Updated June 25
Elio Silva, the owner of Vineyard Grocer in Vineyard Haven, is planning to build a multiuse property in the Southern Woodlands area of Oak Bluffs.
Silva purchased the 7.78 acres of land, separated into four lots, in February from Ronald Gamba for $2 million, according to county records.
Silva floated the idea of opening a new grocery store and residential property at the corner of Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road and Gamba Road in Oak Bluffs at prior town planning board meetings.
The land is situated in an area the town refers to as the southern corridor. If built, the store and dwellings would sit across from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, and near the YMCA. Silva’s parcels also abut town land that is planned to be developed into affordable housing and several residential properties.
Plans for the project include 24 year-round residential units, as well as space for the Island Food Pantry, MVY co-op and health food education, and a Vineyard Grocer and health-food store.
Silva is not using the term “affordable housing” for his project, because he feels that’s not what the Island needs.
“It does not serve a percentage of the population that is really vital for the Vineyard,” Silva said.
He told The Times he is primarily focused on housing for the Island’s year-round workforce, such as teachers and firefighters, for example, who make too much to qualify for affordable housing, but make too little to actually buy a home on the Island. In addition to workforce housing above his proposed grocery store, Silva would have housing units. He wants all of his housing to be reasonable, market-rate housing.
While still in the early planning stages, Silva is working to find a partner to work with him and getting a sketch on the idea before going to selectmen. He’s also been working actively with a contractor.
One of Silva’s biggest hurdles is winning over neighbors in the area. “The town really wants this, and the town needs this,” Silva said.
Ewell Hopkins, the Oak Bluffs planning board chairman, told The Times Silva has two options going forward. He can either change the zoning in the area from residential to light industrial, which would require a two-thirds vote at town meeting, or he can apply for a Chapter 40B permit, a state statute that enables local zoning board of appeals (ZBA) to approve affordable housing developments under flexible rules if at least 25 percent of the units are designated affordable housing.
The project would be appealing to Oak Bluffs, which is home to a majority of the Island’s nonprofits, many of which reside in the southern corridor. A private business in the area would provide the town with property tax revenue.
Silva is seeking support through online petition signatures on his website, vineyardgrocer.com.
Silva briefly spoke about his project and economic sustainability as part of the World Market Mondays speaker series on Monday at the West Tisbury Grange Hall. “I’m trying to do something that will add to the neighborhood and not subtract,” Silva said. “The reason I stayed here is because it’s such a great community.”
Updated to add comments and information from Elio Silva. — Ed.