MVC ponders housing policy changes

Commissioners learn legal fees for Wampanoag gaming review top $60,000.

Dan Seidman speaks to the Martha's Vineyard Commission about providing incentives for developers to provide more affordable units, rather than pay money. -Rich Saltzberg

At a weekly meeting on June 20, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission considered revisions to its development of regional impact (DRI) housing policies at a public hearing. These policies inform what additional housing a property owner or developer must create, or help create, to offset the impact of a given development. Presently known as the MVC’s affordable housing policy, the proposed “housing policy” has a range of tweaks and changes. Commissioner Fred Hancock gave a presentation on the major changes to the policy as crafted by a working group that includes commissioners Christina Brown, Leon Brathwaite, Richard O’Toole, Joan Malkin, Linda Sibley, and himself. Some of these changes were:


  • Changing the scope of the policy to encompass area median incomes from up to 80 percent to a range of zero to 150 percent, and employing the term community housing, as opposed to affordable housing.


  • Basing the valuation of a lot in a land division on fair market value of the improved lot.


  • Adding townhouses, apartments, and hotels into the residential DRI classification.


  • Creation of a new formula for assessing the impact and resulting mitigation cost for commercial and mixed-use development.


As to the creation of a new assessment formula, Hancock said this was necessary because under the previous formula, which was at $2 per square foot, only a “pitiful amount of money” was generally garnered, while the new formula was meant to provide “meaningful mitigation and some incentive for people to actually provide some housing.”

The new formula takes the square footage of a given project, multiplies it by an intensity code, them multiplies that figure by a flat rate of $8.

The intensity code, Hancock said, varied with the number of people who would be employed within a given facility. Warehouses, intensity code 1, are classified as having the least employees, and restaurants, intensity code 5, are classified as having the most, he noted.

For example, he said, a 5,400-square-foot warehouse would be 5,400 x 1 x $8 and would equal a mitigation cost of $43,200.

Hancock also gave a walk-through of a more complex formula that addresses mixed-use developments where the ground floor may be commercial and upper stories residential. Several housing advocates and officials weighed in on the policy changes, including Dukes County Regional Housing Authority executive director David Vigneault, Oak Bluffs affordable housing committee chairman Jim Bishop, and Island Housing Trust board president Doug Ruskin.

Island Housing Trust treasurer Dan Seidman told the commissioners getting money from DRI mitigation is nowhere as useful as getting land or units, as these are increasingly uncommon and costly. He pressed the commission to incentivize developers to make additional affordable units.

“This is a place that has a lot of cachet,” he said of the Vineyard. “People want to come here, they want to live here, they want to spend their money. But we need the infrastructure of people to maintain this place.”

The commission took no vote on the policy revision. Chairman Doug Sederholm closed the public hearing, but kept the written record open for another week, after which, he said, the commission can revisit the subject and consider what to do next.


Mill House and Wampanoag gambling

The commission opened and then continued back-to-back hearings on the Mill House in Tisbury and the proposed Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) gambling facility in Aquinnah. No stakeholders showed for either hearing, both of which were brief.

MVC executive director Adam Turner said the Tisbury historic commission will address the Mill House on July 10. The commission voted to continue the hearing on the Mill House until July 25.

Turner informed the commissioners the MVC was nearly in the red, and needed to take out a line of credit to stay solvent until grants, reimbursements, and other expected monies arrived. He said legal costs, including those generated from the Wampanoag gambling facility issue, had whittled down MVC finances.

MVC chief financial officer Curt Schroeder said that to date, the MVC had accrued roughly $65,000 in legal fees over the casino.

The commissioners authorized taking a line of credit. Only commissioner Trip Barnes dissented on the vote. He said from the start he didn’t believe the commission should have gotten involved in the Wampanoag issue.

The hearing was continued to July 11.