Authors Posts by Janet Hefler

Janet Hefler

Janet Hefler


The document identifies Island highway, bridge, and transit projects first in line for Federal and State funds.

The Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.

Top priority projects named in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) that the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) unanimously approved on July 10 include the construction, now underway, of a new Lagoon Pond drawbridge; resurfacing of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road; improvements to Beach Road; and a focus on Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) services, equipment, and facilities.

“The TIP looks at funding we have available from Federal and state sources, sets priorities of what projects to do, and fills in transportation system gaps,” MVC staff transportation planner Priscilla Leclerc told the MVC commissioners in her presentation to the MVC.

The TIP identifies road, transit, and multimodal projects that are priorities within estimated available federal funding for Martha’s Vineyard for Federal fiscal years 2015-2018 (FFY15-FFY18), which run from October 1, 2014, to September 30, 2018.

According to the Martha’s Vineyard TIP, the total regional Federal funding targets for the two highway projects, with a state match included, are $492,158 in FFY15, and $541,128 in FFY16-18.

Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road

The cost of resurfacing 6.5 miles of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road is estimated at $1,033,286. The original plan was to resurface 6.5 miles, using an in-house MassDOT design. However, Ms. Leclerc said the project is still under discussion, and if other adjustments to the road are added, it may not be possible to resurface all 6.5 miles.

Although there is some wiggle-room in the TIP for making changes, Ms. Leclerc told the MVC that the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road project, slated for the first year of the TIP, would have to be ready to be advertised by Christmas or be replaced by another.

“If we don’t have a project to move forward, we lose the funding,” she explained.

“We are working to identify a couple of easier projects that could be substituted,” MVC executive director Mark London added. “We would have to do a modification in the fall.”

“If the scope of the project changes, the cost changes,” Ms. Leclerc said in a phone conversation with The Times Tuesday. “We will probably be holding a public meeting on that project in early fall. It ties into the scenic roads committee’s discussions about Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road since NSTAR’s larger utility poles went up.”

Beach Road

Improvements to Beach Road from the Winds Up watersports shop to Five Corners are scheduled for FFY16 and FFY17, at an estimated cost of $2,162,256. In addition to the Island’s target funds for those two years, which total $1,082,256, the project qualifies for an additional $1,080,000 from the state’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program funds because it will improve bicycle and pedestrian access.

Local town and Island officials are working with MassDOT on a plan to transform what is now a jumbled collection of sidewalks, shoulders, utility infrastructure, and a bike path that ends abruptly, into a smooth passageway for motorists, bicyclists, and walkers.

“The Beach Road project started as an idea to extend the shared use path [SUP] for bicyclists and pedestrians from where it ends now, to at least the corner of Tisbury Marketplace,” Ms. Leclerc told The Times. “When we met with representatives from MassDOT, they suggested bringing it right down to Five Corners because that section is in rough shape and should also be done.”

The project evolved to include other improvements based on public comment at a meeting in May, she said, and there will be another public meeting to discuss it in September.

At the Tisbury selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night, two MassDOT representatives and engineer John Diaz of Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., discussed three conceptual options for the road’s design and asked for comments from town officials, planning board members, MVC staff, and the public in attendance. MassDOT project manager Thomas Currier said another public information meeting will be held in early fall for further discussion and to seek the town’s preference on which option to advance to a 25 percent design submission.

VTA and Lagoon Pond drawbridge

Under TIP transit programming, planned expenditures for the VTA include funds for operations, bus or van purchases, rehab vans and buses, and equipment or facility rehab and renovations, estimated at $3.57 million for FFY15, $3.35 million for FFY16, $3 million for FFY17, and $2.4 million for FFY18.

In addition to being a TIP priority for Martha’s Vineyard, the Lagoon Pond drawbridge replacement is listed on the state’s bridge project list for the Federal Aid Bridge Program for the next three years, with funds coming from the National Highway Performance Program.

The cost of its multi-year construction, which is already underway, is estimated at $38,277,479 over the next three federal fiscal years. About $7 million in Federal and State bridge funds, over the Island’s target funds, will be spent in FFY15, $15.4 million in FFY16, and $1.6 million in FFY17.

The new bridge, estimated to cost $43.7 million, will be built adjacent to the existing temporary bridge, which will stay in use until the new bridge and approach roadways are realigned and able to accept traffic. Despite a construction slowdown earlier this year to protect the spawning and juvenile development of winter flounder and shellfish, the bridge’s construction is on schedule to be completed in July 2016.

The TIP also includes a list of regional priorities in need of funding on Martha’s Vineyard selected by the Joint Transportation Committee (JTC), a citizen advisory group that serves as a forum to discuss transportation issues and that advises the MVC.

“We don’t have the funding, but should there be a windfall somewhere or a benefactor that wants to donate, these are the projects we’d like done,” Ms. Leclerc told The Times.

The list includes new shared use paths on Beach Road from the drawbridge to Eastville Avenue, County Road to Sunset Lake, Sea View Avenue to Waban Park, and a down-Island/up-Island link from Tisbury to West Tisbury. A Tisbury connector road between State and Edgartown-Vineyard roads is also on the list, along with a park and ride lot in Oak Bluffs.

The TIP process

The MVC prepared the 103-page document in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), and Martha’s Vineyard Regional Transit Authority (VTA).

The MVC serves as 1 of 13 regional planning agencies in Massachusetts, of which 10 are federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), the document’s introduction explains. Although Martha’s Vineyard does not meet the Federal criteria for an MPO, a minimum population of 50,000 residents in an urbanized area, Governor Deval Patrick designated the MVC as an MPO in the 1970′s. As such, the MVC receives funds from MassDOT for transportation planning on the Vineyard.

The Martha’s Vineyard MPO members include the MassDOT secretary, MassDOT Highway Division Administrator, MVC chairman, and VTA chairman, who serve as the decision-making body regarding the Island’s transportation planning goals, projects, priorities, and funding.

In keeping with federal transportation planning regulations, the MVC established a citizen advisory group, the Martha’s Vineyard Joint Transportation Committee (JTC), to serve as a forum to discuss transportation issues and to advise the decision-making body.

The JTC voting members include appointed representatives from the six Island towns and Dukes County. Non-voting members include representatives from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), MassDOT, the Steamship Authority, VTA and Martha’s Vineyard Airport, and the MVC staff.

TIP projects are proposed by the JTC members, who then evaluate them in terms of priority criteria, consider public input and available funds, and select the ones for inclusion in the TIP for the next four years.

After the Martha’s Vineyard TIP is approved, it is combined with the 12 other regional TIPs in Massachusetts into the State Transportation Improvement Program for Federal review. Once approved, projects under the first TIP year, 2015, may move forward on October 1, 2014.


The town has tough decisions to make about pedestrian and bicycle safety and access along the busy Beach Road thoroughfare.

