The reckoning was inevitable. Last year, the Vineyard Gazette reported on the perilous condition of Richard and Jennifer Schifter, perched on the southern shore of Chappaquiddick ("Erosion at Wasque Threatens Home," by Sara Brown). Wrote the Gazette: "At the current rate of erosion, about 10 ½ inches a day, the 100-foot buffer between the bluff and a stone pool enclosure at the home will disappear, according to George Sourati, the owner of Sourati Engineering Group, which is overseeing the project. If nothing is done, he said, 'it will be less than four months before the bluff gets there.'"
The Edgartown, Mass., Conservation Commission approved emergency measures: a coir log bank protection system that engineer Sourati hoped would slow the rate of bank erosion. ""It's not a permanent solution," said Sourati, "but it's going to give us some time to think about other solutions." A photo album on the unofficial Facebook page of the Chappaquiddick Ferry, "Chappy Ferry," gives some idea of the extreme hazard to the house (see "A House Imperiled on Chappaquiddick, 2012-2013").
This spring, that time to ponder is up. And the Schifters have opted for a radical solution: They're moving the house — all 8,300 square feet of it. Seven bathrooms, basement bowling alley, pool … the works. The Boston Globe reported on the project on April 6 ("What money can't buy: a break from nature's fury," by Jenna Russell.
It's audacious. The Globe video shows laborers with shovels starting the trenching that will excavate under the entire structure, including the basement foundation. A second "Chappy Ferry" Facebook album shows views of the work in progress ("Moving a House on Chappaquiddick, 2013"). Roger Becker, president of the Chappaquiddick Island Association, comments: "I can't imagine that they'll be done in six months time. To think that they're going to be digging a hole about the size of a football field in order to move a whole house with the basement, is astonishing to think about."
And it may not be enough, the Globe notes: "If the Schifters and their engineers have miscalculated, and the ocean continues to eat away their land at the same pace, their plan to move the house back 275 feet will not be enough to save it for long."
But owner Schifter, a private equity investor, says there wasn't any easy choice. He told the Globe: ""In the absence of action, we would end up with a house on the beach, which nobody wants. So do you demolish the house or do you move it? The decision makers have supported the idea that we move the house instead of demolishing it."