Cozy Hearth history
Cozy Hearth is the inspiration of Bill Bennett, an electrical contractor who owns Bennett Company and Home Electronic Design. Mr. Bennett came up with the idea of forming an affordable housing community made up of employees, friends, and family after facing the loss of two of his best employees who were going to move off-Island because they could not find affordable housing.
Although the Cozy Hearth Community Corporation (CHCC) purchased land in Edgartown zoned for three-acre lots, their plan hinged on subdividing the acreage into 11 one-acre lots for 11 houses under the terms of Chapter 40B, a state statute which helps bypass local zoning restrictions to encourage affordable housing.
Under 40B, CHCC would be required to give 25 percent of the lots to Edgartown for affordable housing, which meant that Cozy Hearth would contribute three homes to be sold by the town through an affordable housing lottery. The cost of the affordable houses given to the town would be divided among the Cozy Hearth members.
The remaining eight lots for homes built by Cozy Hearth members would include five deed-restricted lots and three unrestricted for resale.
The Cozy Hearth project underwent an exhaustive seven-month review by the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC). The commission approved the project in December 2005 with a lengthy list of conditions addressing habitat protection, water quality in the surrounding Oyster Pond watershed, and the impact on the neighborhood in terms of traffic, density, and lighting.
In March 2006, Cozy Hearth went before the Edgartown ZBA. Two months later, the ZBA voted against the 11-house subdivision and approved only nine houses.
Decreasing the project to nine houses meant the loss of two of the three market-value units and that six Cozy Hearth members would share the economic burden rather than eight.
Cozy Hearth appealed the Edgartown ZBA's decision in June 2006 to the Massachusetts Housing Appeals Committee. On April 14, 2008, the HAC agreed that the elimination of two houses would make the project uneconomic and that several conditions imposed by the ZBA were beyond the scope of health and safety issues. The ZBA appealed the HAC decision in April 2008, which was upheld by Dukes County Superior Court Justice John C. Cratsley on April 13, 2009.