Facing A Lawsuit, Future Of Poppy Marketplace In Jeopardy

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By: Geoff Spillane
Published: 05/06/11

Tenants of the Popponesset Marketplace this week received notice that a majority of businesses there would not be allowed to open for the upcoming summer season and the remaining businesses would have to vacate at summer’s end.

According to a notice issued by marketplace management on Wednesday, the closure is a result of a 2010 lawsuit filed against the owner of the marketplace regarding handicapped accessibility.

Several businesses have leases that expire at the end of 2011 and will be allowed to remain open for a final season. They include the Raw Bar, Bob’s Seafood Café and Wine Bar, Emack & Bolio’s ice cream shop, Rebecca O’ Donnell Art Gallery and Popponesset Miniature Golf.

Representatives from Popponesset Marketplace provided a copy of the notice, but declined an interview request from the Enterprise.

“This is very troubling and discomforting,” said Selectman Michael R. Richardson. “The closing of Popponesset Marketplace will have an impact on the entire town. It is a very difficult situation for all parties involved.”

The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court in Boston in early 2010 by longtime Popponesset summer visitor and film actor Daniel J. Murphy Jr., who alleges violations of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Mr. Murphy is asking the court to require alteration of the marketplace to meet ADA accessibility guideline compliance.

The notice from owner to tenants
In January 2010, the owner of the Marketplace was sued in the United States Federal District Court over claimed deficiencies at the Marketplace regarding handicapped accessibility. The Marketplace was constructed in the early 1980’s pursuant to building permits issued by the Town. After the construction of the Marketplace, the United States Congress enacted the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Regulations promulgated under the ADA required a place of public accommodation to conform to ADA Accessibility Guidelines. The Plaintiff in the lawsuit alleges violations of the ADA and seeks injunctive relief to require the Marketplace to be altered by bringing it in full compliance with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines.

As a result of the suit Management has made several attempts to reach a resolution of the court action. However, these efforts have not been successful. Because many of our leases are year to year, the existence of the lawsuit precludes us from renewing those leases for the 2011 season. Several other leases expire at the end of 2011, including The Raw Bar, the Cafe, the Ice Cream shop, the Art Studio and Mini Golf. As things presently stand, those businesses will close thereafter.

We know that this will be a great disappointment to Marketplace patrons and tenants alike. Unfortunately some things are just not meant to be and at this writing the Marketplace will close for good at the end of the 2011 season. We hope that you will continue to patronize Bob Weekes and his associates at the Raw Bar, and Cafe, Joe and Laurie Anastos at Emack & Bolio’s, Rebecca and Gene O’Donnell at the Art Studio as well as Donna Bochanowski at Mini Golf. Bob Weekes, our longest and most enduring tenant, has created an institution in both of his establishments and we are confident that you will support him to the end. We regret not being able to sign leases for all our other hard working tenants as we know the Marketplace was an important part of their livelihoods. The Marketplace management also wants to thank all our Tenants for their hard work in making the Marketplace a fun place to go for the past twenty eight years. And finally we want to thank a generation of your Marketplace patrons for their loyal patronage. The Marketplace could not have succeeded without both you and your patrons.
The Management

The marketplace was constructed nearly a decade before the ADA guidelines went into effect in 1992. There is no “grandfather clause” exempting older “places of public accommodation” from achieving ADA compliance.

Marketplace tenants include nearly 20 restaurants, boutiques, and galleries. It is home to the Mashpee Congregational Church and is also a popular venue for functions, concerts, and entertainment during the summer months.

The Mashpee Assessor’s Office lists Popponesset Marketplace LLC as the owner of the property, which comprises less than two acres of land and has an assessed value of $1,327,000.

“I’m very sad that the two parties could not reach an agreement. This will be a huge blow to the community,” said Robert L. Weekes, owner of the Raw Bar and Bob’s Seafood Café and Wine Bar. “The marketplace has become a summer tradition for families. Their children grow up here, and often spend summers working at the marketplace. The economic impact will be significant. This is not a good time to be losing jobs.”

When informed of the closure, the Reverend James S. Scovil of the Mashpee Congregational Church said, “Our relationship with the marketplace has been a real blessing to the Church. We will have to take time sort out this news and what it will mean for the congregation.”

In 1974, Mr. Murphy, then 19 years old, was involved in a diving accident on Martha’s Vineyard, becoming a C-6 spinal cord injured quadriplegic.

With him that day on the Vineyard was Peter Farelly, a Popponesset summer friend and now well-known film writer and director. In the ensuing years, Mr. Murphy has appeared in several films produced by Peter and his brother Bobby Farelly, including “Dumb and Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary,” and, most recently, “Hall Pass.”

