Martha's Vineyard Commission 'punts' Muckerheide housing decision
In a move one commissioner said in jest was a "motion to punt," the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) last week postponed a scheduled vote on a 12-unit condominium development in Oak Bluffs proposed by Donald Muckerheide. Instead, the commission members referred the project to their land use planning committee (LUPC).
The LUPC is open to any commissioner who decides to attend. Its meetings are a preliminary step for applicants, prior to a formal hearing or vote. The LUPC often forwards recommendations to the full commission, but was unable to come up with a recommendation when it met on February 9 to discuss the Muckerheide project.
Mr. Muckerheide has proposed creating 12 two-bedroom condominiums in a new 12,276-square-foot three-story building on property he owns at 114 and 116 Dukes County Avenue. Mr. Muckerheide said he will sell the units for no more than $350,000 each, and include restrictions on short-term rentals, with the intent of creating year-round housing for Islanders.
The commissioners' comments during their deliberation of the benefits and detriments of the project at last Thursday night's meeting revealed a sharp split.
"I have real doubts about this," said Doug Sederholm of Chilmark. "I believe Mr. Muckerheide's intent is sincere, to provide so-called affordable housing or moderate housing. If it does, it will be pure happenstance. What we have here is a proposal to build 12 condominiumized two-bedroom apartments at more than $400 per square foot. That doesn't strike me as particularly affordable. It strikes me as affordable second homes. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they sell out quickly, but not to buyers on Martha's Vineyard. There are lots of loopholes, and lots of ways around the intent of Mr. Muckerheide's proposal."
Many of the commissioners expressed concern about the size of the proposed building, and how it would fit into the neighborhood of single family homes and small businesses. Several indicated that concern would not prevent them from voting to approve.
"It may be the biggest house on the street, but it won't be out of character for Oak Bluffs, which has known large buildings for a long time," said Jim Athearn of Edgartown. "Maybe they were near the water, but then again, there used to be 6,000 people on Martha's Vineyard, and now there's 16,000. If we want to see Oak Bluffs continue to keep their commercial area small, and I do, I think we ought to maximize the use of it."
The commissioners spent much of their time discussing the merits of a new design drawing submitted by Mr. Muckerheide, which modified the mansard roof style of the building to a design featuring gables and shed dormers. During the evening, four of the commissioners referred to Mr. Muckerheide's proposal, which has changed substantially during nearly a year of hearings, as a moving target. "Here we are at the 11th hour with two quite different plans in front of us," said commissioner Chris Murphy of Chilmark. "There's so many loose ends here it's hard to make sense of the whole thing."
Well into the debate, Mr. Muckerheide withdrew the most recent sketch, saying the Martha's Vineyard Commission during the earlier committee discussion had suggested changes to the latest design that would make it impossible to build. A few minutes later, as the Martha's Vineyard Commission took its second break of the evening, Mr. Muckerheide left the building without further explanation.
After nearly two hours of debate, the commissioners voted 5-4 to send the matter back to its land use planning committee for an informal discussion with Mr. Muckerheide about modifications that might make the plan acceptable to a majority of commissioners.