Sconset Residents Want More Assurances On Summer House Reopening

Steve Cohen •

To the Town of Nantucket,

I am reaching out on behalf of my clients, the members of the South Siasconset Neighborhood Association LLC, which currently represents 24 households in the neighborhood around the Summer House in ‘Sconset. These neighbors are in favor of the Summer House opening and operating. Their simple request is that this be done within the rules and regulations that legally apply, as well as some reasonable parameters of being a good neighbor. My clients look forward to this happening. They ask the Town to take all necessary and appropriate steps to ensure this result.

The Board of Health recently approved a plan for the Summer House to reopen its employee housing, guest cottages, and main restaurant. To do this, the Summer House agreed to comply with the terms set by the Health Department. My clients applaud the Town and its staff for doing excellent work to resolve these issues, but it should be noted that agreeing to meet minimum health and safety requirements is a baseline expectation for a food and lodging business, not something to celebrate.

While minor code violations may be common, and do not result in shutting down businesses, it is important to recognize that in this case these were serious violations, several of which posed an imminent danger of severe injury, death and mass destruction, in a way that cannot be understated. The unpermitted and incorrectly done gas work posed a significant risk of causing a major fire or leading to asphyxiation of the staff, customers, and neighbors. The disposal of raw human waste and toxic materials in the dunes, as documented by Health Department staff, shockingly speaks for itself. I struggle to conceive of how these violations could have been worse or posed more of a danger to public health and safety.

Unfortunately, these violations are just the latest in a long history by the Summer House’s owners and management failing to obtain permits or follow even basic rules. A review of their public files shows multiple citations for serving alcohol to minors and for other significant permitting and code violations. Only four years ago, in 2019, the same team was responsible for similar problems at the Woodbox Restaurant and 29 Fair Street Inn, also a treasured and historic institution, when they were cited for performing unpermitted work, having an improper food handling environment, and lacking proper plumbing and sanitation facilities. Apparently no lessons were learned.

The pattern of disregard for obtaining permits and following the rules, and putting other people and property at risk, is quite alarming. Given this pattern, my clients respectfully request that the Town of Nantucket take action to ensure that the Summer House comes into and sustains full compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

While the most recent issues are now being addressed, there are a number of outstanding issues that should also be addressed, especially before the Summer House is granted its 2023 liquor license, or at least as a condition thereof. It is standard for liquor license applicants to show that they have all of their applicable permits in place, and that does not appear to be the case for the Summer House. In this case, it is questionable as to whether the Summer House has necessary permits in place for the applied for 60 seats in the dunes, as well as for significant other aspects of the business as a whole. I respectfully request that the Summer House be required to address the following:

1) Obtain permits from the Board of Health for food service and lodging services. As of now, those are under review for compliance. The BOH action taken on July 20, 2023 was not an issuance of those permits; it just set terms for them to be issued.

2) Confirm and update the occupancy numbers of the various buildings based on fire code and plumbing code.

3) Obtain and close-out Building Permits for all work that was done, with or without such permits, including obtaining approval from the HDC.

4) Demonstrate or obtain compliance with Zoning and HDC requirements for work not covered under Building Permits.

5) Obtain relief from the ZBA under Section 139-33 of the Bylaw for the significant physical and operational changes and expansions with regard to lodging, staffing, food, alcohol, entertainment, recreation, weddings/events, and otherwise at the premises since zoning was adopted in 1972, and for any new nonconformities. Of note, the premises appear to now include properties and uses added after 1972, for which relief may not be available in the SOH and LUG-3 districts.

6) Obtain a Major Commercial Development Special Permit from the Planning Board under Section 139-11 of the Bylaw for alterations and expansions that have triggered that requirement based on square footage, seating, and parking requirements, among others.

7) Demonstrate or obtain compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and the state Architectural Access Board requirements under MGL Chapter 22 and CMR Section 521, especially for work done without permits.

8) Obtain an Order of Conditions from the Conservation Commission for all work or actions within the 100’ buffer zones (which run both east and west from the Bluff, and west from the dunes), including for the changes requested in the recent liquor license application, and or confirmation that other work is outside of these areas.

9) Obtain MESA approval from DEP for work or activities within the endangered species mapped area, including for changes requested in the recent liquor license application.

10) Obtain a Special Permit from the Planning Board under Section 139-2 of the Bylaw for Neighborhood Employee Housing.

To the extent necessary, please consider this a request to the applicable Town Department to take action here on the above noted missing and non-current zoning, planning, building and environmental permits.

My clients look forward to working with the Town and the Summer House to make sure it can once again return to operating as a beloved neighborhood institution, with appropriate checks and controls in place to ensure continued compliance with state and local laws. Coming into and maintaining compliance with these fundamental requirements is necessary to ensure safe and healthy operations of the Summer House in a manner that protects the public and respects the residential neighbors.


Steven Cohen

With Glenn Wood and Tyler Franklin

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