Tisbury ZBA takes red pen to Water Street apartment project

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The Tisbury zoning board of appeals met Tuesday. Board members from left: Neal Stiller, Michael Ciancio, Sue Fairbanks, chairman Jeff Kristal, administrative assistant Laura Barbera, attorney Ilana Quirk of Kopelman and Paige, and Island Housing Trust executive director Philippe Jordi. — Photo by Janet Hefler

The Island Housing Trust’s (IHT) proposed Water Street affordable-rental apartment building has stalled at the Tisbury zoning board of appeals (ZBA). Having opened the public hearing process on August 14 and closed it on Sept. 11, on Tuesday the ZBA voted to reopen it again and make a decision on Oct. 17.

Philippe Jordi, IHT executive director, said the delay for a project that has undergone thorough review is exasperating. “I just found it very frustrating and discouraging, frankly,” Mr. Jordi told The Times in a phone conversation yesterday. “All the support that we’ve received from town funding to town board support, and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s unanimous approval, is now being stalled. We’re over a few months now into this, and I have no idea how much longer we’re going to have to go before ultimately getting the approval we need.”

IHT proposes to build a two story, 3,600-sq.-ft. building on the site of an uninhabitable house at 6 Water Street in Vineyard Haven. There will be six 600-sq.-ft. apartments, three ground-floor units and three on the second floor, each with one bedroom and one bathroom. Since the building is located close to Vineyard Transit Authority service and the Steamship Authority, there would be no onsite parking, other than a spot for deliveries, pickups, and drop-offs.

On Tuesday, ZBA chairman Jeff Kristal led a discussion of possible conditions the board might impose on the project. In the course of a 45-minute discussion, the board raised issues about parking, the number of apartment units, the sidewalk in front of the property, and the impact of vibrations from truck traffic on Water Street on the building.

Sue Fairbanks said she thought six parking spaces should be provided onsite and dismissed the notion that tenants could park offsite at the Park and Ride lot, saying they would likely park illegally at the Post Office lot. She suggested the ZBA ask IHT to change the building design and put parking underneath.

Tony Holand raised concerns about the building’s height. Neal Stiller said he thought the building would dwarf others in the neighborhood. The ZBA said it would consider a request to IHT to reduce the apartments from six to four.

The board agreed on four parking spaces, to allow room for people to use barbeque grills on the grounds. Discussing vibrations from truck traffic on Water Street, board members said they were unsure what IHT could do about it, but decided to require that something be done to reduce its impact.

“This is not an adversarial relationship here,” Mr. Kristal said in making a motion to reopen the hearing. “I think we all agree we want something at this site; we just need to get to what we’re all comfortable with.”

“I can appreciate some of the concerns, but I feel like we’ve addressed them,” Mr. Jordi told The Times. “And to expect to have the same type of bucolic, suburban amenities in a downtown setting, such as a place for my barbeque, or parking next to my house, I think it’s unrealistic.”

Mr. Jordi said IHT has already lost an opportunity to apply to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that IHT plans to build a two-and-a-half story building. According to Mr. Jordi, working with the Tisbury building inspector, IHT modified the plans and widened the building by two feet and reduced the height to a two story building.