MVC talked wastewater at Alliance Community Church hearing Thursday

Russell Wendt, an abutter to Alliance Community church on Ryans Way, expressed concerns about the quality of life in a residential neighborhood. — Photo by Michelle Gross

Representatives of the Alliance Community Church, which wants a permit to expand, returned to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission last Thursday for the fourth time since the public hearing portion of their application process began six months ago on May 16.

And once again, neighbors let the commissioners know about their unhappiness with the church’s plan to expand in the residential neighborhood.

Leaders of the Brazilian church, formerly known as Nova Vida, want to build a 4,500-square-foot addition that would include a 4,500 square-foot basement. When added to the existing 7,000-square-foot building already on the property, the proposed expansion would result in a total gross square footage of 16,084.

The MVC took up the planned expansion as a development of regional impact (DRI) in January.

Despite the wishes of several commissioners who said they were ready to deliberate and make a decision on the expansion project following a public hearing in August, last minute questions about the amount of wastewater and associated nitrogen loading the expansion would generate left other commissioners uncertain.

Thursday night, project engineer George Sourati presented commissioners with a new report containing wastewater limits for the property, based on the church’s proposed expansion plans. He compared the new findings to previously approved DRIs in 2008.

“I’ve been recently asked by the church to come up with the best solution for the site,” Mr. Sourati said. “What I did was I reviewed the old files from 2008.”

Mr. Sourati broke down the estimates and proposed the addition of composting toilets which, he said, would further reduce the nitrogen levels by at least 40 percent.

MVC wastewater planner Sheri Caseau told the commission that installing compost capable toilets,would reduce the level of nitrogen significantly.

“Having all of the toilets being composting toilets, that’s where most of the nitrogen would come from,” Ms. Caseau said.

Not about religion

Oak Bluffs selectman Michael Santoro kicked off the public testimony Thursday. “The board shares the concerns of our local residents and asks that the commission review closely the impacts of the expansion on local residents,” he said.

Mr. Santoro said the primary concerns expressed by the Oak Bluffs selectmen are issues related to noise, additional traffic and congestion, structural and architectural impacts of the new structure in a residential area, and a pattern of “non-compliance” on behalf of the applicant.

Several abutters attended Thursday’s hearing.

“I think it really comes down to what we have now to what’s been proposed,” Kris Chvatal, an abutter to the church said. “This modification is still poorly sited, it’s greatly out of scale of the neighborhood, much more intensive of use including a full-time residence. And now were getting into a situation where it directly contradicts the Island plan, the Oak Bluffs master plan and the Island road district.”

Russell Wendt of 19 Ryan’s Way also expressed his unhappiness with the project. “I think everybody’s kind of fed up with this: it’s been going on for seven or eight years now,” he said. “But this should be clear, this isn’t about religion, it’s not about race, it’s about reasonable use of a residential piece of property. I think we should all agree on that.”

The public hearing was continued to Thursday, December 12.