Despite his injury, Mr. Murphy continued his annual visits to Popponesset. “My life changed, but my love of Cape Cod never did,” said Mr. Murphy.

Becoming an advocate for the disabled, Mr. Murphy and his attorney in 1997 wrote a letter to Christopher Burden, president of New Seabury Corporation, demanding access to the area be improved threatening a lawsuit.

After visiting the marketplace, Mr. Murphy claimed there was inadequate disabled parking, seashell landscaping that made wheelchair navigation difficult, and poor access to stores and restaurants.

“The seashells are charming, but they’re a nightmare for people in wheelchairs. Even pushing a baby stroller on that surface is difficult,” Mr. Murphy in an interview with the Enterprise.

Now, 14 years later, Mr. Murphy claims no action had been taken, and the situation for the disabled has not improved at Popponesset Marketplace.

According to a complaint filed by Attorney Nicholas S. Guerrera with the United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, in August 2009 Mr. Murphy visited the marketplace to meet friends at The Raw Bar and had difficulty parking and entering the building.

The court document states that “a wheelchair user cannot navigate the crushed seashell surface of the parking lot without assistance from someone pushing it,” and that “the doorway to nearly every shop and restaurant in the marketplace has a raised threshold such that a person in a wheelchair could not cross over it independently.”

According to the complaint, the goal of the lawsuit is to “order the defendant to alter the Popponesset Marketplace by bringing it into full compliance with the [federal guidelines], including the parking areas, general function areas, public restrooms, transactional counters, and all other amenities installed for the use of the general public, including walkways, ramps, and all public entrances as well as the stairs and corridors, to make the Marketplace readily accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities to the extent required by the Americans with Disabilities Act…”

Mr. Murphy said, “I’m not a litigious person. The closing of the marketplace is the last thing I want to happen. It breaks my heart, and I feel for the shopkeepers, but the management has not been reactive. They do not have to take this route.”

According to Mr. Murphy, a proposed solution by the marketplace was developed to satisfy his individual needs, which Mr. Murphy claims were mistakenly “only about getting me into the Raw Bar” but did not address the needs of the entire disabled population.

“It’s not just about me,” said Mr. Murphy.

A counter proposal to make all shops, restaurants, and common areas accessible to the disabled was offered by Mr. Murphy’s attorney.

“It was totally ignored, and we were pretty much told to take it or leave it,” added Mr. Murphy. “The marketplace may as well hang a sign outside that says ‘No Disabled Allowed.’ It’s just wrong.”

Despite the lawsuit and controversy, Mr. Murphy looks forward to returning to Popponesset again this summer.

13 Responses to "Facing A Lawsuit, Future Of Poppy Marketplace In Jeopardy"

  1. This is absolutely absurd. Mr. Murphy single-handedly destroyed the summertime community of Popponesset. I have spent nearly all summer for my entire life in New Seabury and spend the time entirely on the beach and at the marketplace. After the initial collapse of the small businesses and the hardships on the owners, I guarantee there will be a noticeable increase in kids running around town causing trouble. That is one of the few places kids can go to hang out and such. Although it is unfortunate that the area is not handicap accessible, I feel that Mr. Murphy made a very selfish decision in order to get his way. Closing a historic and vital part of a community is not the way to get the results you want. A deal of some sort could have been made (if you keep in contact and persist, they can't ignore you. Writing a letter and waiting 14 years to file a lawsuit is not the best way to get something done.) I truly hope this can be worked out quickly, hopefully before summer starts and Mr. Murphy realizes what a mistake he has made.

  2. This is a terrible situation. Have the parties involved considered how this effects the homeowners in the area? I recently purchased a home and we're in the process of trying to sell our original property in the area. We made the decision to stay there partly because of the marketplace. We bought in the area because of what's there for our family to do. Accessibility is a serious concern but not at the expense of others. I can not understand why reasonable accomadations by both parties could not be arranged. Did anyone consider asking the neigboring home owners to help with accomadations? My brother is deaf and has Down Syndrome. Balance, safety & accessibility is always a concern but it doesn't replace common sense. I have great sympathy for people with disabilities but I do not think this helps anyone. Life is hard for lots of people. Creating financial hardships is not a way to endear people to your cause. We have worked very hard to afford our summer home and I'm sickened that this will bring down the value of my home. If these parties can't work this out why not let the residents try and organize a comprimise?

  3. What a shame, one man couldn't deal with not going to a strip mall. How wonderful it is that he is closing my childhood memories, my kids will just have to miss out.

