MVCS seeks to expand

Martha’s Vineyard Commission reviews master plan.

Julie Fay, John Abrams, and Ryan Bushey present the MVCS master plan to the MVC. — Lucas Thors

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) is looking to expand its facilities by more than 50 percent gross square footage and create a more efficient campus to serve the Island. The three-phase campus master plan was presented to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Thursday by architects at South Mountain Co.

The project would consist of demolishing the existing MVCS campus (with the exception of the new Island Wide Youth Collaborative building) and building a more modern campus that can better accommodate clients and staff. The proposal would add 1.4 acres of land that is currently woods to the MVCS existing leasehold of three acres.

On Jan. 1, the House and Senate enacted a piece of special legislation authorizing the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School district to update a 1980 lease between MVRHS and MVCS adding 1.9 acres to the three acres originally leased to the nonprofit. This gives MVCS room for future expansion.

The first phase of the proposal would involve building a new 10,000-square-foot one-story early childhood center (ECC) containing early childhood programs, Head Start, support space, and administration. The second phase would be moving children to the new ECC building, moving administration to temporary work trailers, building a new and improved parking area, demolishing the existing administration and ECC buildings, and building a 17,500-square-foot two-story main building to house administration, the Island Counseling Center (ICC), disability services, and Daybreak.

The final phase would be demolishing the existing ICC building, removing temporary trailers, and making final touches to parking and landscaping.

Engineer Chris Alley proposed a temporary onsite wastewater system to serve the new ECC building, and for the rest of the facility to remain on town sewer. Since the municipal wastewater system currently serving the property does not allow for flow increases, Alley made sure there would be no net increase until after capacity is expanded.

Currently, the nitrogen load at MVCS is slightly over the MVC’s target maximum. Alley said a denitrification system, no fertilizers beyond established plantings, and less than 365 days of use would bring the nitrogen load within 1 percent of the target maximum.

One important issue for the MVCS campus is parking. Because of the congested parking area that exists currently, many people decide to park ad hoc along the side of Village Road and adjacent to the lot. This creates traffic tie-ups at the main egress, and makes for an accident-prone space.

Ryan Bushey of South Mountain Co. said increasing the number of parking spots from 76 to 140 will allow for a better flow of traffic in and out of the facility.

Poor sightlines at egress points have also been an issue for MVCS over the years. The proposal hopes to address this by creating new access points with clear sightlines.

A letter from a resident of Woodside Village, Kathleen Young, described her head-on collision with a pickup truck that entered her lane of travel. “It took about 3 or 4 seconds before I was hit head-on. My car was totaled,” the letter stated. Young listed a number of necessary improvements to the road that she said would make it safer and more efficient.

She suggested painting a center line to delineate travel lanes, fixing potholes and deep cracks, putting up a speed limit sign (there is no sign on the road currently), cutting back brush and trees that obstruct visibility, and sweeping edges of the road to make it wider.

Currently, Island Elderly Housing (IEH) is paying for all maintenance on Village Road, including road clearing and plowing, according to IEH principal officer Dorothy Young.

Commissioners said they would like to see more communication and collaboration between MVCS, the YMCA, and IEH.

Commissioner Joan Malkin said that maintenance responsibility and parking privileges need to be clearly defined among the three organizations in order for Village Road to function efficiently.

Many commissioners had concerns regarding the increase in intensity of use of Village Road, and how the expanded campus will inevitably mean more clients.

Although the staff is expected to increase by approximately 20 employees, Bushey said there will be plenty of parking available. Bushey also said sometimes staff park across the street at the high school, weather permitting, which frees up more parking for clients and parents.

According to director of human resources for MVCS, Amy Houghton, peak hours for the campus are in the morning, when kids are being dropped off at ECC, and at the end of the day, when staff are departing and parents are picking kids up.

John Abrams of South Mountain said the increase in staff and clients will be minimal, but any added traffic will be accommodated by almost doubling the amount of parking.

MVCS executive director Julie Fay said the project is “sorely overdue” after frequent flooding, insufficient ventilation, and ineffective temperature control has made the facility “unsatisfactory in relation to the vision of community services.” Fay also said it is more difficult to provide adequate services to clients with the campus in its present condition.

One major goal of the proposal is to work toward net zero power use, with photovoltaic solar panels that would generate enough electricity to power the entire facility. “We may even have a net gain facility, which means we would be creating more power than we need,” Bushey said.

Other resilient design elements in the proposal include superinsulated structures, an airtight building envelope, efficient lighting and appliances, and onsite batteries to provide backup power during outages.

The landscaping described in the proposal would add 180 deciduous and evergreen trees, along with 200 deciduous and evergreen shrubs, to the surrounding area.

Apart from the additional plantings, rain gardens will be planted around campus that will allow stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces to be absorbed and utilized.

Commissioners decided to continue the discussion on the master plan, and requested that MVCS communicate openly with IEH and the YMCA about public transit, maintenance agreements, and common goals.

MVCS hopes to begin construction of the proposed facility by May 2019.


  1. This is a massive complex for such a small community. OB already carries the burden of such non-profits as the hospital and high school. No more land grabs for businesses that pay no taxes.

    • Yeah, that Hospital. What a burden! Same with the High School. Healthcare and public education – who needs em’!

  2. My kids attended Community Services for preschool and I wouldn’t trade that experience. The staff there was exceptional and it was a great group of kids and parents from diverse backgrounds. The buildings have clearly served the community well for many years, but are in need of this upgrade. My only question about this expansion is that MVCC, the YMCA (and now the rink), IEH and the MVRHS are facilities that the entire island utilizes. As these are all non-profits, the Town of Oak Bluffs gets very little back other than wear and tear and increased traffic. Certainly this impacts our Police and Emergency Services, as well as the Highway Department among other things that Oak Bluffs taxpayers bear the burden for. It would be nice to see a mechanism in place to spread these costs around to all island towns.

  3. Since you brought up the ‘spread the costs around to all island towns’ OB song again.. lets not forget Edgartown. How many of our police officers have been injured (some took disability retirements) responding to the never ending calls from the jail? We have the courthouse that always requires police responses, the traffic to/from south beach which clogs up the triangle and upper main street all summer, the massive crowds at PUBLIC south beach with constant ambulance runs , police responses, and full staff to babysit the beach goers (while the up-island snobs keep their beaches to them selves), state beach in Edg which is larger than the OB portion , (of course OB makes $$ with their speed traps on the road) we have 1/2 of marthas vineyard airport and the business park, so a small footprint by the high school is a non-issue. I’m glad you brought up the hospital. In the interest of ‘full disclosure’, all of the ambulance runs transporting patients off-island are a HUGE cash cow for Oak Bluffs, and without that revenue, the property taxes for residents would rise exponentially.

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