"Dereliction Of Duty" - Dismay Over Select Board's Decision To Drop Surfside Crossing Lawsuit

Joan Alison Stockman •

To the editor: I cannot adequately express my dismay and my disappointment in the three Select Board members (Jason Bridges, Dawn Holdgate, Brooke Mohr) who voted to drop the Town of Nantucket’s lawsuit against Surfside Crossing. This short-sighted vote was a dereliction of their duty.

For over four years the Nantucket Community has made it clear that the health, safety, and environmental threats posed by this development are unacceptable. Without addressing ANY of these concerns, Surfside Crossing was allowed to write its own ticket, depriving the Town and community of any leverage going forward.

Did Bridges, Mohr, and Holdgate learn nothing about these same players when they consistently reneged on their Sconset Bluff commitments? When they dumped material from a septic field down the Sconset Bluff? When, after a year and a half of good faith effort on the part of the Nantucket Zoning Board of Appeals, they pulled the rug out from under the negotiations and walked away? As Maya Angelou said “When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.”

This vote negated a year and a half of the ZBA’s painstaking work on the project, and the Select Board did not even bother to inform them directly: they found out via social media. What was the hurry? The Town could have proceeded with the lawsuit and they could have dropped it at ANY time – perhaps after they had an actual commitment that 75 percent of the units would go to locals (after defining what “local” means). There are no teeth in the “Principles” and the onus is now on the Town and local agencies to scramble to fulfill SSX’s requirements or risk the units going to the highest bidder.

Although some of them seem loathe to admit it, the draft Joint Statement was developed by Andrew Vorce, Tucker Holland, and Brian Sullivan, alongside developers Jamie Feeley and Josh Posner (with comments and suggested edits from the Select Board). They have not discovered a “model for how 40B could work in other seasonal communities”. They have given away what was never theirs to give, and fallen into a trap straight out of the developer’s playbook: hold a community, desperate for affordable housing, hostage and take from it everything you can.

The smug tone of the Joint Statement aligns with the smug attitude of the developers way back in 2018. At the time, I didn’t understand their overconfidence given that their plan was wildly inappropriate. But now I see that they knew that the Town would roll over for them. They just had to wait for a majority of Select Board members to capitulate. They just had to wait for Town Manager Libby Gibson and Deputy Director of Planning Leslie Snell to do their work for them by not informing the interested parties (or the Town’s own lawyer) of the issuance of the Conservation Management Permit, depriving all of us the opportunity to appeal the permit.

And to be clear: there already is a model for affordable housing on Nantucket – a “friendly” 40B that is built for people, and not for profit.

Joan Alison Stockman

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