Community forum offers ideas for high school area land uses
Armed with maps, yarn, colored pencils and paper cutouts, about 35 Islanders tried their hand at area planning last Saturday morning at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), bound only by the limits of their imagination. Well, almost.
"The more grandiose the idea, the less likely it will come to fruition," cautioned Michael Dutton, an Oak Bluffs selectman and planning board member. "It's not likely we will be demolishing the high school building any time soon."
The community planning session, sponsored by the Oak Bluffs selectmen, planning board and Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC), focused on the high school area corridor on both sides of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.
MV Times file photo
Although the event was open to the public, most of the attendees were MVC staff, school board members, town board members and representatives from organizations located in the area under discussion. Participants tackled the challenging task of developing a plan to incorporate existing, proposed and possible future facilities, roads, parking, pedestrian and bicyclist access, public transit, and open space.
The MVC supplied maps detailing property ownership and boundaries to aid in the exercise. Several people were surprised to learn that the Church of Latter Day Saints owns an eleven-plus-acre parcel next to the high school. The high school owns 25 acres of property directly across the street from it and another five-plus-acre parcel behind the skate park, adjacent to M.V. Community Services. This site is the proposed location for a new YMCA facility, pending land lease negotiations.
Other property adjacent to Woodside Village is owned by the Land Bank, the town of Oak Bluffs, and M.B.T. Realty Trust. A proposed land swap between the Land Bank and Oak Bluffs Resident Homesite Committee may open up some acreage for affordable housing in the future, Mr. Dutton said.
After a walking tour around the skate park past the proposed YMCA site and along Old Holmes Hole Road, an ancient way, to the ice arena, the would-be planners headed back to the high school library where they split into smaller groups at tables.
Their discussions raised many planning questions: How can the area remain pedestrian friendly and the impact of traffic kept to a minimum? What if you could move a building? Can roads be shared to minimize traffic? Where can green space be placed effectively? Should parking lots be located in front of a building or behind it?
"We want to come up with a plan now instead of running into a quagmire 15 to 20 years from now," Mr. Dutton said.
Using tracing paper placed over aerial maps at each table and paper cutouts representing the proposed YMCA building, parking lots, and an outdoor community basketball court, each team worked about an hour on a plan to create a "village" or "campus" plan incorporating the new elements with existing ones, the skate park, ice arena, M.V. Community Services, and Woodside Village. Some of the groups also considered the possibility of throwing a new hospital, school administration building and affordable housing into the mix.
At the end of the morning, each team gave a 10-minute presentation of their plan. One group's plan located a new hospital and Windemere next to the ice arena, while another placed the hospital near Martha's Vineyard Community Services.
All five of the groups suggested locating the basketball court next to the skate park. One proposal suggested adding a park-like area with benches near the outdoor recreation areas so parents could sit and watch their children.
Two of the groups suggested that if it was possible, maybe the high school could swap some land with the Church of Latter Day Saints to use as the location of a new wastewater treatment plant for the area, expansion of the playing fields, teacher housing, and/or the location of school administration offices.
After looking at the five proposals, some common elements stood out, such as crosswalks, shared parking space behind the ice arena, and a "green" buffer in front of the skate park and ice arena area.
All of the plans favored locating the basketball court next to the skate park. Two of the plans suggested moving the YMCA building forward on its lot, closer to the skate park, with parking in back.
Locating the YMCA facility close to the ice arena could offer energy savings as well, suggested David Morris, an Oak Bluffs School committee member. He said it might be possible to heat the Y's swimming pool with excess heat piped from the compressor on the arena's ice-making machinery.
Members of the campus planning committee will take the ideas generated from Saturday's session and use them as the framework in their planning process, wrote Judy Crawford, a committee member, in a follow-up email to participants. "There will be many meetings and public hearings in the future about the area," she said.