The Edgartown historic district should be expanded, the town selectmen said this week, reigniting a debate over how to expand the district to encompass more of the downtown area.
“I would like to encourage [the historic district commission] to move on something like that, I hope the selectmen would be in support of putting something together,” said selectman Michael Donaroma at the weekly board meeting Monday. “I’m all for it.”
The call for expanding the historic district comes after the selectmen learned last week that one of the last bungalows in town was slated for demolition.
The Colter house at the corner of Morse and North Summer streets dates to the 1920s. The owners of the property next door want to buy the house and guest house (which is not historic) and tear them down to make way for a three-bay garage. The sale is still pending.
The house sits just outside the historic district which was adopted in 1987, and is largely concentrated in the heart of downtown. Bounded by the harbor on the east and Pease’s Point Way on the west, the district runs roughly to High street on the south and Thayer street on the north side of town. All of North and South Water streets lie in the district, but not all of Summer and Cooke streets.
In 1984 the entire Edgartown village was named to the national Register of Historic Places, although the special designation does not prohibit demolition.
Town administrator Pamela Dolby said she had received a number of calls after the news surfaced last week about the possible demolition of the Colter house.
“People see their history being torn down in front of their faces,” Mrs. Dolby said. “It’s something that if you want the historic district committee to pursue they can. They don’t have real sharp teeth because it’s not part of the zoning bylaw. There’s also an issue of wanting to incorporate something to deal with abandoned property.”
Selectman Margaret Serpa suggested a joint meeting with the historic district commission and zoning board of appeals to discuss changes to the bylaw.
Mr. Donaroma said the time is right.
“I think it’s something I’d like to see somebody pursue, it’s very difficult when you start putting strict restrictions on private property, but some people are willing to do it,” he said. “It’s worth a shot, don’t know until you start somewhere.”
Selectman and board chairman Arthur Smadbeck agreed; he also said the Colter bungalow is not necessarily the last one.
“I did get stopped by John Lovewell and he said he’ll have the last bungalow,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “And it’s not going anywhere, John assured me.”
In other business Monday, selectmen voted to renominate five ancient ways for inclusion in the Island wide district of critical planning concern (DCPC) for special ways. The nomination now goes to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
This marks the second time the town has nominated Ben Tom’s Road, Middle Line Path, Pennywise Path, Tar Kiln Path and Watcha Path for the DCPC. The commission approved a nomination in 2007, but it has been mired in a court challenge which remains on appeal in the Massachusetts Court of Appeals. The challenge was brought by the Hall family, which owns property abutting two of the ancient ways.
Town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport advised the selectmen to make a new nomination to the MVC to avoid any further procedural tangles. But Benjamin Hall Jr. asked the selectmen to move with caution.
“There’s no rush and no need to be designating anymore . . . let the appeals court come out with their rulings,” Mr. Hall said. “I urge you to refrain from the sense that you need to push forward on this, let the appeals court decide, stop the bleeding of money on both sides.”
Mr. Donaroma said he appreciated Mr. Hall’s position, but sided with Mr. Rappaport’s recommendation. The vote was unanimous; Mr. Smadbeck recused himself from the discussion.
The selectmen also voted to set dates for the bay scallop season. The recreational season opens Oct. 1 with a weekly limit of one ten-gallon wash basket.
The commercial season begins Oct. 24 with a daily limit of three 10-gallon wash baskets per day, including shells. Dragging will be allowed in Cape Pogue beginning Oct. 21; no dragging will be allowed in Sengekontacket.