Last night I witnessed the fireworks in the civil defense room at town hall after the years-long struggle to wrestle with the Nautilus/Dome property. The room was tense, as many villagers and sympathizers rallied to hear a fast-track vote by the historical commission.

After years of commitment to the spirit of Buckminster Fuller, the forces of monied interests again run roughshod over advocacy of open space and history of innovation; the commission has slammed shut any possibility of discussion even among the commission itself, myopically approving the application.

David Epstein, abutter to the project, arrived from Hartford to deliver his oppositional statement and to give the 761 names in a petition he created. He was summarily and curtly shut down by the chairman, Ed Haddad, in an unusual display of rancorous confrontation.

Epstein exploded after the vote, yelling “Shame. shame on you.”

“You are just one person,” barked Haddad later.

“No,” said Mr. Epstein “I am 761 persons,” referring to signatories.

The palpable tensions in that room were raw, but according to the chairman and his mostly feckless board, Mr. Epstein was one meeting too late to share an opinion or to present opposition into the record. Apparently there was little to no discussion among the board about this potential outcome and it all seemed rushed. It was an implosion of the function and purpose of a volunteer board. To my mind only a further example of deterioration of society’s sense of ethics, appropriateness and decency.

A pattern emerges that displays how approvals are sought and it is an indictment of the critical process, abilities of boards and the ruthless powers behind the applicants. It concerns the unspoken truth of tacit bullying power brokers who manipulate to the needs of their clients often at the expense of the community. We should emulate Barnstable’s efforts to bring all committees together for discussions on projects, opening up where purviews intersect.

“Appropriateness” approval seems arbitrary, although supposedly not about taste, style or actual need. For the current developers, it is about what will appear on the surface to any opposition to expediently build expensive housing, not about the most important unique historical architecture on the property arguably on the Cape.

As a former restaurant for the public, the public part has now forever been limited to a shell of its original community-oriented intent. But “use” is not part of the commission’s purview. The commission’s ruling betrays the importance of the context of the historic structure and its own protective abilities. What does preservation mean to experimental modernist structure? Is it different from restoration? And how does evolutionary design, this architect’s intent, play a role?

A bond should have been requested by the historical commission to insure oversight for this builder/developer who was previously out of compliance (587 Main Street) with a building permit.

A bond is necessary especially since the town no longer has a enforcement officer.

Like the town’s completely botched turbine issue, the expansion of parking up to Dr. Redfield’s garden in Woods Hole and the rocky road of the steamships’ new terminal, it is clear that Falmouth’s best offer for preserving its history in Woods Hole is ill-equipped, inept, it is pathetic and it leaves many disgusted.

Jonathan Goldman

Sidney Street

Woods Hole

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