Beach Road.

A team from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., joined the Tisbury selectmen at a meeting Tuesday night to provide an update on options for proposed improvements to Beach Road.

MassDOT plans to add sidewalks and bike lanes to a section of Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, from the Wind’s Up watersports shop to Five Corners.

The $1 million MassDOT road project is in a preliminary design phase. It is expected to receive federal funding in 2017.

John Diaz, director of traffic engineering at Greenman-Pedersen, an engineering and construction services firm, gave a presentation featuring illustrations of three conceptual plans with different options for sidewalks, bike lanes, and a shared use path (SUP). MassDOT project manager Thomas Currier and District 5 project development engineer Pamela Haznar provided additional details and answered questions. Planning Board members and Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) staff also attended.

Mr. Diaz said the project evolved from a pre-feasibility study done in May 2009 regarding the extension of Martha’s Vineyard’s network of SUPs. Last August MassDOT contracted GPI to design bike and pedestrian improvements along Beach Road. MassDOT held a pre-design public meeting at Tisbury town hall about the project on May 21.

Mr. Diaz said one of the project’s most critical areas is from where the SUP path ends near Wind’s Up to Saltwater Restaurant. The stretch is flanked by the Packer Company’s concrete retaining wall on one side, and the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard buildings on the other side, which makes especially challenging for fitting in sidewalks and bike lanes, he said.

Three concepts

With that in mind, concept one features a 5.5-foot wide sidewalk and 5-foot wide bike lane on both sides of the road from Wind’s Up to Five Corners, with two 11-foot vehicle travel lanes. Mr. Diaz said it would be the simplest of the three concepts to construct.

Concept two features a hybrid bike lane, with two-way bike traffic, and SUP on the eastbound side of the road, accessible by using a new crosswalk created by the Shell gas station. A two-foot grass strip would be added between the road and bike lane/SUP as a buffer. The westbound side of the road would have a sidewalk.

Concept three would extend the SUP from where it now ends near Wind’s Up, along the south side of Beach Road to Five Corners. Mr. Diaz said that design would require some takings, with a four- to six-foot impact on the eastbound side of the road.

Sam Dunn, an architect and builder who developed Tisbury Marketplace, also submitted an informal conceptual plan for the town’s consideration. During the discussion, he asked about the power lines along Beach Road and whether money that would be spent to move them could be put towards underground installation.

Ms. Haznar said that Transportation Improvement Program funds would pay for half the cost of moving the poles back for sidewalks and/or an SUP, and NSTAR would pay the other 50 percent. If Tisbury decides to put the utilities underground, the town’s ratepayers would have to pay the additional cost, she said.

MVC executive director Mark London suggested that town administrator Jay Grande and MassDOT representatives meet with NSTAR to figure out the costs. Mr. Diaz reminded everyone that even if the utilities are underground, there will still be street light poles along the road and in sidewalks.

Cyclist and business concerns

Chris Fried, who serves on the MVC’s bike-pedestrian planning advisory committee, expressed concerns about the safety of having children and inexperienced adults biking in a bike lane next to the traffic lane.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly an improvement, giving them a five-foot striped bike lane, instead of the narrow sandy strip they have now,” Mr. Diaz said.

His biggest concern, he added, is about the industrial section near the Packer Company and Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard. A shared use path along that stretch could put employees at those businesses at risk for getting clipped by bicyclists, he pointed out, “The hard part for us is to come up with a design plan that’s going to work for everyone,” he added. “I think whatever we develop there will be an improvement over what’s already there.”

Vineyard Haven Marina general manager Liz Wild noted there are nine curb cuts on Beach Road from the Net Result seafood store to the vacant Boch property near Five Corners. Of those, seven are associated with traffic from very active businesses,

As a representative of two properties on Beach Road, Ms. Wild said, “We’re opposed to any taking of land, and would support a bike path that goes inland.We need sidewalks and crosswalks, and to put utility poles underground.”

Mr. Diaz said that he and the MassDOT reps would put together the comments they heard, get answers to questions that came up, and incorporate all of it into a discussion about the project’s pluses and minuses, as well as costs, at a public meeting tentatively planned for October. At that time, Mr. Currier said MassDOT will be asking the town which concept it prefers to advance as the 25 percent design submission.

Other business

In other business, the selectmen instructed Police Chief Dan Hanavan to discuss his reserve fund transfer request for $12,723 to cover a fiscal year 2014 budget shortfall with the Finance and Advisory Committee (FinCom). Chief Hanavan said he had under-budgeted for gasoline expenses and additional equipment purchased. FinCom chairman Larry Gomez said the chief’s request would likely deplete the town’s reserve transfer funds for this fiscal year, and that any future requests would have to be saved until the end of the year.

“This is the first time since I’ve been on the FinCom, in 13 or 14 years, that we’ve run out of money,” he said.

At Tisbury Police Lieutenant Erik Meisner’s recommendation as the town’s emergency management director, the selectmen voted to approve Tisbury’s participation in a mutual aid agreement with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Association and to appoint Robert Verdone as assistant emergency management director.

Also, the selectmen voted to appoint Martha Yukevich to the Housing Trust and Noreen Baker to the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council; to approve a participation agreement with Cape Light Compact for an LED streetlight program; to establish a joint Tisbury-Oak Bluffs Committee for Lagoon Pond watershed wastewater planning; and to allow the Planning Board to establish an advisory committee for its visioning process.

The selectmen’s next regular meeting is August 5. They will not meet again in August.


The Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank announced plans on Monday to open a new full-service branch office at 412 State Road in Tisbury on the site of a proposed grocery store in the heart of the roadway’s commercial district.

Cape Five purchased the 1.01 acre property from Vineyard Grocer and Tisbury Farm Market owner Elio Silva on July 25. The purchase price was $2.6 million, according to the Registry of Deeds.

Pending local and bank regulatory approvals, the Cape Cod Five plans to open a full-service banking center on the site by the summer of 2015, according to a press release emailed to The Times on Monday.

“The acquisition of this property underscores our commitment to Martha’s Vineyard,” Cape Cod Five president and CEO Dorothy Savarese said in prepared remarks. “It is in keeping with our core values to meet the needs of each community we serve across several dimensions, one of which is with a full-service banking center where appropriate. We are also active participants in the communities we serve and make a point of giving back to them.”

Cape Five has been operating out of a small office in Vineyard Haven. In another sign that the bank plans to seriously expand its footprint on the Island, Cape Five also announced on Monday that well known Island banker and community volunteer Richard Leonard, 54, would take the helm as regional president for Martha’s Vineyard.

In a follow-up phone conversation with The Times on Monday, Robert (Bert) Talerman, Cape Cod Five’s executive vice president in charge of lending, echoed Ms. Savarese’s enthusiasm.

