MVC approves Edgartown lofts project

MVC approves Edgartown lofts project

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Charles Hajjar, of Haven Road Realty Trust, is proposing to construct ten apartments in the existing second floor attic space in Post Office Square. — Photo by Michelle Gross

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) Thursday voted 8-2 to approve a plan by Boston based developer Charles Hajjar to build a total of eight second story apartments in the Post Office Square complex in Edgartown.

The vote on the development of regional impact (DRI) came at the conclusion of the MVC’s second public hearing on a project that had raised objections from neighborhood critics who cited concerns about increased parking problems, traffic, and late night noise.

At the MVC’s first public hearing on the project, Mr. Hajjar presented a plan for ten apartments with a total of 20 bedrooms. Thursday night, Mr. Hajjar presented a revised proposal to build 8 apartments with a total of 15 bedrooms. He also included a 25 percent reduction in the scope of the overall project,  limitations on tenant parking, a revised landscaping and parking plan, a change from exterior to interior stairways and a condition that the units could not be sold or transferred for a period of 10 years.

“This is the right place for this development,” said attorney Sean Murphy, Mr. Hajjar’s representative. “I know people aren’t happy about it, but it’s the right place, we have limited ability to provide multi-family housing on the Vineyard and these structures are already there, all we have to do is dormer them out.”

The complex is located in the town’s BII business district and abuts the Dark Woods neighborhood and the Edgartown Park & Ride lot. Mr. Murphy said the changes to the proposal were a direct result of the April 3rd hearing.

“We listened to what direct abutters and neighbors had to say about it and the concerns that were raised,” Mr. Murphy said.

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. The apartments will be built above the existing businesses.

Commissioners cite housing need

Throughout Thursday’s hearing, commissioners noted the need for affordable year-round housing on the Island.

“If you’re telling us that the reason we should approve is that we’re creating rental apartments that are sorely needed on the Island on the one hand but then say we’re only going to make them rental apartments for five years, to me, that undercuts your other argument,” commissioner Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs said.

Mr.  Hajjar, who did not attend the first public hearing but was present Thursday night, responded. “I’ve never turned a building condo and I’ve never sold a unit,” he said. “I’m in the real estate business for the long term, we take real good care of our property, we make sure we put the right tenants in, and we manage real well.”

Commissioner John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs asked Mr. Hajjar to define primary residence. “The market is a year-round, 12-month lease,” Mr. Murphy said. “I know you’re worried about enforcement, I understand that, but you have to have some faith that when he [Mr. Hajjar] rents these things, they’re going to be to the right people.”

Commissioner Linda Sibley of West Tisbury noted the benefits and detriments of traffic and parking in the area. “I think there are some obvious problems which we might describe as mixing a sort of urban concept with a nearby neighborhood,” she said. “It’s difficult that these two things are so close to each other, but I actually think that this is the right place.”

Ms. Sibley reiterated what she called an “extreme need” for additional workforce housing on the Island. “The need for this is outweighing the problems,” Ms. Sibley said.

No worse

Unlike the first hearing, few people spoke in opposition. Dan Seidman, representing the Dukes County Regional Housing Association, said there is a need for affordable housing on the Island.

“It would be really nice if the person who had this plan would designate two units, three units to affordable housing, that’s where we have the maximum need on this Island,” Mr. Seidman said. “The problem is there will be people who won’t be able to afford it.”

Edgartown resident Harriet Hoar asked Mr. Murphy for more information on apartment rents.

“I can’t give an actual definition because it’s driven by the market,” Mr. Murphy said. “We anticipate $1,500-$1,700, it depends on what people are willing to pay.”

Edgartown resident Gregory Palermo addressed potential traffic issues in the area. “I think that this project has the potential to have a lot bigger impact on the traffic problems than is being considered,” he said. “Everyone agrees that it’s a nightmare, I think that this project will make a nightmare worse and I urge you all to turn it down.”

Edgartown resident Alice Upham said she has lived in town for 24 years and every year traffic only seems to get worse. “I just don’t want to see this go through,” she said. “I hope you vote it down.”

In his closing statement, Mr. Murphy addressed traffic, parking, and the need for housing on the Island. “We keep hearing about the traffic,  and I agree the traffic is horrible in that area, but these apartments are not going to make it any better or any worse,” he said.

The Edgartown planning board had 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 MVC approved the project with no conditions.

