Oak Bluffs checks off complaints about DRI checklist

Oak Bluffs selectmen moderated a long discussion on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) development of regional impact (DRI) checklist at their Tuesday meeting.

The draft checklist is a list of conditions that trigger mandatory or discretionary review by the powerful regional planning and regulatory agency. The commission is required to revise the checklist every two years.

Selectman Michael Santoro criticized the commission’s review process. He cited the Edgartown National Bank’s withdrawal of a proposed bank branch, retail, and affordable housing development at the now vacant site of the former Oyster Bar Grille on Circuit Avenue.

“As I watched that hearing, they got into anything and everything,” Mr. Santoro said. “It was very discouraging for the applicant, and I don’t blame them for pulling it back.”

Fred Hancock, the selectmen’s appointed representative to the MVC, said the agency has tried to respond to concerns, including increasing the 2,000 square footage threshold that triggers many reviews.

“With careful reading, you will find the down-Island towns are treated differently,” Mr. Hancock said. “Section 3.2 raises the possibility of raising the development trigger to 3,000 square feet in down-Island towns that have commercial zoning, if they are able to address certain concerns.”

He said in his three years on the MVC, the agency has not rejected any projects.

Businessmen Mark and Mike Wallace criticized the draft checklist, and the MVC review of their Dreamland Ballroom project, which was before the MVC for more than a year.

“As an applicant,” Mark Wallace said, “it is expensive, it downgrades the value of your real estate. It’s a wish list, not a regional impact list.”

Mr. Wallace said some property owners are now writing commercial leases that include a clause prohibiting the renter from taking any action that would require MVC review.

Also Tuesday, selectmen voted to continue taxing property at the same rate for all classes of real estate. Principal assessor Diane Wilson told selectmen that the tax rate will rise slightly, to reflect an increase in the town’s operating budget. She said owners of an average Oak Bluffs home, valued at $512,000, will see an increase of about $60 this year.