“We’re thrilled to have been able to find this property and to be able to negotiate the purchase of it, and also to become a permanent member of the community on Martha’s Vineyard in a full-service capacity,” Mr. Talerman said.

He said that Cape Cod Five’s decision to acquire property on Martha’s Vineyard stemmed from a long history of serving customers on the Island. The bank currently operates a loan production office in Vineyard Haven.

“As a result of having that customer base and hearing good things from that customer base, obviously we’re very excited to be in a position to do more and serve customers through a local facility that will offer them the full range of banking services that we provide,” Mr. Talerman said.

At the same time that Cape Five widens its beachhead on the Vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, headquartered in Edgartown, has established a presence on the Cape. In June, the bank opened a full-service branch office on Palmer Avenue in Falmouth, its second Falmouth location. A Woods Hole branch opened in 2009.

Why State Road?

Mr. Talerman said finding the right property was not easy.

“First of all, there are limited locations on Martha’s Vineyard where we could do what we’d like to do,” he said. “And we think it’s a terrific location, kind of in the middle of lots of other activities that people travel to.”

Mr. Talerman said the bank’s decisions on properties for its offices are based on due diligence and feedback received from trusted advisors and employees who are involved in the process, as well as customers.

“Based on the feedback we gathered, the indications are this is a nice location for us and the community, and that’s what it’s all about, to serve our customers and be an asset to the community, which is what we strive to do in all the communities we serve,” Mr. Talerman said.

The site was formerly occupied by a Coca-Cola bottling plant, and most recently, a home furnishings store in front and an art gallery in back.

“The other thing that really excited us is this is a previously developed property,” Mr. Talerman said. “So we’ll be renovating one of the existing structures on the property as opposed to starting fresh somewhere else.”

The renovations made by Cape Cod Five will be in keeping with its green energy principles, which emphasize recycling and energy efficiency, he added.

The Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank is an independent, state-chartered savings bank with over $2.5 billion in assets, according to the press release.

Off the shelf

Mr. Silva signed an agreement to purchase the property in 2011 for $1.7 million contingent on approval by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) of his plans

to consolidate his two existing grocery stores, also on State Road, into a new 7,400-square-foot building with four one-bedroom apartments.

In April 2011, the MVC moved with uncharacteristic speed, and completed the public review of the proposal as a development of regional impact (DRI) in one week. That was followed by unanimous approval on May 5, 2011. Mr. Silva closed on the property on October 5, 2011.

In 2012, he returned to the MVC to request a modification to the DRI. His new proposal called for the demolition of both buildings on the site and to rebuild a new, larger, three-story, 11,120 square-foot grocery store complex to include a market, bakery, offices, and four apartments.

The commissioners agreed the modification was a significant enough change to require a new public hearing on February 7. The modified DRI was approved by the commission on March 8, with additional conditions.

In June 2012, Mr. Silva informed the MVC he planned to continue to run his businesses as they were, and to use the back building at 412 State Road as an art gallery. Although his approved DRI permit was good until 2018, Paul Foley, MVC DRI analyst and planner, said Mr. Silva did not move forward with any construction.

In January 2014, the State Road property came up in discussions during the MVC’s extended public hearing process for the Stop & Shop Company proposal to expand its Vineyard Haven store. Behind the scenes, Mr. Silva and his agent, Robert Sawyer of Tisbury, a real estate broker, promoted the idea that Stop & Shop executives should consider a property swap.

Stop & Shop representatives said emphatically that such a swap was not practical, or even an option. Despite those statements, commissioner Ned Orleans of Tisbury persisted in discussing an alternative and alluded to “another location out there,” without naming Mr. Silva’s property specifically.

The Cape Cod Five proposal, once finalized, will go to the MVC for review, since the property was previously approved for a different DRI. Bank representatives are tentatively scheduled to meet with the MVC land use planning committee next Monday night for a pre-DRI modification application review, according to Mr. Foley.

The property has drawn considerable regulatory scrutiny in the past. In addition to Mr. Silva’s proposal, in 2002, the MVC reviewed a proposal to build a gas station, but rejected it, citing concerns about increased traffic along State Road, reliance on the automobile in general, and the economic pressure a new station might place on up-Island Island gas retailers.

Mr. Silva did not respond to multiple phone messages left on his cell phone and at his two businesses.

Left over from a snowy winter, accumulations of sand on this Skiff Avenue bike path and other Tisbury roadways has been a hazard for bicyclists.

Although summer has melted memories of a long, snowy winter, the sand that kept Tisbury roads passable back then remains an unpleasant reminder, built up in stretches along the shoulders and in gutters on many town streets.

In years past, as an annual rite of spring, the Tisbury department of public works (DPW) rolled out its street sweeper to clean up winter debris. This year, new DPW director Glenn Mauk found himself stymied by a lack of equipment and money in the budget.

For more than a decade, the DPW relied on an old street sweeper that the department rebuilt around 2002. Although the DPW purchased another sweeper around 2006, the department continued to use its vintage sweeper for the bulk of the street-cleaning work because it did a better job picking up heavier debris, former DPW director Fred LaPiana previously told The Times.

Unfortunately, Mr. Mauk learned after he was hired on January 3 that the town no longer had a reliable heavy-duty street sweeper. He also found there was no money available in the DPW’s fiscal year 2014 budget, which was appropriated prior to his employment, to hire a private street sweeping contractor. Although voters at town meeting in April approved a DPW request for $180,000 to buy a new one, the funds were not available until the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

In the interim, Mr. Mauk was left to address the sand issue as best he could as summer ramped up and placed increased seasonal demands on his department’s manpower and equipment for landscaping, road repairs, and municipal trash pickup, to name just a few.

DPW personnel have been sweeping and shoveling sand by hand from portions of town streets. Mechanical help is on the way.

Tisbury selectmen last week voted to approve municipal finance director Tim McLean’s recommendation that the town do “internal borrowing” to allow Mr. Mauk to purchase a street sweeper and other equipment for the DPW, in advance of obtaining financing.

“If we have free cash or money in the town’s stabilization fund, the Department of Revenue lets us borrow the town’s own money until we can go out and get financing in August, in order to let Glenn get the equipment now,” Mr. McLean explained. “We’ll do internal borrowing for five weeks or so until the actual money comes in.”

Cyclists navigate sandy shoals

Tisbury’s street sweeper dilemma came to light in a recent email exchange with Danielle Zerbonne, a Times staff member who often rides her bike to work via Skiff Avenue.

“I’ve been waiting and wondering about when the streets of Vineyard Haven (Skiff Ave., for example) were going to be cleaned of their winter sand, but now it’s nearly the end of June,” Ms. Zerbonne said in an email to Mr. Mauk dated June 24.

“Skiff Ave. has been designated as a bike ‘lane’, yet shoulders of both sides of the road are very sandy on much of the street. It’s very hazardous for bikers as they try to avoid riding in the street with the cars.

