MVC weighs workforce housing in Oak Bluffs

Owners of the Lampost on Circuit Avenue want to convert the top three floors of their building into employee housing. — File photo Stacey Rupolo

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) had a development of regional impact (DRI) public hearing last Thursday night to vet a plan to convert the top three floors of the Lampost bar/restaurant into employee housing. Lampost co-owner Adam Cummings told commissioners that the housing shortage has become so severe that it’s affecting his ability to run his Circuit Avenue bar and restaurant.

Mr. Cummings, along with attorney Geoghan Coogan and architect Maurice O’Connor, presented the commission with a two-phase, two-year plan. Phase one calls for the third floor of the building to be converted from a dance floor into 14 rooms with shared bathrooms, kitchen, and living area. The following year, phase two would add 11 more bedrooms, seven on the fourth floor and four on the fifth floor, also with shared kitchen, bathrooms, and living space.   

The conversion triggered several conditions on the DRI checklist, including “new construction totaling 3,000 square feet or more of mixed-use (commercial and residential) floor area.”

Mr. Cummings said that bedrooms not used by Lampost staff would be available for employees of other Island businesses. Commissioner Joan Malkin of Chilmark suggested that the term “workforce housing” could be better defined. Commissioner Ben Robinson of Tisbury added that precautions should be taken to avoid an “Airbnb” scenario. Mr. Coogan said it “made no sense” to rent out rooms on a nightly basis, given the critical need for employee housing Island-wide.

Mr. Cummings estimated that phase one would take three to four months. Speaking to The Times on Friday, he said that given the severity of the housing shortage, he’s hoping phase one can get underway soon. “I haven’t given up hope on getting it done this spring,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic the permitting process will get done quickly.”

The commission will make a decision at its Dec. 15 meeting.