Voting for the project were Tripp Barnes of Tisbury, James Joyce of Edgartown, Douglas Sederholm of Chilmark, John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs, Christina Brown of Edgartown, Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs, Linda Sibley of West Tisbury and Brian Smith of West Tisbury. Madeline Fisher of Edgartown and Lenny Jason of Chilmark voted no.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Edgartown lofts project developer Charles Hajjar, planned to construct 15 apartments. Mr. Hajjar will construct 8 apartments for a total of 15 bedrooms.


  1. I supported this until I read it would be $1500-$1700/month. That is absolutely absurd price for a year round rental – double some peoples monthly mortgage payments.

    1. You are right. That price will mean at least 3 working adults in each apartment, if not 4.
      What a terrible decision for Edgartown.. Someone got perks on this one!

      1. My recollection from my early twenties is that many of my co-workers teamed up cover rent, two or three sharing an apartment or condo was not uncommon. Other found accommodations they could afford on their own. It’s a balance between cost and acceptable lifestyle.

        As for apartments over stores, my experience is minimal conflict with parking. When the stores need the parking, young renters have driven their cars to work. The renters mostly need parking when stores are closed. And in the case of young renters who cannot afford both a car and an apartment, the car gets sold when reality sinks in.

        This location could be acceptable for a tourist rental. The year after I split with a girlfriend, she rented my favorite vacation spot. Much like my co-workers above, I would have considered my vacation needs. The complication for the landlord would be the maintenance between tenants … and keeping the units occupied.

    2. if you can find a brand new 2 or 3 bedroom apartment for less than $1700 a month please let us know! There are hundreds of islanders who would grab it in a second.

      1. Forget the apartment! I want to know where you can get a mortgage for half of $1500! And no, I have no way of transporting back to 1995…

    3. That is below market rate. Time to realize what your president has done to the value of the dollar. This has nothing to do with Martha’s Vineyard. Problem is people from off island will now be moving in to these units. Pretty cheap rent to have a summer home out here. $18,000 a year for a close to town, restaurant, DQ pharmacy and supermarket walk? if 2bottlechuck stopped typing online comments and filled out a rental application he might just get a good deal.

      1. I’d take one. My family comes and visits and spends $350-$450 a night for a hotel room and if they sleep on my counch the’d pay me $500 toward my rental. That’s a win win. But I am sure I’ll still find something to bitch and complain about because I live on island.

      2. Right because rents were reasonable here in 2000? Give me a break…the cost of housing here has little to do with the current administration.

        1. Ha, I agree with you Ken but it should make those that blame Bush on the worlds ill’s how silly it is to blame the administration for everything microeconomic woe.
          Truth is this rent is not that bad. I think for a couple that has a $400,000 home on the island and are in their retirement years might consider selling that home (to a new younger in need of housing family) and move into an “affordable” rental near town. some might think rents are high here but I feel they are within and even lower some rentals on the island.

          1. That’s not an affordable rent for anyone making under about 75,000/year. If more than 25% of your take-home pay is going to rent there’s not much of a chance to save. Also, there’s no tax break for renters like the one given to homebuyers on mortgage interest.

            A $400,000 house in Edgartown doesn’t really exist unless you want a shack that hasn’t received any upkeep for at least 20 years. Starter homes around here are $500K+. This problem is also getting worse as more and more properties are being converted to seasonal-rental styles (no heat, no/few closets, etc.). Then there’s also the problem of many builders now charging upwards of $450/sq. ft. to build.

            It really is time to find a developer willing to build affordable housing and sell/give them some land with strict stipulations attached. I’m not talking section 8 housing…just affordable homes/townhomes that younger year-round residents could afford.

          2. No, a developer given the opportunity to develop higher density housing than they otherwise would be allowed in exchange for lower cost/affordable housing This isn’t a new concept.

          3. i don’t think it’s really been done here much yet, has it? Are you suggesting apartment (high rise) buildings in apartment communities? Kinda like on the Cape?

          4. Yes, I was thinking something like Coop City in NY. We could pack 50,000 people in a number of high rises. That would take the attention away from the utility poles.
            Seriously, a tract of land…say 5 acres that would normally allow for somewhere between 5 and 10 homes in Edgartown could be rezoned (with stipulations) and allow for either townhomes/zero lot lines or smaller lot sizes and be suitable for 20 – 30 homes. It takes work and there are issues that have to be dealt with like impact on schools, roads, water, sewage, etc., but if a community is serious about having available, affordable year-round homes this type of thing has been done many, many times in many different places.