“I know some streets were done, but I think Skiff remains pretty dangerous in that respect.”

Ms. Zerbonne said she was impressed that not only did Mr. Mauk reply to her email, but did so on the same day she sent it.

“The Tisbury Department of Public Works (DPW) owns a TYMCO Regenerative Air Street Sweeper that is not capable of removing sand from the town streets,” Mr. Mauk said in his email response. “In fact, I believe that it is fair to say that the town’s street sweeper is completely non-functional.”

Mr. Mauk also explained that the DPW had been shoveling sand by hand. “For instance, this was done along portions of the route used by Tisbury school children during their ‘March to the Sea,’” Mr. Mauk said, in reference to a Memorial Day commemorative parade on May 23. “However, given the limited manpower of the DPW, it would be impossible to hand sweep and shovel sand from all town streets.”

Mr. Mauk added, “The DPW’s plan is to obtain a new street sweeper as quickly as legally possible and to immediately commence sweeping every town street.”

A clean sweep

The approved capital expenditures article authorized the town to borrow $350,000 for the DPW to purchase, in addition to the sweeper, a four-wheel-drive pickup truck with snowplowing capability, landscape trailer, snow pusher attachment for a hydraulic loader, dumping stake body truck, and catch basin cleaning equipment.

According to a brochure, the Elgin Pelican sweeper previewed at town meeting has a unique single-engine three-wheel design, 360-degree visibility, and a 9,000-pound capacity hopper. The Elgin Sweeper Company also offers training on the sweeper’s proper use and maintenance throughout its lifetime.


Denied once, the church has returned to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission with a scaled-back plan.

An artist's rendering of the new church design.

Public testimony grew heated at a Martha’s Vineyard Commission public hearing on Thursday, July 10, to review the latest proposal by the Alliance Community Church, formerly known as Assembleia de Deus Nova Vida (Assembly of God), to expand its church. The MVC reviewed the project as a development of regional impact (DRI).

Church supporters were under the impression that the commission would make a decision that night. They became upset when hearing chairman Linda Sibley of West Tisbury said that the hearing would be continued to August 7, because of time constraints posed by another hearing that evening.

Edward Redd, a seasonal Oak Bluffs resident, said he had flown to Martha’s Vineyard from Atlanta that day to attend the hearing. “I don’t understand it — I’m upset there’s not going to be a vote tonight,” he said.

The Reverend Walter Thompson, also a seasonal Oak Bluffs resident, said he also had flown in especially for the hearing from New York, where he is the pastor of a church.

The size and use of the church, located in a residential Oak Bluffs neighborhood on Ryan’s Way off the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, have been the subject of an ongoing debate between neighbors and church representatives ever since the MVC first approved plans for a 150-seat chapel on the second floor of the existing building and a 28-child day care center on the bottom floor.

The day care center has since moved, and building plans have been dormant. In December 2013, ending a review process that lasted almost one year, the MVC denied a church proposal to expand its building and church activities as a modification of its previously approved DRI.

The commission voted 4-3 against the proposal based largely on the impact an expansion would have on the residential neighborhood.

In April, church representatives submitted a new DRI application now under review. The revised plan includes a 3,920-square-foot addition, reduced from 4,500 square feet in the previous proposal, and a 22-foot high gable roof rather than a 24-foot high shed roof. The first floor would house the church sanctuary and the second floor an apartment for a caretaker and family.

The site plan has been changed so that the building and parking are set further back from Ryan’s Way. A proposed road that would have gone all the way around the building was removed. The new plans call for access to be off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and not from Ryan’s Way.

The church also submitted a six-page list with 51 offers as conditions for the DRI’s approval. Among them, church leaders said the building will be equipped with composting toilets, church services limited to three per week, no formal or informal activities will be held on the property before 7 am or after 9 pm, with no outdoor socializing allowed after 9 pm.

Church members had met in the basement of the existing building until the town of Oak Bluffs issued a cease and desist order. For the past few years, the church has been operating and holding services at the Federated Church in Edgartown.

What do you want

Attorney Rosemarie Haigazian accompanied Pastor Valci Carvalho and spoke on the church’s behalf. “We’ve done everything we can possibly think of to address the concerns that have been raised by the commission and have been raised by the neighbors and other town boards,” she said. “We’re doing the very best we can to show our good faith in our efforts. There have been some very difficult buffers put in front of us, and we have dealt with them.”

The church’s previously approved DRI stipulated that the sanctuary would operate on the church’s second floor, and that a community room would not be used for services. Ms. Haigazian said that since Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s daycare no longer operates in the building, and that a community room created on the first floor has been used temporarily as a gathering place, but not as a sanctuary. Commissioner Erik Hammarlund of West Tisbury questioned whether that made the church in non-compliance with the previously approved DRI.

Ms. Haigazian said the room is part of the already existing building, and that while some church services have taken place there, it hasn’t caused any problem. “There is a functional building which has been utilized, and has been approved to be utilized,” she added.

Finding no Oak Bluffs public officials or representatives from town boards that wanted to speak, hearing chairman Linda Sibley opened the hearing to public testimony. She said that she would end the session in 30 minutes and would continue it. There was some discussion among the MVC members about who would be present for the continued hearing in August.

Ms. Sibley then called for comments from anyone who might not be able to attend next month.

Mr. Redd said he had been coming to the MVC hearings on the church for a year, and would not be able to come back in August. He launched into an angry diatribe about the MVC process and what he characterized as mistreatment of the Brazilian community by the commission.

“They’re basically done everything you’ve asked them to do,” Mr. Redd said. “They’ve redesigned the building, they’re spending money they don’t have, and I want to know when it’s going to stop. What I see represented on this commission is not a commission of people that I have come to love on the Island.

“I don’t understand it. You would never put another church through this kind of nonsense. You’re talking about having a meeting on August 7 and you’re not going to have enough people, and your deadline is September?” he continued, his voice rising as he asked, “What do you want the church to do? What do you want them to do?”

Ending with the remark that he was upset there would be no vote that night, Mr. Redd left the building.

Lorinda Kasoff of Brooklyn, who owns a home in Oak Bluffs, said she doesn’t understand why the church needs to be so large. “I think the building is too large for the site, and it will overwhelm the neighborhood.”

Kris Chvatal, an abutter on Ryan’s Way with a longstanding history of opposition to the church’s expansion, questioned whether the square footage given for the addition was accurate.

Edgartown resident Courtney Brady said she lives across the street from the Federated Church and has attended some of the Alliance Community Church services there. “I have found them to be completely acceptable as far as noise and busyness, traffic, whatever problems,” she said. “I was happy to have them as neighbors.”

Reverend Thompson said members of the Alliance Community Church have not only been involved in the Island community, but have also traveled to New York to be part of his church community. “I want to encourage the commission to consider the wide arm that this church has been involved in, in meeting the needs of the community,” he said. “I’m here to support it.”

