Martha’s Vineyard Commission reviews Tisbury Marketplace

With a proposal for a new two-story building with retail and office space, a marine related business and an apartment, topped with a “green roof,” Reid “Sam” Dunn hopes to build on the success of Tisbury Marketplace.

On April 15, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) will continue a public development of regional impact (DRI) hearing on the project.

Mr. Dunn is no stranger to the town’s permitting process, or to DRI review by the MVC. He and a closely held partnership developed and opened the Marketplace off Beach Road in 1984. Mr. Dunn also developed and owns the Woodland Business Center, as well as the Saltwater Restaurant, which opened at Tisbury Marketplace in the summer of 2008.

With his latest project, however, Mr. Dunn is wending his way through increasingly complex layers of regulation regarding commercial development near wetlands. He also is dealing with changes in the zoning laws since Tisbury Marketplace was built and the challenges of creating a unique and modern building within the confines of Tisbury’s architectural guidelines that date back to 1996.

In a narrative supplied with his MVC application, Mr. Dunn said all of the Marketplace’s spaces have been individually purchased as condominiums, all owned by Islanders. When the condominium association was formed in 1989, Mr. Dunn retained development rights for three areas for possible future expansion, including the site for the proposed new building. The expansion of Saltwater Restaurant used one, and the third is in the corner between the Marketplace’s two rectangular buildings.

“The property is highly undeveloped,” Mr. Dunn said. “It was always in our plans to expand, but we couldn’t think about doing it as long as we were on septic.” The Marketplace has since been hooked up to the town sewer, for which the condominium association pays hefty betterment fees.

The new building, with two stories totaling 6,500 square feet, would be built on a parcel on the grass area overlooking Lagoon Pond, perpendicular to the building that faces Beach Road. Occupying a 3,700 square-foot footprint, the building would include four retail spaces, including one marine related business, two offices, and an apartment.

The project triggered a DRI referral by the Tisbury conservation commission (ConCom). Mr. Dunn said the building site is not only within 100 feet of wetlands, but also located in the 100-year flood zone, and the ConCom maintains jurisdiction over both.

Tisbury’s waterfront commercial district is divided into two sub-zoning districts, the waterside management area, which includes any land inside 100 feet of the high water mark along Lagoon Pond, and the commercial management area beyond it. The new Marketplace building would be within 58 feet of wetlands at its closest point.

In an interview with The Times Monday, Mr. Dunn said that boatyards and other marine-related facilities and businesses are allowed in the waterside management area, as are apartments. The commercial management area includes additional uses, such as restaurants, offices and retail stores.

Since Mr. Dunn’s proposed building would straddle both areas, he plans to put a marine-related business and apartment in the part of the building on the waterside management area side, and the other office and retail space in the part of the building on the commercial management area side.

“This project is 100 percent in conformance with zoning,” Mr. Dunn said.

In his application narrative, Mr. Dunn points out that many facilities along Beach Road are closer to the water than 100 feet, and some of them were permitted after the regulations. The Gannon and Benjamin boatbuilding facility and boat storage area at the Marketplace are in very close proximity to wetlands, as is Maciel Marine’s large boat storage facility.

Of more concern, however, is the possibility that the proposed building site would be on filled tidelands, subject to M.G.L. Chapter 91, which would require permitting by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Paul Foley, the MVC’s DRI coordinator, said Tuesday he received an email from the DEP about a map that shows the site is on filled wetlands.

The issue is still being sorted out, Mr. Dunn said yesterday, adding that whatever the outcome, “If we have to get a state permit, we’ll get it.”

In order to mitigate the possible effects of the new building’s proximity to Lagoon Pond, Mr. Dunn and Elise Elliston, an architect helping him with the project, propose to contain parking lot and roof runoff with a bio-retention filter on the south side of the building. Succulent plants will be used on areas of the roof to absorb runoff.

Although a “green roof” requires a flat surface, which does not conform to the Marketplace buildings’ existing gabled roof style, Mr. Dunn said it would be difficult to achieve that look anyway, given the current height limit of 28 feet.

But, Tisbury’s 14-year-old architectural guidelines insist on it. The waterfront commercial district’s requirement for a special permit includes site plan standards that recommend avoiding flat-roofed buildings because they “appear substantially more bulky and would alter the traditional character of the district.”

Ms. Elliston went back to the drawing board and came up with a compromise that includes some gables and retains some “green” areas. The result is an innovative blend of tried and true, with something new. She and Mr. Dunn were meeting with the site plan review committee yesterday with the revised design.

To address transportation concerns, Charlie Crevo of C3 Consulting prepared a traffic study of Tisbury Marketplace. Based on the study, the MVC staff report concluded there would be no significant deficiencies created by an increase in traffic generated by the building or a commensurate increase in parking demand.

Circulation issues in the lot and allowances for towing boats between the buildings to the boatyard are also under consideration.

One of the main concerns expressed at the March 18 MVC public hearing had to do with the impact of a new building on the view of Lagoon Pond and the loss of some open space.

“Zoning says you have to keep 40 per cent open, and ConCom raised it to 50 percent,” Mr. Dunn said. “We’re at about 25 percent, including the new building, so we’re way under the threshold that they set for us.”

Maximum density at the Marketplace is controlled by the condominium documents, Mr. Dunn said, which limit building to the three areas mentioned. Another limiting factor is that all decisions about land use must be approved by all of the condominium owners.

As the result of discussions with the MVC’s bicycle and pedestrian planning advisory committee, the condominium association recently indicated it would grant an easement for a bike and pedestrian path.

Prior to the March 18 public hearing, the Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS) raised strong opposition to the project. In an email sent March 16, VCS operations coordinator Signe Benjamin included a copy of VCS executive director Brendan O’Neill’s letter to the MVC and urged supporters to attend the March 18 hearing.

Mr. O’Neill’s letter noted the VCS fought hard to oppose Tisbury Marketplace’s development in 1980-82.

Although wastewater was a big concern at the time of the project’s original approval and the Marketplace is now on town sewer, VCS argues that the town’s sewer policy is intended to discourage new hook-ups. If there is to be surplus flow assigned to the Marketplace, Mr. O’Neill said it should go instead to existing businesses. The MVC staff report notes that the town’s sewer flow review board approved the project for an additional 438 gallons per day.

Despite the hurdles he faces, Mr. Dunn said, “I’m an architect and a builder, and this is what I do.”