MVC review of Edgartown lofts project highlights traffic issues

MVC review of Edgartown lofts project highlights traffic issues

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Architect Charles Orlando presented structural plans for Edgartown lofts at a MVC public hearing Thursday night.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) held its first public hearing on the Edgartown lofts project Thursday before a room full of mostly neighborhood critics, who cited concerns about increased parking problems, traffic, and late night noise.

Boston based developer and seasonal Oak Bluffs resident Charles Hajjar proposes to build one three-bedroom apartment, eight two-bedroom apartments, and one one-bedroom apartment, a total of 20 bedrooms in the loft space of the Post Office Square complex, which now houses the Edgartown Post Office and several businesses.

The plan includes a reconfigured parking lot that would add 15 parking spots. The complex is located in the town’s BII business district and abuts the Dark Woods neighborhood and the Edgartown Park & Ride lot.

The MVC has scheduled a second public hearing on April 17.

Year-round rentals

The apartments are intended to be “reasonably priced” year-round rentals, Sean Murphy, an Edgartown lawyer representing Mr. Hajjar, told the commissioners Thursday night.

“What he does is apartment rentals,” Mr. Murphy told commissioners. “He doesn’t do high-end luxury housing, he doesn’t do condos, he just does apartments. The reason he chose this location, while it certainly has drawbacks, because of traffic and parking, is because of the smart growth principles that everybody stresses out here.”

Project engineer George Sourati of Vineyard Haven based Sourati Engineering Group, discussed the redesign of the Post Office Square parking lot.

“It’s a great improvement over the existing conditions,” Mr. Sourati said. “We’re getting 15 spaces, it’s a much safer parking lot. It works.”

Architect Charles Orlando presented commissioners with draft elevations and hand-drawn designs of the lofts and the lot.

The height of the structure will remain the same, and the apartments will be separated by “dormers” or wall separators, Mr. Orlando said. The proposal also includes planting 10 14-foot trees to mask two new exterior sets of stairs.

“The units are quite nice. They range from 900 to 1,400 square feet; they’re quite large,” Mr. Orlando said. “There’s going to be more insulation and more sound proofing between the retail space below and the housing units above.”

There are a total of 16 business units in the Post Office Square complex. Edgartown Meat & Fish and Granite Hardware operate in two of the buildings.

MVC, planning board views

Throughout the presentation, commissioners asked few questions.

Commissioner John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs asked if there would be a space for children to play.

“We don’t anticipate children,” Mr. Murphy said. He said the complex isn’t family oriented. “We do not anticipate families. We anticipate younger couples. There’s not outdoor space here; it’s not really family oriented.”

Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs asked about subletting restrictions on the year-round rentals.

Mr. Murphy said management would be onsite regularly. “If you rent from him (Mr. Hajjar) that’s it, there no subletting, you’re the tenant.”

Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, MVC hearing chairman, questioned how much space existed between the complex and Dark Woods Road.

Trip Barnes of Tisbury asked if the apartments might later become condos and be sold. The answer was no.

The Edgartown planning board has strongly endorsed the project.  In a letter to the MVC dated June 24, 2013, the planning board asked the MVC to waive a mandatory traffic study, stating that an earlier study was sufficient and that town boards were more than capable of reviewing the project and attaching conditions.

The planning board has come under fire from opponents of the project, a fact that planning board chairman Robert Sparks noted in his comments.

“We are elected public officials, we give our time, our expertise at no compensation, and two of the letters in your packet are from people complaining about the board and call us at best unprofessional and at worst probably criminal and that we make decisions on the planning board based upon a sliding scale of chumminess with people that come before our board,” Mr. Sparks said. “Just so everybody knows, none of us has ever met Mr. Hajjar before he applied. We do our job, based on what we think is best and what is in the best interest of the town, and we thank you for going over this. We have lot to say about traffic, but I just wanted the board to hear that, because frankly, I find it outrageous. So far this year we’ve been called Nazis, communists, murderers, and now we’re corrupt public officials.”

Edgartown planning board member Michael McCourt noted that Post Office Square business owners support the project.

“I do have some questions on the parking situation. That is a concern of all of us, especially when we live in Edgartown,” Mr. McCourt said. “In hindsight, if this plan has been approved by the businesses in the triangle, they know their businesses better than I, and if they feel this parking plan is good, then I’m all for it.”

Lofty objections

Several abutters spoke about the existing congestion at The Triangle, where traffic from Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven merge to enter downtown Edgartown, as well as the regulation of the public lot.

Fred Roven, whose real estate office is located on the north side of Mariners Way, said parking was among his biggest concerns.

“I’m concerned about a number of things, but one has to do with the nature of the parking in the current area,” Mr. Roven said. “Most of it is short term parking.”

