Both Parties Agree, Popponesset Marketplace Can Open In Full This Summer
By: Geoff Spillane
Put on the Top-Siders, cue the music, and order a lobster roll—the Popponesset Marketplace will be open for the summer 2011 season.
Details of the resolution of a lawsuit that threatened to permanently close the marketplace at the end of this season were announced earlier this week in a joint statement from the attorneys representing both parties.
Daniel J. Murphy Jr., the longtime Popponesset summer resident who filed the 2010 lawsuit claiming the marketplace is in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), traveled to Mashpee last weekend from his home in Florida to meet in person with marketplace ownership and attorneys representing both sides.
The successful meeting was moderated by attorney Brian Mone, a nationally recognized mediator who has negotiated agreements in several high-profile cases, including the Station nightclub fire and the Big Dig tunnel collapse. Mr. Mone provided his services pro bono.
Under terms of the agreement, the marketplace will improve signage, address barriers to accessibility, add additional wheelchair-accessible parking spaces, construct ramps and accessible paths of travel throughout the marketplace, and renovate restrooms.
According to the statement, it is anticipated that all of the renovations required by the proposed agreement will be in place prior to Memorial Day weekend 2012. Certain minor changes not requiring construction plans and the issuance of building permits, will be implemented this season.
Attorneys are still negotiating details of the settlement, which must be endorsed on June 13 by the United States District Court in Boston before it takes full effect.
“The ADA does not require existing buildings such as the Popponesset Marketplace to meet the ADA standards for newly constructed facilities. The ADA requires a place of public accommodation to take certain steps to improve access to existing places of business. This requires removal of barriers from existing buildings when it is readily achievable to do so. Readily achievable means ‘easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.’ The significant issue in this case was what was readily achievable, given the limited resources of a seasonal business such as Popponesset Marketplace, LLC,” according to the statement.
Attorneys for both parties declined to comment this week.
“I’m thrilled that both parties were able to create a resolution. I hope that people flock to the marketplace in droves, and help those businesses recover anything they may have lost during the dispute. I hope that in the future people will opt for mediation instead of lawsuits,” said Thomas O’Neill, president of the Mashpee Chamber of Commerce.
The Mashpee Board of Selectmen lauded news of the resolution this week during a meeting on the issue with Acting Town Building Inspector Charles Maintainis.
Residents in south Mashpee and elsewhere in town despaired at the thought of the summertime marketplace, an icon of Popponesset, closing for good.
Stelios N. Markantonis, owner of Stelios’ Pizza, a business that would have been affected this season by the closure, was ecstatic upon hearing the news that a resolution had been reached.
“I’m excited and ready for another summer on the Cape. My family, friends, and staff members have been following the media reports and Facebook pages for updates. I’m hoping to be up and running by the Fourth of July or sooner,” said Mr. Markantonis.
“It was a long, interesting and tiring weekend. I am relieved. Something like this takes a lot out of you. Now I know why so many disabled people don’t speak up or get involved,” Mr. Murphy said.
“I still have shells from the marketplace on my wheelchair,” he added.
Mr. Murphy was heartened by the support he received throughout the ordeal, but also said an emotional issue such as the potential closing of the marketplace brought out the worst in people.
“I lowered my standards by posting responses to some of the Facebook posts,” said Mr. Murphy, referring to the frequent critical comments that appeared on two “Save the Marketplace” pages that were created during the past month.
According to the Popponesset Marketplace Facebook page, there will be live concerts Saturday and Sunday at 7 PM and “shops not previously allowed to open will be opening this weekend as best they can.”
The status of the more than 20 shops in the marketplace could not be determined by yesterday evening, when the Enterprise went to press. The marketplace real estate office, which oversees leases with the businesses there, did not return inquiries seeking comment this week.
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