ONE MAN’S castle is another man’s show of excess consumption. But environmental issues, not questions of personal taste, should govern efforts to move an 8,300-square-foot mansion from an eroding bluff on Chappaquiddick’s Wasque Point.
Last month, Edgartown officials approved a plan to move the luxury house, garage, and guest quarters, subject to a list of conditions designed to make sure the move does no further harm to the surrounding land.
Even before erosion problems put it at risk, some residents viewed the house, with its seven bathrooms and bowling alley, as a distortion of Chappaquiddick’s modest, rural values. It was built six years ago by private equity firm partner Richard Schifter and his wife, Jennifer. A 2007 nor’easter punched a hole through a nearby barrier beach and sped up erosion of the bluff. Since their home was completed, the owners watched with dismay as the sea ate away at the cliff. At times, more than a foot of earth a day is swallowed up. With the distance from their swimming pool to the edge of the bluff winnowed down from 220 feet to 40, the owners believe the only way to save the property is to move it.
They now have permission to move the house back 275 feet. According to the Martha’s Vineyard Times, trucks will need to make about 2,500 round trips over Chappaquiddick’s narrow roads from now through September. There will also be some 40,000 cubic yards of excavated soil to handle. Those traffic and disposal concerns are among many serious environmental issues the owners must address.
The price of moving the house runs to the millions. If the Schifters are willing to foot the bill, and do what it takes to protect the environment, they have the right to relocate a property that turned from dream house to horror house. But all the money in the world may not be enough to save it from the surging seas.