MVCS master plan approved

Construction for a new campus can begin, after lengthy MVC meeting.

The MVC approved the plan for Martha's Vineyard Community Services new campus. — Brian Dowd

The Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) master plan got final approval at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) meeting Thursday night, after a lengthy and thorough breakdown of the plan’s conditions, along with its benefits and detriments.

Thursday’s meeting was the final deliberation and decision for the project, which first came in front of the commission in January. The three-phase plan calls for the demolition of the current MVCS building and construction of a more modern campus to better serve staff and clients. South Mountain Co. is designing and building the campus.

The crux of concern in the project has been the potential traffic impacts on Village Road, which is shared by MVCS, Island Elderly Housing, and the YMCA. The three entities plan to form a road association to address safety and make sure the road meets the long-term needs of the campus.

In their offer, MVCS proposed to post a speed limit of 20 mph on the road, consider a plan to develop a widening of Village Road, and other traffic mitigation efforts.

“There is a very modest proposed increase in traffic,” commissioner Joan Malkin said.

“There are three organizations that use this road, and to burden one of them with the expense and effort to widen it, if that has to be done, doesn’t strike me as particularly fair. It would be something that should be shared by everyone who uses the road,” chairman Doug Sederholm said.

MVC will continue to monitor traffic on the road for the next five years, meeting with the Village Road association once a year to review data and findings.

Projects under MVC purview frequently require an affordable housing component through either a creation of housing lots or a monetary contribution. MVCS proposed a $13,408 donation (based on the increase in square footage) to an Island affordable housing organization, which commissioner and Oak Bluffs selectman Gail Barmakian balked at.

“Oak Bluffs is burdened with nonprofits,” Barmakian said adding that the monetary contribution should be increased to $50,000. “I really strongly feel the donation, which is voluntary, which they offered, should go to the [Oak Bluffs municipal affordable housing trust fund] at minimum.”

The commission is in the middle of updating its affordable housing contribution policy, which significantly increases monetary contributions and incentivizes applicants to contribute housing units.

“Hypothetically … if we were to require them to give $100,000, it’s just begging for money from their donors,” said commissioner Linda Sibley. “They should contribute something, yes, but I’m satisfied with their offer considering how much else they’re offering the community.”

The commission voted to approve the $13,408 donation, but swiftly went back on their vote when commissioner Josh Goldstein chimed in.

“I would move that we don’t charge them a dime … that we remove this from their offer,” Goldstein said before giving an impassioned speech about MVCS fundraising efforts like the Possible Dreams Auction. “These people go and they work so hard for all of us … it funds so much good on this Island, why are we taking their $13,000? Why are we robbing Peter to pay Paul here? It’s unnecessary.”

Commissioner Trip Barnes agreed. “I was going to say exactly what Josh said,” Barnes said. “They fight like hell to get a dollar, we’re going to nick them for $13,000, to go where? Nuts.”

The commission then approved waiving the project’s affordable housing offer, with commissioner Christina Brown abstaining and Barmakian voting no.

Along with the MVCS offers, the commission accepted several of the MVC staff recommendations for conditions before going through the project’s benefits and detriments. Benefits included a modern MVCS campus, additional parking, and improved lighting for the area. Detriments included disturbance to abutters during construction, and possible traffic issues at the facility’s entrance on Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road.

Before giving the final stamp of approval for the project, some commissioners expressed their support.

“While there are a few detriments, this is a project that is overwhelmingly a benefit to the people of Martha’s Vineyard,” Sibley said. “It’s a good thing.”

In other business, Aquinnah got the go-ahead to move forward with plans for a boundary amendment to the Aquinnah district of critical planning concern (DCPC) to obtain Green Community status.

The Aquinnah planning board is asking to remove an area from the town’s DCPC, in order to remove the special permit requirement for solar at the old landfill. This in turn allows the town to seek Green Community status. If the town gets the status, they can become eligible for state grants.

West Tisbury and Tisbury have green community status. “They have actually benefited financially as a result of that,” Malkin said.

The commission accepted the proposed boundary nomination for consideration. “We’ve taken the first step,” Sederholm said.