Loft apartments proposed in Edgartown

Charles Hajjar, of Haven Road Realty Trust, is proposing to construct ten apartments in the existing second floor attic space in Post Office Square. — Photo by Michelle Gross

Charles Hajjar, a Boston-based realtor operating under the name Haven Road Realty Trust, proposes to construct 10 market rate apartments in the existing second floor attic space of the Four Flags Condominium complex, also referred to as Post Office Square, at the Triangle, where traffic from Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven merge to enter downtown Edgartown.

The project is now before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission as a development of regional impact (DRI). Although the Edgartown planning board forwarded the project to the MVC, based on the criteria in the DRI checklist, board members said the town is more than capable of reviewing the project and asked the Island’s regional planning and permitting body not to labor over the details.

Mr. Hajjar proposes to construct one three-bedroom apartment, eight two-bedroom apartments, and one one-bedroom apartment, for a total of 20 bedrooms. The plan also includes a reconfigured parking lot that will add 16 parking spots, plus the addition of an external set of stairs. The business complex, classified as a BII business district on Upper Main Street, abuts the residential Dark Woods neighborhood and the Edgartown Park & Ride lot.

The apartments are intended to be year-round rentals, said Sean Murphy, an Edgartown lawyer who represents Mr. Hajjar.

“This project is to create affordable, year-round rentals,” Mr. Murphy said. “The market, we believe, is for the year-round work force needing housing, early retirees, or someone who may want to sell their house and downsize.”

Mr. Murphy said the apartments will sell furnished.

“If you read the Island plan, if you read the housing assessment plan, these apartments are exactly where they’re supposed to be,” Mr. Murphy said. “One of the reasons this site was chosen for year-round apartments is because it’s located directly on the bus line. It’s very accessible. They anticipate people who can walk to the post office, walk to the bank, the supermarket is across the street, so you don’t have to drive anywhere.”

Edgartown can do it

Under the DRI checklist, the planning board was required to forward the project to the MVC based on the creation of “10 or more dwellings,” and its previous designation as a DRI.

In a letter to the MVC dated June 24, 2013, Edgartown planning board chairman Robert Sparks said that the planning board voted to refer the project per the checklist with a strong recommendation of support.

Mr. Sparks, citing a traffic study completed for another project in 2011,  asked the MVC to waive the requirement of a traffic study and attach any conditions for approval in the form recommendations to the planning board.

“The planning board believes the project can be thoroughly reviewed under the Edgartown bylaw for BII Upper Main Street Business District. The project shall also be reviewed by the wastewater department, police and fire departments, as well as the highway department. All these boards are very capable of recommending conditions necessary to preserve and protect their respective jurisdictions.”

In a followup email to The Times Wednesday, in response to a question that asked if the planning board believes that the Edgartown lofts project necessitates MVC review, planning board member Georgiana Greenough said, “Yes, the board feels the project should be reviewed by the MVC, but [it] hoped the commission would not labor over details that the local boards can handle, given the town adopted in 1989 a detailed Upper Main Street Masterplan, which was used to develop the B-II Upper Main Street Business District zoning bylaw.”

In years past, Edgartown officials have been unsparing in their criticism of the MVC and the agency’s proposed revisions to its development of regional impact (DRI) checklist.

The right tenants

At a meeting of the MVC’s land use planning committee (LUPC) on March 17, project architect Charlie Orlando presented commissioners with draft elevations for the project. The height of the structure will remain the same, and the apartments will be separated by “dormers” or wall separators, Mr. Orlando said. The proposal also includes planting ten 14-foot trees to mask two new exterior sets of stairs.

LUPC chairman Linda Sibley of West Tisbury noted that the applicant is an experienced  off-Island developer. She asked how Mr. Hajjar will prevent renting the units to wealthy seasonal tenants who will use the space seasonally as opposed to year-round.

Commissioner Joan Malkin of Chilmark said she wanted to hear more about the screening process Mr. Hajjar plans to use to find prospective tenants.

LUPC agreed the project is ready to go public hearing, which is scheduled for Thursday, April 3.

There are a total of 16 units in the Post Office Square complex. Edgartown Meat & Fish and Granite Hardware own two of the buildings. On December 31, Four Flags LLC sold 236 and 238 Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road to Charles Hajjar and Paul R. Mahoney, a trustee of Haven Road Realty Trust, for $3 million.

Under its enabling legislation, the MVC has wide authority to regulate developments of regional impact, by imposing conditions that cover density, traffic impact, environmental impact, and other factors above and beyond those that may be imposed at the local level.

Depending on the level of review and conditions imposed, the MVC process can be time-consuming and expensive. Once the MVC approves a development proposal, the project returns to local town boards for further review before a development permit is issued.