ZBA approves Bradley Square in split vote
The Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals (ZBA) approved the Bradley Square affordable housing project last Thursday evening.
The vote was 3-0, with two abstentions. ZBA chairman Kris Chvatal, and members Jane Lofgren and Peter Palches voted for the project. Gail Barmakian and Joe Re abstained.
The ZBA decision is the final step in a design, review, and regulatory permitting process that began more than 18 months ago. That process included 10 public meetings, seven separate sessions of public hearings before the Martha's Vineyard Commission, six nights of public hearings before the ZBA, two funding votes before Oak Bluffs town meetings, and seven professionally mediated sessions between the developers and a committee of citizens who objected to the scale of the project.
The ZBA's decision does not rule out a court challenge that could further delay the project. Following the meeting, Don Lambert, who chaired a committee of concerned citizens, said he knew of no plans to appeal the board's decision.
Asked after the meeting if the process frustrated him, Richard Leonard, chairman of the Island Housing Trust, replied with a smile, "Not right now."
The Trust, along with the Island Affordable Housing Fund and contractor John Early are the project's applicants. In its final iteration, the development at the corner of Dukes County Avenue and Masonic Avenue includes 10 residential units, a commercial unit, and an office and sanctuary with at least 18 on-site parking spaces.
About 25 people attended the April 9 meeting, expressing much the same sentiments in support of the project, or in support of scaling it down.
In his presentation to the board, Philippe Jordi, executive director of the Island Housing Trust, outlined the changes in the project, and emphasized his contention that it would create between 80 and 100 jobs for Island tradesmen. He asked that the project be approved with the conditions imposed by the Martha's Vineyard Commission when it approved the revisions on March 5.
Mr. Lambert praised the developers for compromising with his committee, but he was concerned that traffic and parking remain an issue. "You're impacting the neighborhood," he told the board members. "If you just adjust those two issues, I think everybody can be happy with it. Masonic Avenue is a back door through Oak Bluffs that everybody in this room uses all the time. Any impact is going to be felt by everybody."
Candace Nichols, who owns property near the proposed project, raised a number of objections. She said the latest revision in the plan endangered a tree that the town's tree warden previously ordered preserved and protected. The developers promised all trees under the tree warden's order would be protected, and said the tree warden had agreed to the revised plans.