          5. I see what you mean. Mixed feelings. It’s just that the zoning is so things don’t get overcrowded, like we are now. This just makes it more overcrowded and drops property values so that our schools have less of a budget. You might lose what you gain. The idea isn’t to turn the island into some sort of Fall RIvery or New Bedfordy spot, but rather keep it more suburban/rural.

          6. I understand, but I’m suggesting is pretty small in comparison to the population of Edgartown. 30 homes = ~120 people. Without this type of thing we eventually reach a tipping point where we have almost no housing for teachers, police, fire, service workers and even middle class families get squeezed out. It all becomes seasonal rental stuff. It’s just a thought. It can be done well, but it takes a lot of planning to do it right.

          7. Ken, you’re thinking a one breadwinner in the family. Many people who are currently searching (check the facebook for islanders who are looking to rent) are dual incomes. Some are DINKS and some do have kids. A $400,000 house in Edgartown might be low but they are out there. Don’t forget that along the number streets off of Edgartown VH road is populated by many under the average of $500,000. I am also not just talking about Edgartown houses but island wide.

          8. At this time there are no homes (single/multi) available under $400,000 in Edgartown and there three below $500,000. There are some in Oak Bluffs,but the property tax rate there is nearly double that of Edgartown.
            In most parts of the country $400,000 isn’t really considered affordable housing.

          9. Just push out the retired/elderly from their homes to make room for younger people? There’s something wrong with you. Next thing you know, someone will suggest they be “put down”, you know, so young folks can take whatever it is the older generation worked hard for. I’m afraid you are going to have to wait until the old people die of natural causes before the vultures can come in.

          10. Who am I suggesting be pushed out? That’s happening now… As property values skyrocket so does the tax bill. I was suggesting new family friendly development.

          11. I agree with you. I was replying to this brilliant suggestion written by friendofthewife: “I think for a couple that has a $400,000 home on the island and are in their retirement years might consider selling that home (to a new younger in need of housing family) and move into an “affordable” rental near town”.

          12. Dear Ignorant femptyhal. Who’s talking about pushing anyone out of their home. Many elderly have to much house for just one or two of them. Just because you’re not up on current situations where people live longer and can’t afford their homes and WANT to move into more modest living doesn’t mean the rest are not thinking that. Many are. No vultures, just life. People want to move when the house they’re in is not being maintained and a reverse mortgage is not the best option for them. Save your self righteous word twisting posts for someone that doesn’t write back.

          13. …”to much house”. Lol, on so many ignorant levels. But in all seriousness, the sense of self-entitlement you expose is just wrong. Very few elderly want to move, and they sure don’t like to think about the waiting vultures who are so ready to tell them what they need and want in life. You want a house you can afford? Work for it without displacing anyone. That is all you are entitled to, my friend. Everything else that comes your way beyond what you can afford is charity, and not up to you to say you are entitled to it. If you can’t afford to live here, leave. KenEsq has the right idea on affordable housing, but until some money going to questionable land conservation efforts is funneled more toward AH, I don’t consider the island serious about the housing issue at all. Land conservation is planning on taking up a lot more usable space than Grandma.

      3. 1. I never mentioned I needed an apartment.
        2. Market rate is about $1400/month for a year round rental house
        3. “Might just get a good deal….” Again, $1700/month is NOT a good deal.
        4. Unless this is Section 8 housing your rental application will not reduce the rental cost.
        5. Glad to hear you admit this isn’t to benefit islanders

  2. Whats up with the 10 year limit before they can be sold. It should be indefinite. Look like they could be converted to condos after 10 years.

      1. I thought condo units were being sold all over Edgartown.Especially downtown.

  3. this article doesn’t mention how this developer is actively buying up large quantities of property in the 300-500,000 range.. pushing young working families out of the market. I was in two bidding wars with him until I finally landed my new home. He is then turning around and renting year round but at very high rents.

  4. “Affordable,” even for our work force, depends upon how many people can be crammed into a unit and how many trucks can be crammed into the parking lot. I am dismayed that the MVC came to a decision after only two public hearings, knowing that many of our year-round and seasonal residents are just becoming aware of the project. I understand that the Commissioners are weary after the many VH Stop & Shop hearings, but I believe they’ve given this public discussion very short shrift.

    We need SAFE and truly affordable housing, parking and transport on Martha’s Vineyard, NOT the “Edgartown Lofts” project at “Four Flags” that the MVC has just approved. Please, Edgartown voters and residents, monitor the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings to follow.

  5. How about letting go of the flying trapped tenants that occupy the space now? I’m I the only one that sees the birds?