The Yard seeks to double its footprint

MVCS master plan moves out of public hearing at the MVC meeting Thursday night.

John Abrams and Ryan Bushey of South Mountain Company asked commissioners to end the public hearing for the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services master plan so they can move the project along. — Brian Dowd

The Yard has developed a master plan to completely redo its 46-year-old campus in Chilmark.

The popular performing arts organization went before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Thursday night for a public hearing concerning the demolition, expansion, renovation, and winterization of its facilities to extend event and community programming into the shoulder seasons.

The proposed project is expected to take a year to complete, and is estimated to cost $11.5 million. The project proposes a new performance barn double the size of the existing one, new studios, renovated housing, a new house, and increased parking. The proposed total square footage of all the buildings will nearly double from 7,567 to 14,761 square feet.

In a phone conversation with The Times, the Yard’s executive director, Alison Manning, said the organization does not have all the funding it needs, but will likely raise money through a combination of fundraising, private donors, grants, and events.

Yard supporters crowded the MVC meeting room in an outpouring of support for the organization’s proposal.

Carol Vandal, an Island native and member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), said programs like the Yard are important for culture and the Island’s children. “You need to enlighten and enrich the young minds,” Vandal said. “I’m just here to say that I support this.”

Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF) artistic director Brian Ditchfield said the Yard has been a great collaborator for MVFF. “Seeing these renderings tonight made my heart sing a little bit, and adding that continued culture to the downtown of Chilmark is something I take pride in,” Ditchfield said.

Pete Steedman, director of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, said the Yard does “remarkable work” with the school’s students, and he is looking forward to working with them in the future.

Mollie Doyle, a Chilmark resident and a yoga director at the Yard for the past 12 years, said she supported the project, but wanted to see more fundraising so the project could have more solar panels. “When I first started working there, it was completely a wreck. It is now even more of a wreck,” she said, which got a few laughs from the audience, Manning, and artistic director David White. “I hope that you will support this.”

Bill Smith, a Chilmark resident and abutter to the Yard property for the past 61 years, said he supports the Yard and its project, but said the commission should focus on the puddling issues on the land. Smith submitted a folder filled with photographs of water collecting in large amounts due to a lack of drainage. “I want somebody to come up with a game plan with what’s in that folder so I don’t have Lake Smith everytime I get a nor’easter,” Smith said.

Project engineer Reid Silva said he is aware of the water issue. “We cannot solve the water issue, but we can improve it,” Silva said.

Commissioners agreed to look into the water issues with the project. The public hearing was closed, but people can continue to submit items for the written record until March 14.


MVCS public hearing closed

The commission had a separate public hearing for the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) master plan, closing the hearing after more than a month of discussion on the project.

Architects John Abrams and Ryan Bushey asked commissioners to end the public hearing process. One of the major issues with the project has been the potential impact on Village Road. Island Elderly Housing, which houses 97 elderly citizens at Woodside Village, believes the MVCS project could significantly affect the safety of its residents.

“We just don’t see any problems,” Abrams told commissioners. “At this point each delay … is diminishing the ability of this organization to take care of 6,000 people and serve their needs each year. So we need to move on and have a vote from you.”

Island Elderly Housing (IEH) board president Simone DeSorcy told commissioners that IEH hired McMahon Associates, a transportation and planning engineer firm, to conduct a traffic study of the road. DeSorcy asked the commission to let McMahon finish its traffic study, which will be complete by the end of the month.

In a letter to the commission, IEH said they believe MVCS does not have a right to create two new curb cuts for their new building on a part of the road controlled solely by IEH.

DeSorcy criticized the MVCS traffic mitigation measures, saying since the road is private, there is no way and little manpower to enforce parking or speeding. DeSorcy mocked a proposed bike parking area. “This isn’t Holland. People don’t drive their kids on their bikes to deliver their kids to daycare,” she said. “We might as well put in a unicorn petting zoo. That’s just how preposterous some of these supposed mitigation measures are.”

Abrams said that South Mountain has increased parking in its design from 76 to 139 spaces, removed an egress, will enforce no parking on the road, and has joined IEH, the YMCA, and the high school in a road association to take care of Village Road. He also said there is no traffic problem, and that with the help and monitoring of the MVC, if there is an issue in the future they can address it.

Commissioner Linda Sibley told DeSorcy it would be easy to enforce parking, and only takes a five-minute phone call to a towing service if someone parks in a no-parking spot.

The written record for the project will remain open until March 18.

In other business, commissioners approved a new restaurant at Post Office Square in Edgartown for owner Charles Hajjar, a Milton-based developer. The project will convert the former Delish in a Dish ice cream shop into a 30-seat, year-round restaurant with a buffett. Commissioners voted to not have a public hearing for the project as long as Hajjar paints speed bumps at the entrance and exits of the square.

The MVC will hold an affordable housing listening session on March 20. The session will explain the draft of the MVC’s affordable housing policy.

Commissioners ended the night by going into executive session to again continue discussing possible litigation against the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).


  1. I strongly support a completed traffic study at Island Elderly Housing. I have an ailing family member living at Woodside Village and I go there often. The road is used everyday by the residents (some in electric wheelchairs) to walk their dogs or sit on the benches. One day driving out I waited in the cul de sac parking area behind an ambulance picking up a resident. My point is before pushing ahead with the upgrade to the Community Services buildings – I’m all for it – take a more methodical approach to insure the safety and comfort of the island’s most vulnerable citizens.

  2. While it is wonderful to create more space for the arts, it shouldn’t come at the cost of peace and safety for our elders in their final homes. Is there a solution that does right by both constituencies? If this plan doesn’t, then I say hold out for one that does.

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