We Missed The Boat On Surfside Crossing
Linda Williams •
To the editor:
As usual, what I said and the actual objective of the articles in 2017, were mischaracterized by Ms. Rayport in her letter of Friday, February 24, 2023. The objective to re-zone to 1-acre from 2-acre of the 13-acre parcel on South Shore Road was to try to preclude the need to do a 40B. There were discussions about that prior to town meeting with the property owners as well as the Land Bank or we would not have put that in for a vote. Voting it down thinking it would have stopped a 40B was short-sighted in the long run. If a property owner had wanted to do a 40B, it did not matter if zoned one- or two-acres. If Barbara Malcolm, or her heirs, who my family knew, wanted the land to be open space, she would have so designated that or donated it. The family had the right to sell it when she passed away. No conservation entity came forward at that time to save the property from development that was accepted. Perhaps, Ms. Rayport also missed the fact that Arthur Reade put the articles in for the family. Not me.
What Ms. Rayport is clearly not aware of is that Town meeting has zoned all of the properties south of this 13-acre parcel from two-acres to one-acre down to Tripp Drive on the west side of South Shore Road and a good distance on the east side. In addition, there is a 28-lot 40B - 5,000 square foot per lot, in the middle of the South Shore Road community. A quick review of the GIS zoning map would have clearly shown that fact. The reason the area was initially zoned LUG-2 is that no one wanted to live out in the “Badlands” and they did not know what to do with it in 1972 so large swaths of land around mid-island were simply put into large lots. Times have changed.
The South Shore Road community has taken the 40B hit for the entire island. That was the initial objection to yet another one. We have the Housing Authority, Sachem’s Path, Abrams Quarry already. The 40B legislation promotes community-wide 40B development and not to have them impact one neighborhood like our super-majority year-round working-class community on South Shore Road where I also live. It has been a NIMBY attitude of the rest of the island big time. So long as the 40Bs are not in anyone else’s neighborhood they are fine that it is all in ours yet again.
The change in zoning was put forward for another reason. It made no sense to have the very dense Sachems Path affordable development immediately abutting this parcel to the north and 1-acre density to the south and have this oasis of 2-acre density in the middle of higher density just to keep the property owners from having the same density as one side and a less density on the other. Did I say, short-sighted? Zoning usually follows a pattern. Higher density to lower density, not having very high density that jumps to 16 times the density.
There is a reason most of us out here did not show up to object during the 40B hearings for Surfside Crossing. Reality, with many of us having been through the Abrams Quarry 40B fight already decades ago. The ZBA and vocal minority of South Shore Road objectors made a critical mistake. I appreciate that those abutters have a direct impact whereas the rest of us are farther down the road and it was overwhelming for them. Having been through all of the 40Bs on Nantucket to date, either as a member of the Zoning Board, the Zoning Board administrator, a neighbor, Housing Authority member, Affordable Housing Trust member, I am well-versed on how this process works and the dangers of not working with the applicants and the appeal potential to the HAC at the state level. The impact on those direct abutters is now going to be so much more with the HAC approved original density.
It would have been better if the ZBA and those neighbors and outside objectors had worked with the applicants to get the best possible project approved. History has shown that if the ZBA goes too far in reducing the density, along with other conditions that adversely affect the viability of a project, the applicant will appeal it to the HAC, which almost always sides with the applicant. This has resulted in allowing them the original density applied for with less conditions and local control. We ran the risk of this happening here and this was so stated at the ZBA hearing to no avail.
I am angry that the parties did not work more proactively towards a less dense project with acceptable conditions. No one was going to be totally happy but it may have kept this from being appealed and sent back to us with what they asked for in the first place. It is more aggravating that the property owners were actually willing to work with the ZBA proactively to arrive at a better project. They were ignored, denigrated and abused verbally and on social media. This refusal to work with the property owners has negatively impacted all the rest of us who said nothing nor took part in the opposition movement. This movement was largely populated by people who did not even live in the South Shore Road area yet decided they were going to jeopardize our South Shore Road community by forcing the appeal and saddling us with more intense density. OH NO! Not in their backyards, so be it in ours.
The Town “powers that be” then decided to appeal the HAC decision on the ill-thought-out idea that the Town would have leverage. It does not work that way. The property owners have no reason to work with the Town now though they were willing to work with the Town on compromises, more affordable units etc. until the appeal was brought by the Town. Perhaps the owners would still be willing to work with the Town if the appeal was dropped. Again, short-sighted plan.
Regardless, this is where we are now. They have a right, as does any other property owner with a 40B approval in this state, to proceed with the project. Taking down trees does not need a building permit. Do I like 40B legislation? Absolutely not. Is it allowed by state law? Absolutely yes. Is it the sole solution to fixing the housing issues on Nantucket? Absolutely not. This will take a multi-pronged creative effort. We have to make sure that when a 40B project is before the ZBA, knowing that the state will side with the property owners, we come up with the best possible, least negative impact project possible. We missed the boat with this one, and the people that are going to be impacted by this are those of us living in the South Shore Road community, the largest year-round neighborhood serviced by one road on the island. We need to respond better, work together, face reality and move forward supporting efforts to provide housing opportunities for the hard-working year-round population.
40-year resident of the “Badlands”