The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) is expected to vote tonight on an application by the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to create additional parking on two lots at the rear of the hospital complex off Eastville Avenue.
On February 10, the MVC held a public hearing on the hospital’s plan to add 71 employee parking spaces. Last week, the MVC’s advisory land-use planning committee, recommended unanimously the commission approve the proposal with several changes intended to minimize the effect on neighboring properties.
The hospital has agreed to maintain screening vegetation, erect fencing, create specialized traps for rainwater runoff, and minimize lighting, and add motion detectors.
The hospital would create 47 new parking spaces on a strip of overgrown property it purchased several years ago off Eastville Avenue that runs alongside the back hospital entrance road. It would create 24 spaces on a dusty back lot now used informally for parking that abuts the hospital’s helicopter landing pad.
In emails to the MVC and the hospital following the Feb. 10 public hearing, neighbors expressed appreciation for the hospital’s willingness to accept conditions of approval that include high cedar fencing and low-impact lights.
The one point of disagreement was the height of the fence along Eastville avenue. In an email to the MVC, Catherine and David Gross, writing on behalf of the family of Anne Gordon, owners of 83 Eastville Avenue, requested the fence be eight feet.
The commission members had no problem with a high fence between the hospital and back property but balked when it came to the roadway.
“Linda Sibley [member at large]said that a high fence along Eastville Avenue might be a benefit to Mr. Gross but it would not be a public benefit,” read the LUPC meeting minutes. “The MVC should not require that the fence be so high as to ensure that Mr. Gross does not see the parking lot at all; dealing with the impact on this public road by making sure the lot is appropriately screened and as attractive as it can be will accommodate him to some extent. She would prefer a 6-foot fence at the sides and the back, stepping down towards the public way. They should plant more bushes in the front. Other Commissioners concurred that a high fence along Eastville Avenue would be inappropriate.”
The MVC staff has recommended that the portion of the fence along Eastville Avenue be no higher than four feet in keeping with MVC policies.
Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, said this year the hospital would spend approximately $150,000 to lease the parking lot at the nearby Portuguese American club and provide bus and taxi shuttle service for employees.
He said the lack of parking has been an inconvenience for employees. “The staff has been really patient,” Mr. Walsh said. “The P-A lot is tough in the winter.”
Approval of the parking plan would represent the last step in a long regulatory minuet that began more than four years ago. Following a marathon review process, in December 2006 the MVC approved the construction of a new hospital with 68 conditions. Some of them required that hospital leaders return to the MVC with specific plans for separate approvals, for example the plan for signage, landscaping, and a plan to provide 60 additional parking spaces either on-, or off-site.
Last May, with the new hospital poised to open, the commission agreed that the hospital’s use of the P-A parking lot satisfied the final condition of MVC approval in order that the Island’s powerful regional permitting body could issue a certificate of compliance, needed before Oak Bluffs could issue an occupancy permit.
Approval did not remove the need for additional parking. At one point, the hospital considered creating a 106 space parking lot on an approximately 1.7-acre wooded lot set behind the State Police barracks and bordered by Eastville Avenue and Temahigan Avenue, owned by the state Department of Mental Health, across from the old hospital emergency room entrance. The hospital nixed the deal when it appeared state regulations and zoning hurdles would prove difficult.
A vote tonight to approve the parking plan would complete a permitting process that began almost five years ago with the hospital’s referral to the commission as a development of regional impact (DRI).
“I’m thrilled to have it almost done,” Mr. Walsh said. “It’s the last piece in creating a new hospital.”