Oak Bluffs planning board approves Lagoon Ridge

After five years in permitting purgatory, developer Davio Danielson can move forward with his plans, if he meets board conditions.

Oak Bluffs planning board members discuss the Lagoon Ridge project, with member Erik Albert attending via teleconference - Barry Stringfellow

After three months of to and fro and marked procedural confusion and spirited internal debate, the Oak Bluffs planning board approved the special permit for Lagoon Ridge, the proposed 23-lot subdivision off Barnes Road, on Thursday night, with a 4 -1 vote.

“We’re delighted to finally be approved,” Davio Danielson told The Times after the vote. “We’re excited to bring new technology to address nitrogen and to create much-needed housing for our workforce and our seniors.”

The approval comes with three conditions, one of which, a requirement to increase a buffer zone around one of the three housing clusters from 25 to 50 feet, will require reworking the site plan at considerable cost to Danielson, which he estimated at between $40,000 and $50,000 for surveying and engineering.

His attorney Eric Peters unsuccessfully challenged the 50-foot buffer condition, saying it would make it difficult, “if not impossible,” to maintain the mandated 60 percent open space previously required by the board.
There is a second condition on structural assurances — a guarantee that the six senior housing and three affordable housing units will remain as such in perpetuity.

The third condition is a buildout schedule, which will require building affordable housing before the final 10 lots are released.

Peters asked for modifications to the buildout schedule, which he said was written ambiguously.

Chairman Ewell Hopkins said that according to procedure, there could be no changes to the conditions, which were approved on Feb. 22. He said the only way changes could be made was for Danielson to withdraw his application to the board and start the process anew. With town elections coming up in three weeks, a new board would be in place for the next go-round.

After a brief discussion outside the town hall meeting room, Peters and Danielson asked the board to move forward with the vote on the special permit.

“We’ll make it work,” Danielson said.

Hopkins was the dissenting vote. He declined to explain the reasons for his vote.

The subdivision application — Form C, separate from the special permit under section 7.3 — was approved unanimously, 5-0, by the board at Thursday’s meeting.

Procedural snafus
Lagoon Ridge is the first development in Oak Bluffs approved under the flexible zoning bylaw.

The purpose of the flexible zoning bylaw, also referred to as Section 7.3, is to allow for density development in exchange for the preservation of natural resources and the “traditional New England landscape” and to enhance “open space, forestry and recreational use.” It is also intended to create alternatives to standard subdivisions, and to promote the development of housing affordable to low, moderate and median income families, and for Islanders over 55 years old.
The inaugural approval process under the flexible zoning bylaw had its share of snafus.

Legally speaking, the Feb. 22 Oak Bluffs planning board vote denied the special permit for Lagoon Ridge.
But the majority of the board questioned the validity of the Feb. 22 vote because board member Erik Albert, who was attending the meeting by teleconference, left the meeting before the final vote. Albert has been one of the most consistent supporters of the development since the board began discussions in December. He did not announce that he was leaving the proceedings. It was only when board member Brian Packish checked the connection on the silent phone that he saw a text from Albert, indicating he had to leave.

At that meeting, board members Packish, Bo Fehl, and Mark Crossland voted to approve the special permit with the three conditions.

Chairman Ewell Hopkins cast the final and dissenting vote, effectively denying the special permit.

Although the board voted 3-1 to approve, the majority vote was not sufficient, because according to state law, a special permit requires a supermajority, or a minimum of four votes from the five-member board.

On Thursday, March 1, the board voted 5-0 to take a revote, which prompted Thursday’s meeting.