Ms. Sibley asked the commissioners to submit questions about the project in writing to her and continued the hearing to August 7.


Nomination papers are due July 29 to run for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

The deadline to file nomination papers for the Martha's Vineyard Commission is approaching.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), the Island’s powerful regional permitting body, exerts a strong influence on the Island economy and infrastructure. It does this by shaping and permitting, or denying, projects referred to the commission as developments of regional impact (DRIs), and in the creation of districts of critical planning concern (DCPCs), which towns can adopt to provide an overlay of regulatory control on top of local zoning bylaws.

Although the November election may be far from the thoughts of Martha’s Vineyard voters in the heat of July, the makeup of the MVC will be partially determined in the next few weeks.

Candidates for nine open seats on the 17-member body have until 5 pm on Tuesday, July 29, to file nomination papers with 10 signatures from registered voters with local boards of registrars to appear on the November ballot. As of last week, a survey of Island town clerks revealed that no new candidates and only two incumbents had pulled papers to run in the fall election, Christina Brown of Edgartown and Jim Vercruysse of Aquinnah.

Other MVC incumbents include Clarence “Trip” Barnes and Josh Goldstein of Tisbury, John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs, Madeline Fisher of Edgartown, and Erik Hammarlund and Linda Sibley of West Tisbury. Doug Sederholm, formerly of Chilmark, will be seeking election from his new home town of West Tisbury.

Several of the incumbents have been commissioners for multiple terms. Ms. Sibley, elected in 1992, is the longest serving member. Ms. Brown has served since 1997, Mr. Sederholm since 2003, and Mr. Breckenridge since 2004.

Mr. Hammarlund was elected in 2011, and Mr. Barnes, Ms. Fisher, and Mr. Goldstein in 2013. Mr. Vercruysse was appointed in January by the Aquinnah Planning Board to fill a vacancy after former commissioner Camille Rose moved off Island.

Representing economic interests

MVC decision making and planning exerts a strong influence over key sectors of the economy. However, few of the commissioners are actively involved in the building trades, one of the linchpins of the Island economy, and tourist-related jobs, which represent 37 percent of employment on the Island, according to the MVC.

The younger generation of Islanders has only two representative. Among the incumbents, only Mr. Goldstein, 35, and Mr. Hammarlund, 43, are under the age of 50.

The Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce’s counts almost 1,000 members. Discussion about representation on the commission has not come up in board meetings, executive director Nancy Gardella told The Times in a phone call Monday.

“But I certainly don’t think there is anyone that doesn’t understand and admire the people who do opt to run for the commission and the enormous time commitment they are willing to give to our community,” Ms. Gardella said.

With that in mind, she said she can understand why a small business owner, for example, especially one with young children, would be reluctant to run.

“In casual conversations I’ve had with members of the commission, it has always been my impression they would encourage and welcome a broader representation of the Island community to step forward,” Ms. Gardella said. “But we all get it, when we see Islanders working so hard in the few precious months of summer, often 16 to 20 hours a day, that they can’t squeeze another moment out.”

Variety of backgrounds

Of the current commissioners, Mr. Goldstein is the only one involved in the hospitality industry. He works in the management of his family’s business, the Mansion House Inn in Vineyard Haven.

Several commissioners are actively involved in Island businesses. Ms. Sibley owns and operates a retail store, Vineyard Electronics, on State Road. Mr. Barnes owns and operates Barnes Moving and Storage Company, also on State Road. Brian Smith, the West Tisbury selectmen’s appointee since 2010, has managed several businesses since moving to Martha’s Vineyard in 1995.

MVC chairman Fred Hancock, the Oak Bluffs selectmen’s appointee since 2010, is self-employed as a technical director for corporate meetings. Ms. Fisher is an art gallery owner, painter, and licensed real estate broker.

Mr. Sederholm and Mr. Hammarlund are both lawyers in private practice. Mr. Sederholm practices law in partnership with attorney Howard Miller in Edgartown. Mr. Hammarlund runs a law office in Vineyard Haven.

Leonard Jason, the Dukes County Commission’s MVC appointee and a longtime municipal employee, is the building inspector for Edgartown and Chilmark.

Mr. Vercruysse is a cabinet shop foreman and employee owner at South Mountain Company, an employee-owned architecture, building, and renewable energy firm in West Tisbury. Commissioner Jim Joyce, appointed by the Edgartown selectmen in 2010, has both business and building trade experience. He is the owner/broker of Carroll and Vincent Real Estate and a State-licensed construction supervisor.

W. Karl McLaurin, Governor Deval Patrick’s MVC appointee since 2013, is the marketing director for the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. He is familiar with Martha’s Vineyard as a longtime seasonal visitor in Oak Bluffs.

Several of the current commissioners are retired. Ms. Brown is a former assistant to the Edgartown Planning Board. Mr. Breckenridge worked in the foodservice industry.

Among the Island town selectmen’s appointees, Joan Malkin of Chilmark is is a retired attorney. Katherine Newman of Aquinnah is a retired psychologist. Ned Orleans of Tisbury worked in the department store retail industry for 25 years, and then went into public education administration in the Fairfax [Virginia] County Public Schools.

Veteran and newcomer perspectives

Although new to the commission this year, Mr. Vercruysse is actually a veteran commissioner who was tapped by the Aquinnah selectmen and planning board to return after a hiatus of several years. He said he decided to step down from the commission after serving as chairman in 2002, when the MVC went through a contentious review process and rejected a golf club development plan for the southern woodlands in Oak Bluffs.

“I was really burned out after that,” Mr. Vercruysse said. However, on his return to the commission this year, he added, “I realized how much I enjoyed it and missed it.”

Mr. Vercruysse, who has taken out papers for the November election, said he thinks the current commissioners are a good group.

“In fact, that’s why I’m motivated to run again,” he said. “It seems to me the board is very engaged and motivated. We have had tough decisions to make, but I think it’s a really good, strong board.”

Mr. Vercruysse noted that Mr. McLaurin, Governor Deval Patrick’s appointee to the MVC, regularly attends the meetings, which wasn’t the case with the governor’s appointee when he previously served on the commission.

“And we have two attorneys on it, which is very helpful, especially when we’re doing wordsmithing to get the language right on decisions,” he added.

As the youngest member currently serving on the MVC, Mr. Goldstein, 35, said it would be interesting if more people in his age bracket would run. “It would make for a better representation of the next generation of Islanders,” he said. “The people who have been on the commission for a long time have done an amazing job, but like any organization, if it doesn’t get fresh blood, it gets stagnant.”

But he pointed out that getting new people to run is not always easy on Martha’s Vineyard. “Change is good, but on the Island, people who have been in a position for years and years, if their names are on the ballot, no one will run against them,” Mr. Goldstein said.

