Nantucket voters in April will again decide whether the town should acquire the Great Harbor Yacht Club property by eminent domain.
A citizen’s article proposed by Charles Sayle III for inclusion on the 2006 Annual Town Meeting warrant would have the town take the yacht club’s 1.5-acre waterfront parcel on Washington Street Extension for a sum not to exceed $10.5 million.
Sayle, 25, whose family owns Sayle’s Seafood adjacent to the yacht club property, also submitted a second article that would take only a portion of the club’s waterfront property for a sum not to exceed $5 million.
Warrant articles involving eminent domain takings require a two-thirds majority to be approved.
Should the taking succeed, Sayle has proposed that the property be used as a full-service boat yard and by other marine service industries, for shellfish propagation and the loading and unloading of commercial or recreational fishing vessels. His proposal also calls for a new public boat ramp and dinghy dock, and the preservation of the travel lift – used to move boats into and out of the water – in its current location.
“This is just to preserve the water-dependent use that’s always been there,” Sayle said Tuesday. “This is pretty much to keep it the way it is and enhance the public benefits.”
His articles will mark the second time that Nantucket voters will consider an eminent domain taking of the property. During the 2004 Annual Town Meeting, islanders shot down a similar proposal for the yacht club property that would have also involved the creation of a port authority to regulate harbor activities. That proposal, backed by the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee, would have allocated as much as $20.6 million for the taking. The article was overwhelmingly defeated by a 652-183 vote.
Great Harbor developer Gary McCarthy called Sayle’s new articles “absurd” and said they only continued the “obstructionist” tactics of the club’s opponents that have included legal challenges at every rung of the regulatory ladder.
“I’ve read them and find them absurd from start to finish,” McCarthy said. “It’s nothing more than obstructionism. At the (2004) Town Meeting, when there was more at issue and a lot less defined, what did they achieve? Sixteen or 19 percent approval when they needed 67 percent? I don’t think this means an additional delay, it’s just more annoyance.”
Sayle said his two articles differ from the 2004 eminent domain proposal because they do not include the creation of a port authority and the significant development and dredging of the harbor that it would require. Also, both articles do not include the taking of any yacht club property west of Washington Street Extension.
“I think what scared everyone away on that one (in 2004) was the threat they would turn it into a big port, hauling gravel and modular homes and the massive dredging to get barges and tugboats in there,” Sayle said. “And this doesn’t include the entire site like the other one did.”
Among the 10 people who signed Sayle’s petitions seeking to include the articles on the warrant were several members of the island scalloping community, including Frank Dutra, Carl Sjolund, Stephen Bender, David Coombs, David Glidden, Ken Kelley and Doug Smith.
The yacht club’s recently-submitted subdivision plans for both its waterfront parcel and land-side property were other factors which prompted Sayle to submit the two articles, he said. Although McCarthy has said the subdivision route is intended only as a last resort should the development of the yacht club continue to be delayed by litigation, Sayle said the threat of residential development and the loss of public access to the water led him to submit the articles.
McCarthy and his partner Blake Drexler have proposed the yacht club on a 3.3-acre parcel straddling Washington Street Extension formerly home to the Grey Lady Marine boat yard.
Plans call for the primary structures of the $45 million club to include a clubhouse, poolhouse, sports barn and a boat barn. If approved and constructed, it would be the island’s second yacht club, located on the opposite side of the downtown historic district from the Nantucket Yacht Club on South Beach Street.
Both McCarthy and Great Harbor Yacht Club attorney Sarah Alger objected to the $10.5 million compensation figure within Sayle’s article. Alger, who is also the town’s elected Town Meeting moderator, said she would recuse herself from that job when the two articles are on Town Meeting floor.
“The valuation is not even close,” Alger said. “The town would have to pay whatever the damage award was. You can’t just say $10 million. I’d be crazy to speculate, but it would be a lot of money. This seems like a last-ditch, desperate attempt to hold this project up and it’s an unfortunate use of citizen’s time.”
According to Sayle, he calculated the $10.5 million figure based upon town assessor’s tax data, which values the waterfront parcel at $10,295,600.
Alger also said she objected to opponents of the club resorting to repeated eminent domain proposals to take the Washington Street Extension property.
“One of the things that interests me is the use of eminent domain to control development,” Alger said. “Particularly the repeated use of eminent domain to get to an end you can’t get to through another process. I don’t think there’s anything that prevents someone from doing this, but it’s an interesting question of when it becomes an abusive process.”
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