Hospital eyes Edgartown parcel for elder housing

Property would feature new model to replace Windemere for those needing care.

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M.V. Hospital CEO Denise Schepici says the hospital is looking at a new approach to skilled nursing care. - Gabrielle Mannino

The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is eyeing a piece of land in Edgartown at 490 Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road for a new nursing facility to replace its costly and outdated Windemere Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.

Hospital CEO Denise Schepici confirmed the hospital’s offer for the property was accepted on Dec. 3. No purchase and sales agreement has been signed, however.

“We do have an accepted offer for the Norton property in Edgartown as a possible suitable location for a skilled nursing facility and workforce housing,” Schepici wrote in an email. “This is an important first step of many in our local approval processes to ensure we can successfully proceed.”

Bradford and Philip J. Norton have owned the 26.4-acre Edgartown property since 2012, according to assessor records. The property is appraised at $922,400.

The project — which is in the preapproval stages — would consist of 70 beds in five buildings for the nursing area, and 60 units of workforce housing.

Schepici went before the town’s wastewater commission Thursday and read from a prepared statement describing the need of a new facility and the potential positive impact the wastewater commission could have for connecting the project to the town’s sewer system with 17,000 gallons of flow per day.

The property sits outside the Edgartown Great Pond watershed and the existing sewer envelope.

For several years, Windemere, the hospital’s long-term-care facility, has been operating at a loss. In her statement, Schepici said the facility is outdated, and unable to be renovated. She added that the hospital is in talks with Navigator Elder Homes New England to create sustainable, transformative elder care for its 47 residents through a concept called Green House homes.

Green House homes are a popular and modern model of eldercare that houses residents in private rooms, offering communal kitchens and living spaces. The homes feature 12- to 14-bedroom homes, with staff living in separate buildings nearby. Navigator would hire staff for the facilities.

At a Nov. 20 meeting of the wastewater commission, facilities manager David Thompson explained that requests for sewer tie-ins outside the Edgartown Great Pond watershed were a regular occurrence, but were “customarily turned down” per a 2006 agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Commissioners voted to continue working with the hospital, and agreed to set aside allocating the necessary wastewater capacity for the project, but did not take action on the request for a sewer tie-in.

The project faces several other hurdles, including the need for an easement through abutting property.

At an August 2018 meeting with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to discuss modifications to the hospital’s campus, hospital CFO Ed Olivier told commissioners, “People are not choosing to come to Windemere. They come when they have no other options. That’s the unfortunate reality.”

At a forum in June, Schepici said the hospital subsidized a $1.2 million loss at Windemere during the fiscal year. Despite the costs, Schepici is committed to keeping the facility open until a newer and more modern facility is established, but according to the minutes from the Nov. 20 wastewater commission meeting, Olivier told the commission that the hospital had a two-year window to find a solution. Without a solution, Windemere would close.

The hospital was looking at utilizing a seven-acre parcel of land it owns behind SBS the Grain Store, but title problems have created issues with developing it.

Martha’s Vineyard is also facing a rapidly growing elder population. According to Schepici, the number of residents between the ages of 65 and 74 grew by 63 percent between 2010 and 2016.

In a study done by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, data projections show the Island’s elderly population growing exponentially, while most other age-group populations are decreasing. By 2020, the elderly population (age 65 and above) is expected to make up 24 percent of the Island’s population — climbing steadily to 29 percent in 2035.