Tisbury board of selectmen had no choice but to hear the concerns of residents who attended their Tuesday-night meeting expecting to hear a presentation by Island Housing Trust (IHT) executive director Philippe Jordi about a proposed affordable housing complex on Kuehn’s Way.
Mr. Jordi was not present. Mr. Jordi told The Times on Wednesday that there was a mixup and he was not notified he was on the agenda — IHT’s presentation is expected to take place August 2.
But after waiting patiently nearly two hours for a waterway’s hearing to conclude, those who had come to express their concerns and frustrations about IHT’s proposed Kuehn’s Way wanted their say, primarily about density and water quality.
Kuehn’s Way is sited on 5.9 acres fronting State Road, part of a 14.8-acre property at State and Deer Hill roads that was to be the site of an earlier affordable housing project, Bridge Commons, which never came to fruition. Plans call for 10 paired one- and one-and-a-half-story duplex buildings, to include two apartments each, on a building envelope of four acres. The complex includes three one-bedroom,14 two-bedroom, and three three-bedroom units. The buildings will be clustered in five groups of four apartments each, for a total of 20 apartments with 40 bedrooms.
Last week, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s land-use planning committee voted to recommend to the full commission that there was no need to hold public hearings for the Kuehn’s Way proposal, in light of the fact that the proposal to construct 20 rental units on 4.5 acres off State Road in Tisbury is a downward adjustment of the previously approved and never-built Bridge Commons’ DRI.
On Tuesday night, neighborhood residents urged selectmen to revisit Kuehn’s Way, calling it a horrible idea and a huge disaster.
Janet Whitcock lives in the neighborhood of the proposed project. She said that the people who are speaking out against Kuehn’s Way were in favor of building affordable housing on the Island. However, Ms. Whitcock said, she believed that the town ought to share the burden. She said that the neighborhood doesn’t have the infrastructure to sustain the project.
“We don’t think that we should have to take the entire burden for affordable housing for the entire town. It needs to be dispersed,” Ms. Whitcock said. “It shouldn’t do damage where it’s going to go. It should fit in nicely and be part of our Island and not stand off as a separate, outrageous entity. This is the biggest thing ever built here, and none of the officials are acting like it’s a big deal.”
Tisbury MVC member Clarence “Trip” Barnes pointed out that the cost of Kuehn’s Way is $6.5 million, a number he finds high, and he called the project ridiculous.
“The whole situation has got to be readdressed,” Mr. Barnes said. “It’s a little out of control. I think it’s embarrassing. I don’t think anybody in the room would go along with this.”
Robert Dias also lives near the proposed site, which he called unfitting for his neighborhood and the Island at large. Mr. Dias came to speak out against the project, saying that at last week’s meeting with the LUPC, residents were not permitted to speak. He asked if the IHT has to go to the board of selectmen or the town before the project is approved.
Selectmen chairman Melinda Loberg said that the project has to go to the zoning board of appeals.
“The reason that Mr. Jordi was bringing his presentation to us was to ask us for our support as it goes before the commission, and we haven’t entertained that discussion as of yet,” Ms. Loberg said. “I don’t really know whether our support or lack of would have any impact on the commission.”
Selectmen Tristan Israel, who is also the board of selectmen’s appointee to the IHT, said he was disappointed that the LUPC did not listen to residents’ concerns. Mr. Israel said he still has questions about the proposed project.
“I am in favor of doing something there. I have not thought about whether the density there or not is appropriate,” Mr. Israel said.
Selectmen Larry Gomez said he was concerned about the density and the cost of the project. He also brought up the issue of nitrogen mitigation. He said that the number of units that are proposed by IHT continues to rise.
“I see the IHT slowly creeping in,” Mr. Gomez said. “To go from one to 20, and the next project is going to be somewhere, maybe in Edgartown or maybe West Tisbury, to maybe 30. It’s a geometrical jump for me, and I’m not really crazy about this project. I didn’t like it when I first heard about it, and I’m still not in favor.”
Mr. Israel urged residents to work “to agitate” to the various boards and commissions so their issues can be addressed.
“We need affordable housing, and maybe this isn’t the way to go, but we do need it,” Mr. Israel said.