The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) voted unanimous preliminary approval on November 6, and is set to vote on final approval Thursday evening, for a mixed commercial and residential development at Mariner’s Landing in Edgartown.
The 24,000 square foot development is proposed for a lot of just under one acre in the commercial area off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, adjacent to the Triangle business district.
The developers, doing business as Mariners Property LLC, are James Brennan, who owns a heating, air conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC) company, and Paul Pertile, a local businessman.
There was disagreement during the regulatory process over interpretation of the MVC’s guidelines on affordable housing mitigation. The applicants offered to pay $7,000, but the commissioners set the mitigation fee at $39,000, though they offered an alternative that would put conditions on renting or selling the residential units.
The project is a mixed-use development totalling 24,000 square feet of living and commercial space, combining commercial condominiums and small apartments. Plans call for four 2,000-square-foot commercial condominiums on the first floor, and four 2,000-square-foot units of storage space in the basement. On the second floor of the proposed building, would be eight 2-bedroom apartments of 1,000 square feet each. The developers each intend to occupy one of the commercial condominiums. Their plan does not include any retail business on the property.
The building would sit at the back of the small development, which includes a mix of office buildings and retail. Plans call for the structure to be built into a hill, so that it would appear as a two-story building from the front, but look like a one-story building from the back.
The development is the kind of growth the MVC is trying to encourage.
“The mixed-use combination of residential housing units and commercial units in an opportunity area is consistent with Smart Growth Principles and the MVC’s Island Plan,” the MVC staff wrote in its report.
Commercial condominium owners would have some control over the rental apartments. According to the plans, when the living units are offered for rent or sale, the condominium owners would get the first chance to rent or buy them to use as employee housing.
A significant point of contention between the developers and MVC commissioners was affordable housing mitigation. In commercial and residential developments, the MVC requires most applicants to make some contribution to alleviate the chronic shortage of affordable housing on Martha’s Vineyard. The contribution is based on a policy adopted by the commissioners. The mitigation can come in the form of making a certain percentage of residential units available under state guidelines to families who qualify for affordable housing based on income. It can also come in the form of monetary payments to a designated organization, which uses the money to create new affordable housing.
Mr. Brennan and Mr. Pertile offered to donate $7,000 to an affordable housing organization, according to their interpretation of the MVC’s affordable housing policy. The developers said the eight units fall below the 10-unit trigger that would require them to provide one affordable housing unit, or alternatively, a sum of money equal to 20 percent of the property’s assessed value.
The MVC guidelines call for a payment of $7,000 for a new commercial development of 8,000 square feet. The applicants say the basement storage space and residential space should not be counted, but the MVC commissioners disagreed. They figured the affordable housing mitigation fee on the total square footage of the project, resulting in a fee of $39,000.
In the conditions imposed with approval of the plan, the MVC commissioners offered the developers a choice. They can pay the $7,000 offered, and restrict at least two residential units to be occupied by staff or year-round residents, with restrictions that would prevent short-term rentals. Alternatively, they can pay the $39,000 mitigation fee.
In a letter to the MVC clarifying their offer of $7,000 for affordable housing mitigation, Mr. Brennan and Mr. Pertile asked the MVC to consider several factors.
“The intent of the residential space is reasonably priced housing,” they wrote. “An additional contribution to affordable housing if added to the residential portion of the project would increase the cost of each unit making each one less affordable.”
They also asked the MVC to consider that the restrictions on short-term rentals would require deed restrictions, which could make it more difficult or more expensive to finance the project, because lenders devalue property with deed restrictions attached.
They also wrote that they already donate money to several Island nonprofit organizations, and the $39,000 fee would force them to reallocate those contributions. In their letter, they offered the commissioners a pointed choice.
“The applicants would seek the commission’s recommendations to select which contributions should be reallocated in favor of affordable housing,” they wrote.
Mr. Pertile said he and his business partner have not yet decided which affordable housing mitigation option they will choose, but neither option will be a deal breaker. “We’re very happy, very pleased being able to move forward with the project,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
“The project was spearheaded on doing something good for the Island,” Mr. Pertile said. “The project went well, everything was good. You’re always going to run into a small hurdle here and there.”
Mr. Pertile said he believed that the Island is in dire need of a mixed-use condominium project. “These are not luxurious condos,” he said. “They’re geared toward working class people, and they’re going to be priced accordingly. Both of us need these resources, and we could never find them.”
The November 6 preliminary vote on the project was unanimous, with commissioners Clarence “Trip” Barnes and Josh Goldstein of Tisbury, Christina Brown of Edgartown, Fred Hancock and John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs, Joan Malkin of Chilmark, Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, and James Vercruysse of Aquinnah all voting in favor. The MVC has scheduled a final vote on the written decision on Thursday evening, November 20.