Bradley Square agreement is reached
After seven meetings and weeks of effort, backers and opponents of the Bradley Square affordable housing project in Oak Bluffs announced an agreement. The result is one less affordable unit, more on-site parking, smaller buildings and no building relocation.
In a statement released jointly on Thursday by Richard Leonard, chairman of the Island Housing Trust, and Don Lambert, chairman of the Oak Bluffs Concerned Citizens committee, the two groups said the meetings "resulted in a greater understanding and appreciation of the project concerns and challenges."
The project is planned for the corner of Dukes County Avenue and Masonic Avenue and supported by a consortium of housing advocates. The original plan called for two market-rate and nine affordable housing units, as well as a community center and an office, and was the subject of a series of contentious permitting hearings.
It was the subject of a concerted campaign from a group of neighborhood residents who opposed the plan. The opposition turned heated in September as the project headed to the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals.
At one point, the Island Affordable Housing Fund announced that the land designated for the project was up for sale.
Philippe Jordi, executive director of the Housing Trust, lauded the process of compromise, and the work of professional facilitator Clark Hanjian of Oak Bluffs, who helped the two sides work through their differences.
"He's a very skilled meeting facilitator," said Mr. Jordi. "I thought it went really well. It did take seven weeks, but I thought it was very productive. You bring in someone and say 'time out' here. Clearly there were some people who thought they weren't being heard. We also had a much better appreciation of some of the issues, outside of the public hearing process."
When contacted by The Martha's Vineyard Times, Mr. Lambert would not comment on the agreement.
Attached to the joint statement were new design drawings that illustrate substantial changes in the Bradley Square plan already approved during the lengthy permitting process that included review by the Martha's Vineyard Commission.
The new design includes 20 on site parking spaces, an increase from the 11 spaces previously planned. The two new buildings planned for the site at the corner of Dukes County Avenue and Masonic Avenue were reduced from three stories to two. The committee agreed to leave the Denniston building, site of Martha's Vineyard's first African American church, where it now sits. The original plan called for that building to be moved to another location on the lot.
One affordable housing unit was eliminated in the new design leaving eight residential units, but three of the affordable homes are now slated to be two-bedroom units, which will serve roughly the same number of people as the original design.
The revised plan creates a new ground floor commercial unit to be sold at market rates, and designates two "live/work" spaces as market rate units. All of the commercial spaces will be located in the commercial district along Dukes County Avenue.
Further restrictions on the number of people using the sanctuary planned for the renovated Denniston building were agreed upon.
Mr. Jordi said financing for the project is unchanged, the housing advocates must raise $1.7 million to subsidize the Bradley Square Project. At the Oak Bluffs annual town meeting, voters overwhelmingly approved spending $400,000 in community preservation act (CPA) funds for the project. At a special town meeting on December 11, voters will be asked to rescind that vote. The article was placed on the warrant by petition and spearheaded by Donald Muckerheide, one of the more vocal opponents of the Bradley Square project.
The joint statement issued by the compromise committee asks voters to continue to support the town's CPA funding.
The new plan is due for an informal review before the zoning board of appeals on December 2, and then back to the Martha's Vineyard Commission for a review of the changes.
There is nothing in the agreement to preclude a legal challenge to the project, if the required permitting authorities approve the new design.