The Edgartown planning board continued the public hearing on a proposal to build loft apartments in the triangle business area to a third session, following nearly two hours of testimony, almost all of it read, before a packed meeting room, at its regular meeting Tuesday evening.
Nearly the entire session consisted of the planning board members, reading dozens of letters and emails, some of them as much as a year old, aloud into the public record. Most of the letters read Tuesday were in opposition to the project planned by developer Charles Hajjar.
Approved by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission on May 9, the plan includes eight rental units, with a total of 15 bedrooms, in the second floor attic space of the two buildings which house the U.S. Post Office, banks, and other businesses. The developer plans to reconfigure the parking lot to increase the number of spaces from 69 to 83, including four handicapped parking spaces.
Among the letters read aloud Tuesday was one written by Diane Smith of Chilmark.
“Many of us remain extremely concerned about the proposed Edgartown loft apartments at the already congested triangle area, for reasons of both safety and sanity,” Ms. Smith wrote in the letter read aloud by planning board member Alan Wilson. “We need more planning from our planning boards and fewer knee-jerk reactions.”
Ms. Smith directed criticism at Mr. Hajjar, and his attorney, Edgartown attorney Sean Murphy. She accused them of making several changes in the project plans.
“From the very beginning, also, the applicant and his attorney, Sean Murphy, have played a game of bait-and-switch with the public, feigning concern for the community and snowing us with pretty pictures and interminably long and repetitive presentations which seem to get twisted just a little bit more every time. Mr. Hajjar and his attorney may have flim-flammed the M.V. Commision and the Edgartown planning board, but they can’t flim-flam us if we all speak up, and out, together.”
Mr. Murphy took exception to the letter, which he said was part of an organized letter writing campaign. He said the project has remained consistent from the beginning. “I have no problem with anybody opposing this project,” he said. “That’s how democracy works. I do have a problem being called a flim-flam artist and bait-and-switch and a whole other host of issues from a woman up in Chilmark looking down on us from Bumblebee Hill, who flipped her house for $300,000 in Edgartown and moved up to Chilmark. Now she’s going to give this planning board a lecture about flim-flam and bait-and-switch. I find it personally offensive, and I think my client finds it offensive at well.”
The public hearing is scheduled to resume on Thursday, July 24 at 5:30 pm. Planning board chairman Fred Mascolo said new letters and new testimony will be allowed, before the board votes on the application.