Second large development planned in Arts District
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) will hear more on August 28 about a nine-unit condominium housing project proposed for 114 and 116 Dukes County Avenue, when a public hearing is scheduled to resume.
Donald Muckerheide has submitted plans for a three-story modular construction project with unusual restrictions against short-term rentals. The property, once a farm, has been used since 1978 for various automotive businesses, a furniture store, and an antique shop.
The 9,164-gross-square-foot building would sit on two parcels totaling slightly more than one-quarter acre. It would include 21 onsite parking spaces. Though his plans remain in flux and he has declined to submit specific design drawings requested by the commission, Mr. Muckerheide says he intends to build with a "green process." He is considering energy-efficient building standards, solar energy components, and a rainwater collection system.
The August 7 portion of the Martha's Vineyard Commission public hearing grew confrontational at times. Mr. Muckerheide has been a persistent critic of the commission. "I'm confrontational," said Mr. Muckerheide in a phone conversation with The Times yesterday. "As far as I'm concerned, the commission shouldn't exist. They don't do regional planning, they do nitpicking on individual projects. I was trying to give them a market-based, but without rental capability, project. In other words, a residential project, and see if they can comprehend that."
After their first look at the project documentation and model, commissioners sent Mr. Muckerheide a long list of questions and requests. "A lot of them were pretty dumb," said Mr. Muckerheide.
Among the commission's requests were professionally drawn site and architectural plans. Among the key issues listed for consideration in the staff report are "the impacts derived from the fact that the proposal is significantly larger in mass and scale than most buildings in the neighborhood." The staff report says "the proposed new building will appear to be significantly larger in scale than the existing neighborhood context (and larger than the recently approved individual Bradley Square buildings." Mr. Muckerheide said the building meets all height and setback requirements, according to town zoning laws.
Mr. Muckerheide, among others, was a vocal opponent of the controversial Bradley Square project, which included three 2.5-story buildings with two market-rate and nine affordable housing units, as well as a community center and an office. The gross area of the Bradley Square proposal is 13,548 square feet, in three buildings on slightly more than four tenths of an acre.
People involved in the review process have expressed puzzlement that there has been very little opposition from the neighborhood residents who waged an organized campaign to stop the Bradley Square project. That battle escalated the friction between longtime residents and arts-oriented businesses that have established an unofficial arts district in recent years.
Allison Shaw, a well-known photographer who owns a gallery near the project proposed by Mr. Muckerheide, is among those concerned about the review process.
"I am certainly not opposed to the project," said Ms. Shaw. "Certainly it would be a great improvement over what's there. I'm just hoping that sufficient time and thought goes into the architectural plans, the landscape plans, the execution of the project."
Pat Manning, executive director of the Island Affordable Housing Fund, which co-sponsored the Bradley Square project, spoke at the previous public hearing. In a conversation with The Times yesterday, he questioned whether the project as proposed will be affordable to average Island residents, or meet the standards of energy efficient building. "I asked the commission to at least afford Mr. Muckerheide the same scrutiny that Bradley Square went through, that cost the nonprofits tens of thousands of dollars to comply with the requests of the Martha's Vineyard Commission."
Mr. Manning said his organization is willing to help any applicant meet affordable housing standards, but urged the commission not to approve the project because of claims that it is green or affordable. "It is neither," he said.
Mr. Muckerheide says the two projects are not comparable in terms of regional impact. He contends that events at the Bradley Square community center, and the artist "live/work" spaces will strain already limited parking throughout the neighborhood.
"I'm doing housing," said Mr. Muckerheide. "They're doing housing, commercial, and a function hall. There's not even a comparable amount of traffic involved. I have more than enough parking. Any commercial enterprise I've had in the past, or would have in the future, would generate more traffic."
While the project, as it stands, does not trigger the commission's affordable housing guidelines, because it has fewer than ten units, Mr. Muckerheide said his goal is to sell the units at 120 percent to 150 percent of Dukes County average median income guidelines. The project incorporates a position Mr. Muckerheide has long advocated, that weekly rental income drives up property values and unfairly penalizes those who don't rent out their homes. He contends that a condo association prohibition on weekly rentals in his proposal will make the units less valuable, and therefore affordable.
"Based on their questions, they (commissioners) don't understand the concept of the reduction in the value," said Mr. Muckerheide. "I tried to get them to discuss that concept."
The Martha's Vineyard Commission staff report also noted that Mr. Muckerheide recently cut down a significant mature tree, despite the commission's moratorium on changes while it reviews the project.
"I didn't know that that was an absolute by any means," said Mr. Muckerheide. "Shame on me."