather than junior yacht club.
Mr. Norton stood firm in his objection. “I don’t care who comes there as long as it’s for the benefit of the JYC,” he said.
Mr. Vincent tentatively agreed. “I think we can work through that,” he said.
The planning board then voted unanimously to approve the permits.
Speaking yesterday, yacht club manager William Roman praised the process and credited the Neuhoff family for its cooperation and thoughtful discussion.
“There was a lot of dialogue. We’re really pleased with the result,” he said.
A meeting is scheduled today to finalize board of health approval; the board voted a general, provisional approval earlier this month.
The project also requires approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Mr. Roman said he hopes the facility will be operational by next summer.