Also, as he nears the end of his first term on the MVC, Mr. Goldstein said he has had to come to terms with the fact that his service is not always appreciated by his fellow Islanders. “For every person who says thanks, there are ten that say to me, ‘What a waste of time,’” he said. “Nonetheless, I think the commission does great work. A lot of my peers from my graduating class are here on the Island, and I’d be happy to lose to one of them. It would be nice to see some new faces.”

The MVC was established by an act of the state legislature in 1974 as a regional land use planning and regulatory agency with broad powers to oversee and permit DRIs and and to develop regional regulations for areas approved as DCPCs.

Nine MVC candidates are elected at large to two-year terms. Residents of one town may vote for candidates from other towns, but at least one commissioner must be elected from each town, and no more than two elected commissioners can be from any one town.

For example, if the candidates with the three highest vote totals are from the same town, only the two with the highest vote totals will be elected to the MVC. If a candidate with the lowest vote total overall was the only candidate from that town, he or she would be elected.

In addition to nine elected members, the Island’s boards of selectmen appoint six, the Dukes County Commission appoints one, and the governor appoints up to five, of whom four do not vote on DRIs or DCPCs.

Correction: An earlier version of this story failed to report that Erik Hammarlund is also under the age of 50. He is 43.


At a public hearing concluded last week, green was the watchword in the commissioners’ discussion.

Illustrations of the proposed apartment building at 6 Water Street depict (at top) the view from the street, and (below) the south side of the building, which includes solar panels on the roof.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) wrapped up a public hearing in one session last Thursday night on a proposal by the Island Housing Trust (IHT) to build a six-unit affordable housing rental apartment building at 6 Water Street in Vineyard Haven. But not before the commissioners put IHT executive director Philippe Jordi, accompanied by IHT board chairman Richard Leonard, through the paces during a more than 90-minute discussion, and put off a decision by one week.

Most of the commissioners’ questions focused on the affordable housing project’s design elements, and particularly the lack of greenery on the 0.11-acre site close to Five Corners.

This dilapidated house will be replaced by a six bedroom affordable apartment building.

This dilapidated house will be replaced by a six bedroom affordable apartment building. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The MVC reviewed the affordable housing project adjacent to Stop & Shop as a development of regional impact (DRI). Approval could come tonight. On Monday, the commission’s land use planning committee voted to recommend approval with the condition that the MVC approve the final landscaping, architectural detail, and stormwater management plans before a building permit is issued.

Plans call for a two-and-a-half story, 3,600-square-foot building. There will be six 600-square-foot apartments, three handicapped accessible ground floor units and three on the second floor, each with one bedroom and one bathroom. Mr. Jordi said IHT worked closely with Tisbury’s Affordable Housing Committee, Planning Board, Historic Commission, building department, and Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to come up with the design

It is our intent to develop a project that contributes to the village of Vineyard Haven and the community’s critical need for year-round affordable rental housing,” Mr. Jordi said last Thursday night. “We ask that you close the public hearing and make your decision tonight, so that we have time for the Tisbury Zoning Board of Appeal’s public review process in advance of the state and local grant funding process this fall.”

Green versus housing

Commissioner Joan Malkin of Chilmark called attention to a bricked area on the plans that includes the development’s only parking space, to be used for deliveries, pickups and dropoffs only.

“What troubles me about this proposal, is there is no more real open green space,” Ms. Malkin said. “Is there any reason why you’re not putting a lawn or some sort of green?”

Mr. Jordi said the landscaping plans were not complete. With the building taking up 54 percent of the lot, he pointed out, “There is not a lot of lawn space to be had.”

Commissioner Clarence “Trip” Barnes of Tisbury asked about cost. Mr. Jordi said approximately $1.2 million has been budgeted for the six apartments, with an eye towards using modular construction.

That led to a question about the number of apartments from Commissioner James Joyce of Edgartown.

“It’s happening everywhere, in Edgartown, and all the towns, all of these downtown properties are being built up to the max,” Mr. Joyce said. “That’s what you’re doing here. I’m just curious why you’re doing six. Is it cheaper than four?”

Mr. Jordi said IHT originally considered five units. “If we really wanted to max it out, we could do nine,” he said.

“Do it,” Mr. Barnes said.

Mr. Jordi explained the decision to increase from five units to six involved several considerations. To start, when state officials reviewed the project as a 40-B affordable housing development, they said the units were too large for one-bedroom apartments, Mr. Jordi said.

Given the need for more housing, IHT decided an additional apartment would be a plus, and an even number of units would work better if modular construction is used. Most importantly, Mr. Jordi said, the state only considers rental housing properties or projects for funding that have five or more units.

“I guess my only other point is that if it was smaller, there would be more green space for people that are going to live there,” Mr. Joyce persisted. “They could actually maybe have a barbeque grill, have some space. The way it’s being set up, there’s no space for anything. It’s really like living in Boston. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I was just curious about the thought process.”

“It’s not West Tisbury’s Sepiessa,” Mr Jordi said, referencing an affordable rental housing complex adjacent to the entrance to the Land Bank’s Sepiessa Point Reservation. “It’s a downtown location; it’s similar to people who live above stores on Main Street; it’s similar to rental housing that we have actually not very far from this, across from the Thrift Store.”

“In all seriousness, I don’t see why you don’t do seven or eight if you can fit them on there,” Mr. Barnes countered. “I mean, if you’re going to put people down at Five Corners, and you’re going to make this commitment, then I would stuff it. No parking, no nothing.

“I’d go after old senior citizens,” he continued, drawing laughter from the audience as he added, “The grocery store is next door, the Steamship Authority is across the street, and they can die happy.”

Hearing chairman Linda Sibley of West Tisbury chided Mr. Barnes that the IHT asked the MVC to act on the project expeditiously in order to seek funding, and that he was asking them to redesign it. She then opened the hearing to comments from town officials and boards.

Pigeon holed

Although Tisbury building and zoning inspector Ken Barwick, who referred the project to the MVC, and Tisbury selectman Melinda Loberg were in the audience, neither responded. Dan Seidman, an IHT board member, asked to comment in his capacity as a Tisbury planning board member.

“We’ve looked at this project, and we believe it’s a good project in a good location,” Mr. Seidman said. “The emphasis today is on smart growth; you want to put density where density is.

“As far as if someone could have a barbeque,” he added, “we do have a deck, and there will be some green areas.”

David Vigneault, executive director of the Dukes Housing Regional Housing Authority, the agency that will manage the property, added to the discussion on greenery from a practical standpoint.

I think more hardscape there is better, because I’ll tell you what, we’re going to be sweeping and cleaning, and I’d rather the guys not be trying to mow some eight-inch strip, so much as move potted plants or trees, or what have you in there,” he said.

Doug Ruskin of West Tisbury, who has worked in private and public affordable housing organizations for the last eight years, said he was surprised that the project went to a public hearing before the MVC. “I think everybody knows the vast need for housing on the Island and how ideal this site is,” he said.

