Friday, March 8, 2013

Martha's Vineyard Death Trap: Shafting the Schifters



Note:  Martha's Vineyard is a summer death trap for unwitting visitors.  It has no credible or functional Emergency Management (Police & fire are not emergency management).  If a hurricane hits the Island in the summer evacuation is impossible because ferries and bridges cannot handle the traffic.  No credible local preparations exist.
   To be fair, Emergency Management is a flawed concept nationally.  It looks good on paper.  In practice it is just another layer of bureaucracy that interferes with the traditional duties of police and firefighters.
   More money is spent by jurisdictions to create a prepositioned media show so it looks like Emergency Management is in charge than on practical disaster preparations.  There are rare exceptions like Huntsville Alabama.
   The Schifter saga highlights not only the lack of real disaster preparedness in America but the collapse of common sense as well.

Opinion of a Chappy property owner and part time resident since 1950
The Schifter Property: read to Edgartown planning board 3/5/13
   The best and the worst people can be found on Martha’s Vineyard.  We have the best educated, smartest, most creative and philanthropic.  There is also a bunch of drug-running pirates.
   The Vineyard is reputed to have some of the most beautiful  beaches and best sailing in the world.  It also has some of the worst weather.
   The seafarers who founded this Island knew not to build near the water or in areas that flood during storms.  The city folk eventually pushed out the  seafaring folk.   A land boom that began in the 1950’s brought in a new breed of carpet baggers and scallywags. 
   These low-lifes  can always be found worming their way into local governments everywhere.  The Vineyard and Edgartown is no exception.  It’s true they are a tiny minority, but nevertheless, bad apples that can ruin it for all.
   The sad saga of the Shifters epitomizes the worst of institutional ignorance, bureaucratic indifference and corruption that plague governments world wide.  Only here it happens to be Edgartown.   Wittingly or unwittingly the hard truth is that the Schifters were swindled by Edgartown.  The swindle was issuing a building permit for a lot that was unbuildable.
   Any Island school boy could have told the Schifters “you can’t build there.”  I doubt the shifters were told or knew that in 1965 Wasque looked the same as it does today.  In the winter of that year approximately 110 acres of Wasque simply washed away.  That’s a helluva lot.  There were no exceptional storms, just a change in currents.
     Meanwhile a simple aerial view of the Schifter property reveals (minus the barrier beaches) that it is a tiny peninsula that juts off a larger peninsula into the stormy North Atlantic ocean.  A ground view reveals that  the Schifters were issued a permit to build on a sand dune at the end of this peninsula.  Edgartown’s defense is that they would not let the Shifters build at the bottom of the sand dune but made them build at the top.  A sand dune is a sand dune is a sand dune.  Regardless of where you build on a sand dune it is going to wash away.
   Now the town has the gall to hold a hearing to see if the Schifters should be allowed to move the house back so it does not fall into the sea.   This hearing is a total charade.  Given the rate of beach erosion the house will likely wash away before construction crews can move it.
   The honorable thing to do would be for Edgartown to reimburse the Schifters for their loss along with an apology.  But if they did that there are many hundreds of other homes they will  have to do the same for.    Edgartown permitted these home in lowlands where the occupants can drown from a hurricane surge, unbuildable lots.  But lots of money made from permits from city folks with lots of dollars and no sea sense.
   It is disgusting to see the level at which the Schifters are being ripped off at every turn to try and salvage a worthless property they were sold.  It’s worthless because it was unsuited for the use the Schifters wanted.  The town of Edgartown gave false value to the property by allowing building on it.  The town made money from it.
   In addition to Wasque’s history of severe beach erosion, one medium size house there was blown off its foundation in the hurricane of 1938.  Up until 2007 building codes only required houses here to withstand 90 mph winds.  In 2007 the code was upped to 110 mph.
   The highest recorded winds in MA during the hurricane of 1938 were 182 mph.  The only reason  that the wind was not recorded any higher was because the official anemometer blew away!!
   In Florida building codes require homes built in areas subject to hurricanes to withstand 150 mph winds.  Any home sold in Florida  subject to storm flooding must by law come with a notice stating so.  No such law exist  in MA on Martha’s Vineyard where hurricanes can be as severe as in Florida.
   Perhaps some good can come from this financial rape of the Schifters.  At least they are escaping with their lives.  Their ordeal may alert beach  house owners  as well as low land house owners such as the Katama flat lands, that they are in mortal danger from hurricane surges and an Island that has no credible plan to warn them as well as real estate brokers who hid this fact from them.
--Steve Jones

1 comment:

  1. After the "big" storm here on the 7th, 8th and 9th, the sea is about to take the Schifters guest house. What is amazing are the headlines in local and regional declaring what a big storm this was and how "unexpected" it was. All of New England has built in hurricane flood zones. There is a code of denial among the public and the media supports it.
    New England got off relatively easy with hurricane Sandy. The "Big One" though is long over due but unexpected by most.
    In the blizzard of '78 many people died on the ocean or froze to death in their cars due to jams. This year a similar blizzard hit for which the region was prepared by shutting down the roads. This enabled quick clearing as well as zero casualties.
    Similar actions would work for hurricanes, prestorm notification as well as education all residents in flood zones so that they and their renters know they are at risk. Also people need to be educated as to the nature of hurricanes. They need to know that is the rising water that kills most people and not the wind.
    The Schifter's debacle is representative of thousands of New Englanders in similar situations. They were sold land or homes in beautiful surroundings but vulnerable to extreme winds, beach erosion and severe flooding.
    Martha's Vineyard is one of the worst areas because it cannot be evacuated.
    Meanwhile the Schifters attempts to remedy their plight are not only making it worse but threating to cause other houses to be lost.
    The gian sandbags they have placed have now become a "jetty" as the erosion circumvents them. The new "jetty" is redirecting current straight into the beach. This is threating to breach an adgacent pond and create a new current which could alter the footprint of the entire island as well as wash away several houses. Possibly Meg Ryan's home on North Neck could wash away along with lessor known folks.