Oak Bluffs Planning Board signs off on Southern Woodlands permit  

Completion of the extensive and sometimes stormy vetting process will result in a financial windfall for the town.

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The two long languishing houses in the unfinished Southern Woodlands subdivision will be renovated by the developer.

In a decision with far reaching consequences for the town of Oak Bluffs, the Oak Bluffs Planning Board (OBPB) unanimously approved the amendments to the 2004 special permit for the Southern Woodlands subdivision, 4-0, at its regular meeting on Thursday night.

Approval of the deal with Paul Adamson, a Boston-area developer and Edgartown seasonal homeowner who bought the property for $5.15 million at a June 26 auction, will provide a massive boost to town coffers. One of the five approved amendments to the original permit, which was issued to developer Corey Kupersmith for the Down Island Golf Club in 2004, is a $700,000 donation to the Oak Bluffs Affordable Housing Trust (OBAHT).

Back taxes totaling $380,000, owed by Mr. Kupersmith’s now defunct Farlap Development, will also be paid to the town as part of the deal.

In addition to the financial contributions, the developers of the 26-lot subdivision agreed to reduce the total number of bedrooms from 190 to 156, and to enhance nitrogen mitigation to guarantee a limit of 19 milligrams of nitrogen per liter per year. Buffer zones were also extended in some areas, and ancient ways were restored and will be kept public.

“My client is extremely pleased to have gotten through all of the various permitting,” Geoghan Coogan, attorney for Mr. Adamson wrote in an email to The Times on Friday. “Both the OB planning board and MVC did their due diligence and we are happy to be done with the process.  We hope the Town is also pleased that the subdivision will finally be completed after all of this time.”   

“I’m pleased with the process and with the willingness of the applicant to do right by everybody,” Oak Bluffs Planning Board chairman Brian Packish told The Times on Friday. “They were extremely generous across the board.” Mr. Packish noted when the vetting process began that the affordable housing component was only $260,000, which was to be paid in $10,000 increments each time a lot was sold. Mr. Packish said that there is also a symbolic value to the deal moving forward. “Southern Woodlands has been an open wound in our town for 10 years,” he said. “The town is gaining a lot and we’re getting rid of a barren sand pit.”

Mr. Coogan said that his client intends to sell off the lots as is, although he does intend to salvage the two dilapidated sample homes on the property.

A letter from James Lengyel, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission (MVLBC), to the OBPB, was read into the record, stating that the Land Bank would manage the public trails that traverse the property, at no charge to the homeowners. “The staff already manages the trails at the abutting Southern Woodlands reservation and it would not be burdensome for the Landbank to incorporate these additional trails into its work schedule,” he said.

Thursday’s public hearing was sparsely attended, with no public opposition — a sharp contrast to this summer’s OBPB public hearings, which were standing-room-only affairs, peppered with heated exchanges and threats of litigation.  

In January, a sharply divided Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) voted 7-5 not to hold a public hearing to consider the five modifications that had been negotiated by the OBPB.

At Thursday night’s hearing, the only public comment came from Oak Bluffs resident Richard Toole. “I think these guys have gone through the ringer, and they’ve bargained in good faith. They deserve to move forward,” he said.

Mr. Coogan said the deal is set to close on April 8, pending the outcome of the 30-day appeal period.