Tisbury residents Ben Robinson and Hyung Lee criticised the building’s design. Mr. Robinson said the building’s interior design is “half-cooked.” Mr. Lee called the apartments “pigeon holes.” Mr. Jordi said the interior plans have not been finalized, and that IHT was only seeking the MVC’s approval of the conceptual design of the building’s exterior at this time.

Some greenness

Ms. Loberg waited until the end of the public testimony to offer her remarks. Selectman Loberg said she was speaking as a “private citizen.” Although her fellow selectmen, Tristan Israel and Jon Snyder, had voted on July 1 to send a letter in support of the IHT project, Ms. Loberg, newly elected in May, said she abstained because she didn’t know much about it. Since then, she said she tried to familiarize herself with it.

What I’m hearing from a lot of people is we’re trying to squeeze a ten-pound bag into a four-pound bag,” Ms. Loberg said. “I heard the same things being said as were said about Stop & Shop.”

Ms. Loberg questioned whether the project’s smart growth aspect should be shifted to mixed use, rather than residential. I wonder if it would be possible or even desirable to consider a mixed use here, put another floor on, and have multiple apartments and use the ground floor area for commercial use,” Ms. Loberg said.

Mr. Seidman took exception. “On the ten-pound, four-pound thing, if you look at downtown Vineyard Haven, this is an appropriate size building for the lots that are all along Main Street,” he said. “Look at any of those; they’re all tightly packed, with very little space in-between, and very little green.”

In final remarks from commissioners, Kathy Newman of Aquinnah went back to the building’s design. “Is there any way it can look less boxy?” she asked.

Get a bigger lot,” commissioner Doug Sederholm of Edgartown responded.

Mr. Jordi said that IHT had a design competition, and that the designs were driven by whether the building would have parking or not. We were looking not to create something new to downtown Vineyard Haven, but to have something that fit into the existing landscape,” he said.

Ms. Newman suggested adding some design elements to alter the boxy look.

It could add to some greenness if you had a tiny little outdoor space where you could put some green stuff,” she said.

Kathy, when we’re debating this we can decide how much leeway we want to give them,” Ms. Sibley said. “I happen to think the generic box is, in fact, traditional Tisbury architecture, so I don’t even agree with you. So then how would we decide what to tell them?”

Ms. Sibley closed the public hearing at about 10:25 pm.

This dilapidated house will be replaced by a six bedroom affordable apartment building.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) concluded a public hearing Thursday night on a proposal by the Island Housing Trust (IHT) to build a six-unit affordable housing rental apartment building at 6 Water Street, in-between AA Car Rental Company and Stop & Shop. The MVC reviewed the project as a development of regional impact.

The commissioners discussed the project for over 90 minutes. Points of discussion included the design, building height, the number of units, a lack of greenery and the need for a walkway.

Hearing chairman Linda Sibley of West Tisbury said she would keep the written record for the hearing open until 4 pm, Monday, July 14 in the event anyone else wants to submit additional comments. The MVC’s land use planning committee will conduct a post-hearing review of the project at 5:30 pm that evening.

The full commission’s deliberations and decision on the affordable housing development will take place at a meeting next week on Thursday, July 17, starting at 7:30 pm. The plan still faces review by the Tisbury zoning board.

IHT is anxious to move forward with the project, in the works for almost two years,  in order to secure state and federal funding.

Illustrations of the proposed apartment building at 6 Water Street depict (at top) the view from the street, and (below) the south side of the building, which includes solar panels on the roof.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) will begin a review of an affordable housing project proposed by the Island Housing Trust (IHT) on Thursday night. The six-unit rental apartment building would be nestled in-between the Stop & Shop Supermarket and AA Car Rental Company near Five Corners in Vineyard Haven, on a 0.11-acre property where an unoccupied, dilapidated two-story house now stands at 6 Water Street.

The MVC voted last month to review the project as a development of regional impact (DRI). If approved as now designed, the house, built in 1930, would be replaced with a two-and-a-half story, 3,600-square-foot building.

There will be six 600-square-foot apartments, three handicapped accessible ground floor units and three on the second floor, each with one bedroom and one bathroom. Photovoltaic panels on the southern roof will help reduce energy costs.

Since the property is located in a 100-year flood zone, the building will be built on piers five feet above the existing grade, a total of 10 feet above sea level, to comply with the latest Federal Emergency Management Agency flood elevations.

“It’s an exciting project, located on a site downtown that provides amenities such as access to public transportation and a lot of services,” IHT executive director Philippe Jordi told The Times in a phone call Tuesday. “In a lot of situations, these types of rental properties aren’t as convenient and are out of the way.”

Once completed, IHT will enter into an agreement with the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority to provide the building’s rental management services. Mr. Jordi said the apartments would be rented to qualified applicants who earn 80 percent or less of the area median income (AMI), which is no more than $48,000 for a single person or $55,000 for a couple. Rent would be $1,016 monthly.

The Martha’s Vineyard Housing Needs Assessment, completed last year, showed that the biggest need for affordable rental apartments is for households earning 60 percent or less of the AMI, Mr. Jordi said. With that in mind, IHT plans to seek additional grant funding for the Water Street housing project, in order to reduce its overall cost and lower rents to $700 to $800 monthly, to serve applicants at the 60 percent or less AMI level.

Why a DRI?

The project was referred to the MVC for review by Tisbury building and zoning inspector Ken Barwick based on the commission’s DRI checklist. The project did not trigger review as a residential development because it has less than 10 units, but because of another DRI trigger regarding development that increases a property’s “intensity in use.” At the recommendation of the MVC’s land use planning committee, the full commission voted on June 19 that the project required a public hearing.

“The commission said they ultimately decided to review the project because of its location near Five Corners,” Mr. Jordi said.

The hearing starts at 7:30 pm in the commission’s meeting room in the Stone Building at 33 New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs.

No parking a plus and minus

Given the property’s proximity to the busy Five Corners intersection, Mr. Jordi said the affordable housing would probably be more suitable for individuals or couples.

“This project is not for everyone, because we won’t have parking on the site,” Mr. Jordi said. “But it will help provide affordable housing in downtown Vineyard Haven, without adding to the traffic in an already congested area.”

To limit and mitigate the impacts of the housing complex on Five Corners traffic, there is only one parking place on the property for services and deliveries, dropping off residents, and handicapped accessibility. However, Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) buses that run frequently on Water Street will provide residents with access to bus routes Island-wide and to Tisbury’s park and ride lot off State Road, if they do have cars. IHT also has requested that Tisbury extend its existing Spring Street parking permit program to future Water Street residents.

This week, IHT submitted a list of nine offers for the MVC’s consideration as possible conditions for the DRI’s approval, which Mr. Jordi said resulted from pre-public hearing discussions with the LUPC. The offers were already incorporated into the original plan.