  4. We were married at the Inn 10 years ago, our rehearsal dinner was at the Meeting House in the Marketplace. We return annually and now bring our children. It is heartbreaking on all accounts to read this article. We are compassionate and understanding of the rights of all people to have accessability. It is terrible that an agreement cannot be reached or that accomodations to the buildings cannot be made. The Marketplace always feels like it is from a lost era. It will be such a loss to the entire community to see it close.

  5. I don't think it really matters if this place has a lot of memories for everyone. It holds the same for Mr. Murphy and other persons with disabilities as well. The fact is this marketplace is not in compliance with the law, and the management should not be allowed to run their business "as is" because it is a quaint location. I have also spent summer vacation time in the area and love this place, but feel the talent of contractors and retail designers can make this compliant and retain the Cape charm. To the owners and management: Get going and stop threatening to close the place down to catch people's emotions for your publicity and support.

  6. Perhaps the folks complaining should spend some time in a wheelchair. You should thank your blessings instead of begrudge people in wheelchairs for enjoying access to the same place you enjoy. The request was made in 1997 and here we are in 2011 and nothing was done. Mr. Murphy is not the bad guy, the property owners are the bad guys!

  7. You have to think about this from multiple perspectives. There is nothing for kids to do in Mashpee except go to the beach, fish, and go to the Market Place. Shutting down the Market Place will 1) Give us next to nothing to do. 2) Leave more room for mischief. 3) Give no one an escape from their families (don't take that the wrong way, I love my family). 4) Kids will bother their parents more because they have nothing to do. 5)The parents can't send their kids to the safe General Store to pick up the newspaper, or breakfast. Which my Grandfather and I used to do many times, God rest his soul.

  8. Some of you commenting on here are incredibly void of compassion or empathy. I was at the Marketplace yesterday. How difficult is it to put a path down between the broken shells for a wheelchair? What about a ramp of some type to enter the stores? I doubt it would cost a fortune unless the contractors were out to exploit. Dan Murphy has every right to go there and move around freely. He gave the owners so much time and he isn't looking to close down the place. Why don't some of the the wealthy owners contribute and help the owners retrofit the place? I’m sure there are plenty of them after looking at those homes. Thank your lucky stars to not be in the position Mr. Murphy is in and open up your hearts for goodness sakes.

  9. This is Farrelly Brothers Time! They summered there and are friends with Danny Murphy and Bobby at the Rawbar. Both have appeared in movies and now is the perfect time for a movie about the a rich guy (Christopher Burden) that won't part with his money. Call the movie FatCat, with the story line set in a place of summer memories that was shuttered because a rich FatCat wouldn't do the right thing in a community where he has made milions and millions and millions of dollars. Call me if you want the rest of the script, I can even help find the perfect actors and extras.......as there will be plenty of families now looking for something to do. I've been to that Marketplace hundreds of times over many years, my kids have been there hundreds of times and all this time the Fat Cat has done nothing to improve the place....nothing. What a shame to have this be your legacy Mr Burden!

  10. Mr. Burden is simply pulling on the local's emotions in hopes of getting free money to make his business compliant. I say call his bluff, and hope for a new owner who is not going to ruin this great place. Stop patronizing the current tenants since they are in this with him in avoiding the laws set for equal access to all.

  11. I agree that the property could be made largely compliant for short money simply by paving the walkways and removing/leveling the thresholds to the stores. I have enjoyed the marketplace as a summer visitor and a convenient place to take the kids for some pizza and fun, but I have also noticed that the property is not very well maintainted and I haven't seen any improvements made in the 15 or so years I have been visiting. Appears to me that the owner is simply milking the operation and perhaps simply taking this opportunity to shut down and sell rather than put some money into the property.

  12. Christopher Burden has no interest in making this place compliant folks. You are all missing the point. He has sold all the property he owned around New Seabury and this is a convenient excuse for selling this plot of land for some more condo's. The marketplace rents don't pay nearly as much as the windfall he will get from stealing the candy store from the kids. Danny Murphy is a scapegoat to his additional riches..................what a great man, using a guy in a wheelchair as an excuse to cash out.

  13. What a shame, I am vacationing in New Seabury right now and just found out about this situation. If the marketplace does close this will be my first and last time vacationing in this area. Before reading about this situation my wife and I had already said we would come back in 2012 and rent the same house for two weeks but without the marketplace we will be searching someplace else on the cape for our vacation. What a shame, this area and the marketplace really has a great Cape Cod feel to it. Well, off to the marketplace to buy some souveniers that I guess will be collectibles started next year.

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