Kevin Ryan of Edgartown had many concerns. “I have such a long list, I’ll try and keep it to the five things I’m most concerned about,” Mr. Ryan said. “I’m here just because none of this project makes sense to me as somebody that lives in, drives through, and utilizes these areas in Edgartown.”

Mr. Ryan’s concerns centered around the parking lot.

“It is short term parking already,” Mr. Ryan said. “I really have an issue with the idea that we only need to add 14 spaces. It’s unrealistic, and I think it’s crazy to think that that’s going to solve the problem.”

Mr. Ryan also recommended that snow removal be a requirement in the lot.

“Snow removal should be a requirement,” Mr. Ryan said. “The owner should have to be responsible for having the snow removed from the site going forward.”

Abutter Dianne Smith also expressed concern about the lot. “My concern, aside from the issue of enforcement, is that there is no way to really enforce parking, traffic, or anything else in this lot with regard to public officials, because this is a private lot,” Ms. Smith said. “And currently it’s not being very well taken care of by the current owner, who’s had it for a year.”

Jeff White, also an abutter, said the loft project is the right idea, but in the wrong location.

“I don’t think it’s the right place,” Mr. White said. “This area in Post Office Square is just too dense. The density of this area and the resulting congestion has already, in my opinion, exceeded acceptable levels.”

Mr. White implored commissioners to flesh the project out as thoroughly as possible. “We have the opportunity through this Martha’s Vineyard Commission DRI  process to control what happens, and I hope, and I encourage, the commission to look at all this data very carefully so that the best can be done for the most people.”

Fred Fournier, a landscape architect who is also an abutter to the project, said, “Its our neighborhood, and we’re concerned about it, and that’s why we’re here to discuss it.”

Mark Saccone, a direct abutter, took a diplomatic approach. “It’s impossible for me to say anything without sounding petty,” Mr. Saccone said. “This ends life as I know it for my house, it does. But if we’re very sure that the whole town is going to benefit from this, if we’re very, very certain, far be it for me to come off like some parochial jerk. I’m not that kind of person. But, I just want you to know that somebody does live back there, and I’ve been sitting here thinking, how do I go home and tell my wife that by her garden is going to be a sewer grinder pump station not five feet away?”

Comments

  1. This project will just make a bad situation worse. Can’t understand how the planning board could think this is a good idea.

  2. Mr Murphy says there won’t be any children because they anticipate renting these two bedroom apartments to “young couples”. Doesn’t he know where children come from? Maybe a lesson about the birds and the bees is in order.

    1. My parents rented a single bedroom apartment when they got married. When children arrived, there was incentive to find a bigger place with more bedrooms.

      1. But only one of these apartments is one-bedroom,almost all are two bedrooms. If you are a young couple with two bedrooms and a “reasonable rent” on this island, will there really be many better options than to stay? These apartments are the same size as my 3 bedroom house that I raised two children in.

        1. I don’t know how much you remember from when you first moved out. Many of my co-workers shared rentals with friends because at that point in our lives, pay sucked. A two bedroom unit would make sense. But honestly, I don’t know if that’s what they’re thinking.

  3. Are our commercial zones in such dire straits that we have to resort to putting apartments on top of stores. The building owners want more income and I guess the business isnt providing that. I hope zoning makes this impossible. not a good idea.

  4. As someone who goes to the post office in Edgartown daily, I can attest to the fact this is a horrible idea. There is barely parking in the off-season, let alone summer months. An additional 15 parking spots wouldn’t even be enough to account for apartment tenants. I may be mistaken, but I don’t think the landlord can prevent tenants with children. It’s discriminatory and his public statement has opened him up to future litigation for denying couple with a child or children. If the rent is really going to be “reasonable”, there are many struggling Vineyard families that would want to occupy these apartments even if they aren’t child friendly. I would be curious to know what this “reasonable” rent would be. I don’t think downtown Edgartown needs reasonable year-round apartments. The island has more need for affordable year-round apartment.

    1. This isn’t “downtown Edgartown” though “Downtown” could use some apartments too!

      1. I wonder that about the kids too. What if a couple rents an apartment and then has a baby? Do they get kicked out?

      2. Where would they park? The island needs more year-round affordable housing, but I don’t think in-town Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs or Edgartown are suitable. Logistically, parking would be a nightmare in any of these locations.

        1. The Town of Edgartown is proposing leasing some spots in the park and ride lot to business owners downtown to encourage their employees to park out of downtown Edgartown. Maybe the town could lease some spots to Mr Hajjar as well. $ for the town and parking for the tenants. Huh?

  5. OMG! Has anybody tried to find a rental lately???? We HAVE to start doing things like this and we HAVE to stop being so picky about where they are!!!! I only hope they don’t discriminate against families with children or pets. In the city there’s no place to play outside an apartment either. You walk or drive to the park. Lets make sure there’s a capital R in Reasonable Rent too please!!!!!

