The Nantucket Conservation Commission voted unanimously last Thursday to issue a cease and desist order for construction of the Straight Wharf Fish Market, a 62-seat clam shack restaurant that has garnered national attention due to the opposition of billionaire Charles Johnson, the principal owner of the San Francisco Giants.
The vote followed a report from the Natural Resources Department that the approved 10 x 10-foot exterior deck is roughly double in size, measuring in at 10 x 20.
“Definitely an unfortunate situation but I do feel like if there is unpermitted structure that is almost double the size of what is on the plan, in this case we might need to do an enforcement to cease work until they come in and confirm what is going on,” ConCom chair Ashley Erisman said.
The discussion took place towards the end of Thursday’s meeting (2:30:15 mark is where it begins) after Natural Resources conservation agent William Dell’Erba told the commission that he and director Jeff Carlson were tipped to check out some of the construction being done at the Straight Wharf Fish Market.
He said when they arrived, they began to look at the much discussed 10 x 10 deck area. They weren’t prepared for the scenario of the deck being as big as it was, so they began measuring it with an eight-foot ladder.
“We used an eight-foot extension ladder to roughly measure how long the porch was and it is about 10 x 20 and supposed to be 10 x 10,” Dell’Erba said.
Erisman said there was opportunity for the clam shack owners to seek an amended order when the basement area was redone earlier this year.
“We kind of just let that through saying there were no impacts,” she said. “I think if there is a second instance in this construction where they are not following the plan that they submitted to the ConCom, I think that is something we need to address.”
ConCom member Seth Engelbourg made a motion for a cease and desist order, which was seconded by fellow ConCom member Joe Plandowski. The motion was ultimately passed by the commission on a unanimous 6-0 vote.
When Plandowski asked whether the enforcement order could be signed soon, Erisman said it could be done as soon as June 10. It will be the responsibility of the Town's Natural Resources Department to execute the order.
“Can (the enforcement) be done soon because this is embarrassing if that is the case,” Plandowski said. “We listened to the story from those folks and if they’re that far off, that’s terrible.”
Gabriel Frasca, the co-owner of the Straight Wharf Fish Market, told the Current Saturday morning that he was unaware of the order and that the instructions to their team were to build everything to the inch of what was approved.
“There’s no need for a bigger deck than what was approved, so I’m confused,” Frasca said.” This is supposed to be exactly as it is on the HDC plan. Period. Full stop. We know nothing about it being any different and I will be furious if that is the case. I was told point blank this week that it is precisely what’s on the plan. Either there’s confusion or I was lied to. Neither one is acceptable.”
Frasca said after going down to check out the deck in question, he measured the deck to be 10' x 14' 10".
The clam shack has been under heavy scrutiny by neighbors such as billionaire Charles Johnson, who filed a lawsuit in Nantucket Superior Court last month, and a group of other Old North Wharf property owners. These neighbors believe the noise, trash, and traffic generated by the new 62-seat restaurant would be too much and too close to their seasonal residences that are already surrounded by busy dining establishments.
Frasca told the Current last month he hopes to have the restaurant completed and open by July.
“This is an extremely public project, and we are under a huge microscope," Frasca said. "To do anything that might invite scrutiny is asinine.”
Erisman closed the discussion by saying it is "unfortunate" they may be involved in another “newsworthy situation.”
“We have issued the cease and desist and hopefully we will hear the story at our next meeting,” she said. That next meeting will be Thursday, June 15.
This story will be updated.