MVC approves hospital design, after lively debate about bricks
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) reviewed the exterior design of the Martha's Vineyard Hospital for final approval and concluded public hearings on a West Tisbury tennis/racquetball facility and Chilmark's affordable housing development at a meeting last Thursday.
Although the commissioners approved the hospital's plans for a new building last December, they included a condition requiring that the final design be approved by the MVC.
Last Thursday, some of the commissioners expressed surprise at seeing Tim Walsh, the hospital's chief executive officer, and Tim Sweet, vice chairman of the hospital's trustees, at the meeting. "We already approved your project - what are you doing back?" someone joked. With smiles on their faces, both Mr. Walsh and Mr. Sweet quickly offered to leave.
The hospital's design was discussed in detail during three public hearing sessions last fall. Despite the recommendation in a risk assessment study, required of the hospital by the MVC, that brick be used on the hospital's exterior, the commissioners debated the subject at length. At that time, the hospital architects provided samples of the brick color options, explaining they were limited within the ranges of clay colors, which are shades of red, orange, brown, beige and warm gray.
The final exterior design approved for Martha's Vineyard Hospital by the Martha's Vineyard Commission features an all-brick exterior and a reduced tower, which complies with Oak Bluffs zoning regulations. (Illustrations by Thomas, Miller and Partners)
At last week's meeting, the brick discussion resurfaced. West Tisbury commissioner Andrew Woodruff said he would prefer some other color than red, while MVC chairman Douglas Sederholm said he liked blond brick. "My high school was made of blond brick," he added. West Tisbury commissioner Linda Sibley remarked that he must have been fond of the place. Mr. Sederholm quickly responded with a laugh, "Actually, I hated it."
Following the hospital project's approval last December, the MVC formed an informal committee of Vineyard architects to advise the hospital's architects, Dan Cress and Mark Rowland of Thomas, Miller, and Partners, who have designed hospitals all over the country. The Vineyard group included architects Peter Breese, Ben Moore, and Bob Schwartz, as well as MVC executive director Mark London, who also is an architect.
The Vineyard architects' final report, distributed to the commissioners last week, brings to mind an old joke: "A camel is a horse designed by a committee." While there were concerns the first hospital design "was undistinguished and lacked vision," the architects agreed the building was supposed to "fit in with the general architectural tradition of buildings on the Vineyard." It should not look like a large house but should look like a hospital - yet at the same time, it should be "homey," rather than cold and impersonal.
By comparison, the preliminary exterior design for the hospital shows a taller, more slender tower.
As for the height of the tower at the front of the building (with shades of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"), the Oak Bluffs zoning board declared it too tall - and the architects deemed it too small.
In conclusion, the Vineyard architects recommended that the MVC approve the hospital design, and also urged the hospital to seek a zoning change to allow the previous tower height. (The report is available at the MVC web site, www.mvcommission.org)
The commissioners took the recommendation and voted to approve the design, but also asked to see a sample of the brick at a future meeting.
In other business, the MVC concluded a public hearing regarding James Ferry's proposed project off State Road in West Tisbury to construct an outdoor tennis court, an indoor racquetball court, a pro shop, and offices.
Mr. Ferry provided the commissioners with a list of several offers, including planting at least one tree for every one cut, installing downward lighting, exploring energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, and maintaining open space. A deed restriction has been put in place to restrict wastewater production on both of the property's lots. Mr. Ferry also offered to fence part of the property to reduce noise for the neighbors and limit tennis court use to daylight hours.
Sharon Estrella, whose home is behind Mr. Ferry's property, said at the hearing that the proposed racquetball court/office building is too big. When asked by Chilmark MVC commissioner Chris Murphy what would be more palatable, she replied, "Trim the building down."
Mr. Ferry explained he needs the income from the second floor office rentals to offset his expenses. He pointed out that when he bought the property two years ago, he had budgeted $15,000 for the permitting process, and to date has spent $60,000.
"Three-thousand square feet is not a large building, and it's all within the parameters of very strict zoning in West Tisbury," Mr. Ferry said.
His frustration evident, he asked, "If you're taking commercial space and saying someone can't use it, what good is it?"
Land use planning committee chairman (LUPC) Christina Brown ended the discussion by closing the hearing. The project will under post-hearing review by the LUPC on June 18.
Ms. Brown then reconvened the public hearing on Chilmark's Middle Line Road affordable housing project. MVC Water Resource Planner Bill Wilcox, who was unable to attend the May 10 session, provided an in-depth explanation about nitrogen issues and an analysis of how the project would impact the Tisbury Great Pond watershed. He concluded the project meets the MVC's water quality guidelines.
The Chilmark selectmen followed up with answers to the commissioners' questions regarding the project's location, site arrangement, affordable housing eligibility requirements, traffic and access, and archeological surveying.
In response to suggested changes from some of the commissioners that might result in cost increases for the project, Chilmark selectman J. B. Riggs Parker remarked, "We have to come back to our town with a viable plan that's economically feasible. We need to put meat and potatoes on the table, and let the gravy come from town meeting."
Ms. Brown closed the public hearing. The project will undergo post-hearing review at the LUPC's June 11 meeting. The MVC will deliberate and make a decision on the project on June 14.
In other business, the MVC approved the modification of the B.A.D.D. Company's approved development of regional impact (DRI) application to decrease the number of house lots in the residential subdivision from 32 lots to 25 lots, with the number of bedrooms to remain at 110.
DRI Planner Paul Foley said written decisions will be issued soon on the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club and 18 State Road DRI plans for expansion. The LUPC scheduled a post-public hearing review of the Oyster Bar Grill hearing for June 18.