The clear cutting of the property slated for the controversial Surfside Crossing development off South Shore Road began Saturday morning under protest.
When crews showed up with chainsaws and began cutting down pine trees, neighbors and opponents of the development gathered along the road and called Nantucket police, claiming Surfside Crossing was doing the work illegally.
The 156 condominium unit 40B development has been bitterly opposed by a group of neighbors and the group Nantucket Tipping Point, but last fall it received approval from the state Housing Appeals Committee. The plan to build the condos on 13 acres of undeveloped pine forest off South Shore Road is still facing a series of lawsuits.
Nantucket Land Council executive director Emily Molden arrived at the scene Saturday morning to speak to police and others who had gathered in protest of the clear cutting. Under the belief that Surfside Crossing had not obtained the required conservation and management permit from the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Molden said her organization would be attempting to get in front of a judge this weekend for an injunction.
But Surfside Crossing developer Jamie Feeley arrived at the site and produced the permit for police and showed the cover page to Molden.
Molden asserted that the developers had started the clear cutting to get ahead of scheduled listing of the northern long eared bat, which is believed to be present at the Surfside Crossing property, as an endangered species. That listing was supposed to happen on Jan. 30, but the date was pushed back by the federal government to March 30.
"It’s so disappointing that this is happening with no advance notice and such a lack of transparency," Molden said. "It was a real concerted effort to push this through before they could be subject to the conditions of the uplisting of northern long eared bats. There will be new rules associated with that uplisting as of Jan. 30, but it got extended to March 30. We’re pretty certain that's what this was about."
But Surfside Crossing developers Jamie Feeley and Josh Posner said they have all the necessary permits to move ahead with the work that is being conducted at the site, and that the project will help alleviate Nantucket's ongoing housing crisis.
"We believe strongly that this project is the solution that Nantucket desperately needs and have begun pre-construction work," Posner and Feeley said in a statement. "The preparation work follows the final approvals of the Housing Appeals Committee and the Conservation Permit from the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, which were both issued in 2022, after more than 5 years since the process has started. Preliminary work at the property is taking place this winter and spring in compliance with the permit approvals’ conditions to prepare the site for the eventual start of construction. We are eager to move this project forward and assure that the benefits of new affordable housing for a wide range of year-rounder Nantucketers will be available to our community."
Surfside Crossing would include 156 condominium homes contained within 18 three-story buildings (two stories above grade) off South Shore Road. Twenty-five percent of those units would be deed restricted for affordable housing to individuals and families making up to 80 percent of the area median income, or a total of 39 units within the development.
"In addition to the 25 percent of homes that are guaranteed affordable under 40B, the design of the project (condominium homes) creates home ownership opportunities attainable by year round Nantucketers at prices that are significantly more affordable then typical single family houses on island," Posner and Feeley stated.
According to the Surfside Crossing web site, "the remaining 117 units are designed to target the $450,000 to $825,000 price point that is currently underserved, in order to meet the needs and interests of Nantucket’s middle-income community."
Nantucket Tipping Point, the group that formed to oppose Surfside Crossing, recently renewed its concerns and criticisms of the development, from safety, to density, and the possibility that the condos could be used as short-term rentals, among others.
The plans for Surfside Crossing were filed under a state statute known as Chapter 40B, which allows developers to bypass local zoning regulations and increase density if at least 20 to 25 percent of the new units have long-term affordability restrictions.