Chapter 40B project proposed on Beach Road

Developer files application for 68 housing units at former home of Hinkley lumberyard.

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A developer known as Haborwood LLC has filed a Chapter 40B application with MassHousing to build 68 housing units, 17 of them for families at or below 80 percent of area median income (AMI) on the former site of Hinckley’s lumberyard.

The idea of a mixed-use development on the 1.75 acres at 61 Beach Rd. was first floated by Robert Sawyer after Larkin “Barry” Reeves purchased the property for $2.3 million in August 2018. Sawyer, his son Michael, Reeves, Sam Dunn, Josh Dunn, and Dean Harrison are listed as principals on the application for the $30.3 million project.

On Tuesday night, the Tisbury board of selectmen authorized town administrator Jay Grande to ask for an extension from MassHousing on providing feedback on the letter of eligibility until mid-August. 

Selectmen chair Melinda Loberg said the town received a copy of the application hand-delivered weeks after it was filed, and after the “clock was ticking” on the board’s deadline to provide feedback.

That’s because the developer didn’t include town hall’s complete address on the envelope, Grande said. “I just want people to be aware, if you send mail to town hall to 51 Spring St. and you do not include the P.O. Box 1239, we will not receive it,” he said. “We know that some of you have the same difficulty with mail delivery.”

Selectmen did not discuss the details of the application, except to question the use of Chapter 40B, a state statute that allows projects with an affordable housing component to bypass some local zoning rules.

“There are a lot of complications with 40B applications. It takes a lot of things out of the hands of the town,” selectman Jim Rogers said. “I’m a little dismayed that before even trying to work with the town bodies, that these applicants went and filed for a 40B.”

Robert Sawyer, one of the principals of the project, said he’s met with each selectman individually, the planning board chair, and asked them to sit down and work out the details of the project.

“No town likes the notion of a 40B,” he said. “I’m naive enough to believe if the board of selectmen and the planning board embraced [an overlay district], I’d put myself before town meeting with this project.”

Sawyer said there may still be time. “While we’ve filed for the 40B, it may not be too late to change directions,” he said. “If the town would like to talk to us, we would be open to talking to the town, but someone will have to pick up the ball.”

Some of the units will include balconies with French doors that overlook Vineyard Haven Harbor. “Overall, there will be a great deal of variety in the façades, with few repeating elements,” the application states. “There will be a sense of entering a neighborhood. Sidewalks on both sides should be frequently used, as all required services are within walking distance. A small park and playground area will enhance this, and the hope is for a friendly neighborhood feeling with a good deal of street life.”

The housing production plans worked on with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission are the blueprint for this project, Sawyer said.

At least eight of the units will be targeted at empty nesters, Sawyer said, the forgotten people in the housing situation on the Island — people who want to downsize but can’t find an affordable place to live. The remainder of the units, about 50, will be targeted toward the Island’s workforce — teachers, police officers, and others who can’t afford Vineyard prices, Sawyer said. “These people are shut out of the market because they can’t afford it,” he said. “That’s the real crux of our housing problem.”

Because the site is in a floodplain, the living spaces will be constructed at least eight feet above ground, providing areas for parking underneath the buildings.

The project is pitched in the application as a way to “alleviate a shortage of affordable housing for all the residents of Martha’s Vineyard.” It would be located in an area accessible to public transportation, and “is in close proximity to many commercial properties providing affordable housing for their current and future employees. In addition, the additional homes will support local businesses in the area.”

A connector road is planned and shown in drawings, which will provide access from Beach Road to Lagoon Pond Road. “We’ve made it clear that we’d be responsive to use this development for a walking and bike path from Beach Road to Lagoon Pond Road,” Sawyer told The Times. “We’ve reached out, but no one has picked up the ball.”

In other news, selectmen authorized Grande to seek payment from the owner of 53 West William St. for up to six years of back sewer fees. According to Grande, when the property’s septic system was condemned in 2011, the town overlooked billing the property for sewer fees.

Since the oversight was discovered, the property owner has been paying “as they go,” Grande said. In fairness, he said, the town should seek some of the past payments, rather than spread them among other sewer-system users.

Selectmen also asked that the appropriate town departments investigate whether other permits were overlooked, as well as water usage at 53 West William St.

Meanwhile, selectmen approved a $995,350 contract to make upgrades to the town’s wastewater treatment plant. The project should be completed by Memorial Day, Loberg said.

A dozen people were appointed to town committees after brief interviews with the applicants. They include:

Beautification committee — Kathy Rogers

Community Preservation committee — Tomar Waldman

Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group — Noah Mayrand

Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank advisory board — Henry Neider and Gerard Hokanson

Short-term rental task force — Frederick Rundlet, Doris Clark, and Christine Redfield (alternate)

William Street Historic District — Polly Simpkins

Conservation commission — Amelia Hambrecht

Bruce Stuart was interviewed, and will be considered for future board openings. Selectmen did not make any appointments to the Tisbury Municipal Housing Trust until they can determine if they’re allowed to add two additional people to the board.

Harriet Barrow questioned why selectmen eliminated boards like the shellfish advisory board she was on. “Could you explain, first, why you disbanded or dismissed all the other committees?” she said. “I’d like to know … is it because I’m so boisterous?”

Harbor, shellfish, and waterfront-related committees are going to be included under a new natural resources committee that has yet to be appointed, Loberg said.

At the close of Tuesday’s meeting, Rogers asked for a meeting with the Tisbury School committee to allay fears over a recent Department of Public Health report that described ventilation and extensive water leaks in the building, as well as concerns with some potential lead paint and asbestos.

School officials are in the process of doing further testing for lead and asbestos, Loberg said, so a meeting should wait for that, but be held prior to school opening.

  • Good for Sawyer for filing for 40B. Projects like this — putting affordable housing opportunities forward to assist public servants to stay on the island — are what the island needs. If elected officials continue to fail to address the island housing crisis then the private sector should step in with 40B. And when has Tisbury leadership EVER demonstrated anything less than chaos? Stop & Shop, Santander, a new school, Boch Park all come to mind as things Tisbury has, or has tried, to muck up.

  • 68 units on 1.75 acres? On road that is already backed up most of the summer? This seems excessive. I worry about the impacts. Why not something more modest here, given the location?

    • The article also mentioned another exit/entrance onto Lagoon Pond Rd giving access to Edg/VH Rd via Skiff. This project could help fill the void of affordable housing that this island desperately needs. I just hope that the units other than the 17 reserved for the <80% AMI families are not overpriced. With the information given, this looks like it could be another cash grab in disguise. We don't need another Morgan Woods, where the rent is unaffordable unless you have state assistance.I hope I'm wrong.

  • Great idea very bad location. This is most flooded area in town and simply raising the buildings is only a band aid technique. Also the added traffic at this location will be a nightmare. Say no to this location

    • Hinckley’s had more traffic in an average day than this development will. Fear and NIMBY — typical Tisbury reactions.