“We’re really pleased by the process,” Mr. Jordi said. “I think it has made this a better project, because it required us to keep working at it. The LUPC had some good suggestions.”

Asked what specifically IHT added or changed that was not already part of the plan, Mr. Jordi said, “We agreed to have archaeological monitoring during the excavation for the foundation pilings, and to require that vehicles entering the property by turning right off Water Street and exit the property by turning right onto Water Street.”

Mr. Jordi said IHT hopes to get the project expedited quickly through the MVC, so it can go to the town for public review in advance of the state funding process, which begins in the fall.

A donation with strings attached

IHT’s is not the first project proposed for the property and reviewed by the MVC. In 2008, AA Car Rental purchased an option on the same property, with the intent to build a new single three-story multi-use structure with a rental car business on the first floor and two apartments upstairs, according to the MVC’s June 27 staff report.

The MVC reviewed the project as a DRI and approved it with conditions, but the permit was never acted on. Although it would have expired in August 2010, it was extended for four years by the State Permit Extension Act.

In 2012, Cronig’s Market owner Steve Bernier purchased the house and land at 6 Water Street for $700,000. Mr. Bernier said he bought the property to thwart plans announced in the spring of 2011 by Stop & Shop Supermarket Company to expand its Vineyard Haven store.

In May 2012 he donated the property to IHT, with a deed restricting all or part of its use to affordable housing. The deed also contains a restriction against using the property for anything related to the supermarket business or for any business that would compete with Cronig’s Market.

IHT gratefully accepted Mr. Bernier’s gift, which turned out to be a mixed blessing in face of the challenges posed by the property’s location. On the plus side, the site will offer residents easy access to jobs, stores, services, and public transportation in downtown Vineyard Haven. On the minus side are a lack of parking, heavy traffic and associated noise, coastal flooding, and quality of life near the busy, often congested Five Corners area. Those are among the key issues listed under planning concerns in the MVC staff report.

The Tisbury Planning Board and zoning board of appeals determined they could not issue a special permit for the project under the town’s existing zoning bylaws. IHT then applied for a 40B comprehensive permit to the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development, which issued a site eligibility letter on May 12.

The building’s design stemmed from a unique process that involved the Island community. IHT put out a request for design proposals in March 2013 and narrowed the applicants down to three, architects James Weisman of Terrain Associates in Vineyard Haven and Dudley Cannada of Edgartown, and a building/design team led by Farley Pedler, owner of Farley Built, Inc., in West Tisbury.

After consultation with Tisbury’s Planning Board, Historic Commission, and Affordable Housing Committee, and review of public comments, IHT selected Mr. Weisman’s design.

Former Tisbury police officer Kelly Kershaw has filed for disability retirement pay.

Former Tisbury Police officer Kelly Kershaw, who was fired from the department last year amid a flurry of disciplinary hearings, filed a disability retirement application that was recently accepted by the Dukes County Contributory Retirement System (DCCRS) board in executive session. The board’s action came at the conclusion of a standard hearing process in which Ms. Kershaw provided records and appeared before the board, according to DCCRS administrator Kelly McCracken.

Ms. Kershaw, 32, has applied for accidental disability retirement, which requires a diagnosis of permanent disability for eligibility, Ms. McCracken explained in a recent phone conversation with The Times. The disability must be associated with injuries received in an accident or hazardous incident at work that prevents an employee from performing the duties of his or her job.

There was no information available about Ms. Kershaw’s disability. Ms. McCracken told The Times that she was not legally allowed to disclose a medical diagnosis under the provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

While working a shift on November 20, 2012, Ms. Kershaw apparently blacked out while driving a police cruiser and struck a tree on State Road, according to a report by State Police.

Her vehicle struck the tree head-on and airbags deployed. Ms. Kershaw was placed on paid medical leave for more than six months.

On May 23, 2013, the day Ms. Kershaw was scheduled to return to work, the town placed her on paid administrative leave, pending a hearing before the selectmen. The selectmen voted unanimously to fire Ms. Kershaw at a disciplinary hearing on June 10, 2013. The cause for dismissal, according to town officials, was that Ms. Kershaw left Tisbury on multiple occasions, for long periods of time, during her scheduled shifts, in violation of police department policy.

Ms. Kershaw joined Tisbury’s police department as a traffic officer in the summer of 2002. In August 2004, she became the department’s first full-time female officer in several years.

In 2009, she filed a sexual harassment claim with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). In September 2011, MCAD issued a partial finding for Ms. Kershaw but did not support all of her allegations.

Ms. Kershaw did not respond to phone messages left by The Times asking for comment.

Retirement disability process

With the DCCRS board’s determination that Ms. Kershaw’s application is complete, the board petitioned the state’s Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) to appoint three doctors to an independent regional medical panel to examine her.

“Any candidate needs a majority of the doctors’ panel to come back and say yes, the person is disabled, yes, it is permanent, and yes, it was caused by or associated with an accident or hazardous incident on the job,” Ms. McCracken said.

The regional medical panel will report its findings and recommendations to PERAC, which will forward the information to the DCCRS board. The board then will meet again to review and discuss all of the documentation, issue findings of fact, and then send everything back to PERAC for review by a panel.

At that point, Ms. McCracken said the commission may send final approval of Ms. Kershaw’s application back to the DCCRS board, deny it, or request more information. Ms. McCracken said that the state estimates the process takes six months.

Cost to be determined

How much Ms. Kershaw’s disability retirement will cost taxpayers will be determined if and when her application is approved, Ms. McCracken said. “It’s nothing I can figure out at this time, because I don’t have all of the components,” she added.

Ms. McCracken said the amount will be calculated based on Ms. Kershaw’s salary at her last earnings. Ms. Kershaw was at the top step of the patrolman’s scale, and her base salary was $67,609, according to Tisbury town accountant Suzanne Kennedy.

“The retirement allowances, the deductions, are taken on your regular compensation, that is, the monetary value of your base pay,” Ms. McCracken said. “That doesn’t include overtime or other shifts that police officers often work. You can be making much more than your base salary, but that’s not what your retirement allowance is based on.”

Money paid by a municipality in the form of an assessment towards the retirement system is not earmarked for any specific individual, Ms. McCracken pointed out. “An actuarial evaluation is done, by an actuary hired by the board to take all of that criteria and figure out how much money, if these members were to work their careers in the system and pay into it, would be paid back to them in the form of a retirement allowance, how much would it cost, and how the municipality can start saving for that,” she said.

Many people do not realize that the DCCRS is not actually part of the Dukes County government, Ms. McCracken said, and that the retirement system is autonomous from municipalities. However, according to state statute, the Dukes County treasurer, currently Noreen Mavro Flanders, serves as the DCCRS board’s chairman and ex-officio member.