    1. Go to MV Housing rentals on Facebook and look at the long lists of people looking for housing!

      1. Thats because people rent to the tourists in the summer. Of course there isnt any housing. Maybe we need to bring back a campsite or two so everyone has a place to stay.

  6. There are several errors in this report, but I will correct only two: I am not an abutter; I lived in Edgartown (again, not as an abutter) for 40 years and served as an EMT, as well as a town board member. I was also misquoted in the article: “My concern, aside from the issue of SAFETY (which is, parenthetically, my primary concern) is enforcement…”

  7. I could rent every single one of these right now just to people I know who need housing…myself included. But everyone has to be opposed because it is change and as we have learned change is bad. Hopefully the big bad bowling alley will show people that it might be ok to have some new things out here. Is anyone who is opposed, for any reason, in need of a place to live? Just curious…

  8. This guy is just another Onceler. He’ll make his money and then never feel the negative affects. He’ll be in the Caribbean or something. If you want affordable housing you work with the IHT and maybe Habitat for Humanity. If you want congestion, bad traffic, and unsafe situations you do this. If it will be so great require him to live there.

    1. Everyone needs to address the housing issue here and I applaud any private citizen who wants to create more housing.

      1. What if we didn’t want more housing? What if we wanted more open land and more parking spots and more ability to drive on roads without traffic jams? What if we wanted this island to be more like it was before presidents started coming here every summer? We are already NYC all summer. We don’t need to keep inching towards it for the whole rest of the year too.

        1. Then you are someone who has a place to live already and not desperately searching for a home. For all I know you could be one of the people who, rather than work, chooses to rent what could be a housing solution for a hard working person during the summer and rent out your home for thousands of dollars a week, forcing other people to leave the island because they can’t find a home.

          1. You do realize nobody owes you a home, right? You do realize these rentals won’t make even a tiny dent in what you are talking about, and won’t be “affordable” and will add to horrid congestion, right?

        2. Well, there’s a big difference between what we want and reality sometimes. Believe me, I’d like it to back to how it was when I was a kid in the 60′s but it isn’t going to. I’m talking about affordable places to live for regular joe working people. We need it and I think it can be done not only in that spot but in others. I’m a year round island native with at least 14 generations of family behind me. I’m also a regular joe fortunate enough to own my own home. That doesn’t mean I can play nimby with my fellow regular joes.

          1. But this project is basically in everyone’s back yard. It’s like “Oh hey. Let’s take one of the most crowded places on the island and make it even more crowded”. There are certain places that really should not have more housing/cars added to it. This place. 5 corners. The roundabout. Bettlebung corner. Right near Our Market. The island will start being a place you can’t really go anywhere, and it already is in the summer time.

          2. Where on Martha’s Vineyard wouldn’t be in someone’s back yard? What if the traffic issue could be improved? Let’s not shoot it down before we know exactly what we could have. Lots of islanders are depending on it.

          3. No. Lots of islanders are hoping for it. But it will be only for about 30 or so people. Demand will be way higher than supply. If it works, great, but I have serious doubts that it will have more good than harm, or be “affordable”.

          4. No. They are depending on it. People who work year round jobs who need a year round home. every little bit helps. Helping 30 people is better than helping none. Maybe if this project works there will be more people encouraged to do more.

          5. I just don’t think supply will ever reach demand here, and if we try, especially in congested areas, we end up losing why we want to live here in the first place. I think of “depend” as something you can plan on. If 2000 people are planning on living in these 30 units….bad planning.

  9. I live in edgartown and have to navigate the nightmare that is the triangle daily in the summer. Even so, I am not opposed to this project. Using traffic and parking as an excuse to deny this project is shortsighted. Traffic at the triangle and parking problems need to be addressed by the town immediately, regardless of whether not this goes forward. We need to hire a traffic expert to come up with a plan to eliminate the bottleneck, whether it means adding turning lanes at Stop &Shop, or some other solutions. But its only going to get worse. Lets be proactive!

  10. I am curious, How are a few apartments going to drastically affect traffic at the triangle? Also if people weren’t afraid of a 1 min walk there is parking lot that sits empty most of the time they could park in.

  11. Attend the hearings and hear Mr. Murphy tell the Commission that Affordable Housing will be (at best) Affordable with a small “a”. This is not going to be affordable to every day workers in Edgartown or anywhere else

    1. That was obvious from the very beginning. Like he was ever going to leave money on the table after a huge project like this.

  12. Anyone who thinks these apartments will be “affordable” are not thinking at all. No one can get an answer as to how much the rents will be, and no answer if they can be made into condominiums and sold. No one has any information if there will be anything preventing those scenarios. Why? Questions have been asked, no answers given. No children? If this is to be a corporation or marketed by a broker, NOT allowed to exclude children!

    1. IMHO it’s pretty obvious at this point that he used the term “affordable” to get people’s hopes up and get support he didn’t deserve. I don’t believe he will leave money on the table if he can possibly avoid it.