Updated April 10
The Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved the Menotomy project in Oak Bluffs during a teleconference meeting Thursday night.
The project – which calls for four single-bedroom, market-rate apartments on the two floors above; adding a basement for storage; and keeping the popular Red Cat Kitchen restaurant on the ground floor — has been contentious at times.
Thomas G. Ward and Carol L. Hulak sold the historic Kennebec Avenue building that houses the Red Cat to Chilmark resident and Los Angeles record producer Gary Jones, operating as GJ & BP Holdings LLC, for $690,000 in November. Oak Bluffs selectman Brian Packish was a partner in the transaction.
Several commissioners took issue with the determined increase of residential units. The project proposes constructing four single-bedroom, market-rate apartments on the two floors above. Currently, the building has three rooms, but some commissioners say that’s up to interpretation.
The project is the first mixed-use commercial development under the MVC’s new affordable housing policy. The new policy is aimed at incentivizing developers to construct affordable housing units instead of paying mitigation fees.
The project is calling for an additional 568 nonresidential square footage, which would require a $22,720 mitigation fee, based on the MVC’s formula.
At the project’s public hearing in February, Christine Flynn, the MVC’s affordable housing planner, estimated that the appraised value of one of the proposed residential apartments could be $550,000, requiring a $220,000 mitigation fee. The formula is 10 percent x four new units x the $550,000 appraised value. Combined, the total recommended monetary fee would be $247,720. The apartments still have to be officially appraised by an outside appraiser, and the full commission would have to decide how many rooms the project is adding.
At a Land Use Planning Committee meeting last month, commissioners voted to recommend the full commission consider the project as having an increase of two units — which would require the project to have an affordable housing mitigation of $110,000.
Packish previously requested to have both fees waived, and instead offered a onetime mitigation of $50,000 to be donated to an Island housing nonprofit — an amount closer to what the MVC would determine for an increase of one unit (10 percent x one new unit x a $550,000 appraised value).
But after the LUPC meeting, Packish offered to pay an $80,000 mitigation fee which commissioners approved after a lengthy discussion of how it would be paid.
Commissioner Kathy Newman pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic changed her mind on the project since the last meeting.
“Since then our world has turned upside down. And it just feels to me like anything we can do to support an economy and we don’t know how wobbly it’s going to be. $20,000 is not going to be a game changer and it would just make sense to give him something he thinks he can do right now,” Newman said.
Commissioner Josh Goldstein said the MVC should make sure every applicant is on an equal playing field.
“We just need to make sure we’re fair and balanced and even between everyone we see here,” Goldstein said.
The initial plan was to have the project’s mitigation fee paid in installments, but commissioner Michael Kim said he was uncomfortable with installments and moved for the mitigation fee to be paid at the time a certificate of occupancy (COO) is issued by the town. Commissioners approved having the $80,000 paid at the time of the COO. Commissioners then unanimously approved the project.
In other business, the commission gave final written approval to the Barn Bowl & Bistro takeout window project.
Updated to correct unanimous approval of Menotomy project. — Ed.