Big cat coming to mini golf

MVC approves mini golf changes, hears public on Meeting House Place, and adopts outdoor dining resolution.

Island Cove Adventures will be the new home to El Gato Grande, a taco food truck. - Brian Dowd

Island Cove Adventures is getting a bit of a makeover, thanks to new owner Brook Katzen. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission voted not to have a public hearing for Katzen’s proposed changes, which include installing six small speakers for background music, removing the rock wall and cleaning up the back area, adding in picnic tables, and bringing in El Gato Grande, a taco food truck.

“The existing ice cream and snack bar will remain, and we will be replacing the climbing wall in the back to provide a more dynamic experience for our guests,” Katzen said. “This is a business that, quite frankly, has stagnated in recent years … we’re trying to revive this business, make it profitable again, make it viable by adding a new element.”

The longtime miniature golf course and snack bar has been an Island staple since it opened in 1992. The course has welcomed high-profile guests such as the Clinton family, Lady Gaga, and Sasha and Malia Obama, as well as being a fun outing for Island locals and seasonal visitors. 

Katzen originally wanted six picnic tables and the ability to serve beer and wine, but said after meeting with the MVC’s Land Use Planning Committee, he scaled back his request to expedite the permitting process.

Commissioner Josh Goldstein said most of what Katzen was proposing was a town issue.

“This is in the back in a light industrial area; it’s regulated by the Tisbury board of health, the planning board, and the selectmen,” Goldstein said. “The last thing we need is to make it more difficult for a new entrepreneur who is looking to bring his money and time to the Island.”

Tisbury is in the process of regulating food trucks, but Katzen’s proposal would seem to fit the regulations as outlined, because the mini golf course already has a common victualer’s license.

 

Meeting House Place sees more support, more opposition

Public comment for and against the 54-acre Meeting House Place project powered on at the second public hearing for the extensive project.

Commissioners heard from a slew of people, some in support of the project.

In its current form, the project proposes to establish 30 acres as open space, and develop the other 20-odd acres with 28 single-family homes, restricted to a maximum of 3,800 square feet, and a cluster of affordable townhouses. The project also calls for the single-family houses to incorporate SmartFlower solar arrays.

The latest change to the project was to add four additional affordable townhouses, for a total of 14. The cluster of below-market-rate townhouses would be dedicated to first-time homebuyers and empty nesters, elderly people who have lived on the Island for 15-plus years, but are looking to downsize. In addition to the townhouses, the project also calls for a 1 percent fee to the Edgartown affordable housing committee on any future sale of the development’s homes, and a flat $1.1 million contribution. 

Concerns over the project — one of the largest the commission has reviewed — include potential impact on traffic conditions, Island urbanization, nitrogen loading, and animal habitat loss. In September, the MVC’s Land Use Planning Committee voted to recommend the full commission deny the project.

Michael Frick, an abutter to the project, said he supports the project after it evolved over time. He especially supported the project’s proposal to have at least six homes on the abutting Hotchkiss Lane connect to the town sewer.

“I really feel strongly the project was well thought out, and it addresses most of the needs of the Island community,” Frick said, adding it is important to move homes off septic systems and expand town sewer: “It’s a tremendous benefit to the neighborhood, as well as Edgartown Great Pond.”

Peter Suchiski said the project would be a boon to Island jobs. “A balance is key here, because we need jobs on the Island, and this will create lots of jobs,” he said. 

Becca Rogers, who works in the building industry on the Island, said she understood the potential environmental impacts, but felt the project developers researched and did their work on how to offer housing. “I make too much money to qualify for any affordable assistance, and not enough money to actually outright buy a house. For me the developers have really researched a myriad of ways they can benefit the Island,” Rogers said.

But several people spoke against the project, specifically its environmental impacts.

Melani Nardone, an anthrozoologist who lives on Edgartown Great Pond, said there needed to be more discussion about the Edgartown Great Pond as an entity itself. “We need jobs here, we need affordable housing. Those needs do have to be balanced with the finite bio-geographical resources that exist here. Those are not necessarily renewable,” Nardone said. “If the pond dies, a lot dies with it. A lot of nonhuman animals, a lot of humans who depend on the pond.”

Edgartown Great Pond Foundation executive director Emily Reddington, who has consistently voiced her opposition to the project since it first came to the commission, said for the past 30 years, the Island has been working to restore the health of the pond, and adding more homes to the watershed would hurt the pond by adding more nitrogen, in turn creating harmful algal blooms.

“We don’t have the ability to change the temperature, but we do have the ability to reduce the nitrogen,” Reddington said. “Right now our water quality is less than ideal because there’s too much nitrogen, and we could make it better.”

Madeline Fisher, a former MVC commissioner, said other homes in the watershed should be taken off septic and put on town sewer before this project, which will add more homes, more swimming pools, and more fertilizer.

“We have a generational duty to protect what we have been given by nature, and pass it down in the best possible form to future generations,” she said. “One sure way we can do this is deny once and for all this proposed development.”

In other business, the commission adopted a temporary resolution to waive outdoor dining provisions in DRI decisions.

This step to assist businesses comes as the Island’s towns are working to develop outdoor and expanded dining to help businesses suffering from the coronavirus pandemic.

The resolution states that any provisions regulating outdoor seating and dining service in MVC decisions are temporarily waived for restaurants with eat-in dining that are DRIs.

Provisions are waived only if the town has issued a temporary permit to the business for outdoor seating in response to COVID-19 and the business complies with town conditions for outdoor seating; outdoor seating must be vacated by 9 pm, unless otherwise authorized by the town. The resolution expires on Oct. 30.