Martha’s Vineyard Commission will vote on new MVTV building

Martha's Vineyard Community Television plans to erect a new modern building on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. — Photo courtesy of MVTV

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) is expected to vote Thursday night to approve a permit that will allow Martha’s Vineyard Community Television (MVTV) to erect a new modern building on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.

MVTV, the Island’s cable public access TV station, is currently housed in cramped quarters next to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. The non-profit organization proposes to build a new 6,600-square-foot community media center with studios, classroom space, editing and equipment rooms, and administrative offices, and also an attached 620-square-foot garage.

The MVC reviewed the project as a development of regional impact (DRI) following a referral by the Oak Bluffs building inspector. The DRI triggers included square footage and commercial parking.

The MVC called it a wrap on the public process following a January 19 public hearing. Mindful of MVTV’s January 31 closing date for the property, the MVC fast-tracked the project to its Land Use Planning Committee (LUPC) on Monday this week. The LUPC voted unanimously to recommend the project be approved approval, with amended offers submitted by MVTV.

MVTV operates on three cable channels that provide publicly produced programs, educational shows, and local government coverage. Comcast, Martha’s Vineyard’s current cable service provider, funds MVTV with five percent of its revenue from Island cable subscribers.

Last week’s DRI public hearing was a little unusual, in that the applicants — MVTV manager Steve Warriner, MVTV board chairman Anne Lemenager, architect Bruce MacNelly, and engineer Chris Alley — sought the MVC’s approval for the project in advance of finalizing the purchase of property for the building.

In July 2011, MVTV signed a purchase and sales (P&S) agreement with Charles Frazier for property he owns between the World Revival Church and the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home on Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road, about a quarter mile east of the high school.

Since the property is zoned residential, MVTV’s proposal had to qualify as an educational use to meet zoning. The P&S agreement included permission from Mr. Frazier for MVTV to seek MVC approval before closing on the property on January 31, according to an MVC staff report.

We interrupt this program…

An appearance by J.C. Murphy, a realtor who marketed the property, provided the only blip of the evening. Mr. Murphy was concerned that were the MVC to hear the MVTV proposal as a DRI, it would hinder his ability to market the property for Mr. Frazier if the deal fell through.

“There’s really not much danger to Mr. Frazier, because if we approve it, and then it falls apart for some reason, the property does become a DRI, but he can then come to us and say look, this didn’t happen, and he could request it to come off,” MVC DRI analyst Paul Foley explained to Mr. Murphy. “Or, after two years it would fall off; it wouldn’t be a DRI.”

Mr. Murphy said there should be some sort of financial penalty imposed on MVTV if the closing date was not met. Commissioner Doug Sederholm, chairman of the Land Use Planning Committee, suggested that he and Mr. Warriner should talk and recessed the hearing for five minutes. The two men retreated to the parking lot.

“If it goes beyond the thirty-first, MVTV will pay an additional $4,400 towards the total cost of the land purchase, as an additional cost to MVTV,” Mr. Warriner announced when the two men returned.

Job well done

Public testimony was unanimously positive from MVTV employees, board members, and community members. Ann McManus, an abutting property owner, said Mr. MacNelly and MVTV representatives met with her and other neighbors and had already addressed a list of their concerns.

In closing the 75-minute hearing, Mr. Sederholm commended MVTV, Mr. MacNelly, and Mr. Alley for a very well thought out and sensitive DRI application and their interaction with the neighbors.

The commission agreed to schedule the LUPC post-hearing review and full commission’s deliberation and decision as soon as possible before the January 31 closing date.

Commissioner Ned Orleans of Tisbury said he wanted to make the point that the commission’s willingness to complete MVTV’s project review swiftly is not unusual.

“We are not doing this under severe pressure,” Mr. Orleans said. “We are simply doing it, recognizing that there is always a time element to a deal and that when we can take care of what our business is and accept a time element, then we do it, and we have done it before many times.”

Post-hearing review

At the LUPC’s meeting Monday, MVTV provided a written list of offers, including a landscaping plan, cedar shingles and wood siding, an asphalt roof, hours of operation, and construction phasing and hours. MVTV also will obtain a formal easement from the World Revival Church confirming access to its property through the church’s lot.

Mr. Warriner said MVTV plans to construct its building in phases, with the scope of phase one to be determined after negotiations between Comcast and the towns, now suspended in a dispute over coverage to outlying areas of the Island, have been completed.