“Egregious,” “shameful,” “just too much” were all descriptors used by those in opposition to the proposed Hob Knob Inn expansion during its second public hearing in front of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Thursday night.
The project has two parts. The first is at the existing property on 128 Upper Main St., and consists of constructing three new guest rooms and enlarging the existing spa with a larger fitness room and four new treatment rooms. Parking in the rear would be eliminated, and replaced with a pool.
The second is to incorporate 124 Upper Main St., the Tomassian & Tomassian Law building, altering the property from a seven-bedroom residence to a 15-room inn. The office space of Tomassian & Tomassian would be removed, and a 2,235-square-foot addition would be added. The property would have four rooms with private bathrooms to house up to eight employees. In addition to the renovations, six parking spots would be added along Tilton Way, and 12 parking spots would be added to the rear of the property. Parking removed from 128 Upper Main St. would be moved over to the 124 Upper Main St. building.
If approved, the project would create one year-round, full-time position, and four new seasonal full-time positions.
The project has come under scrutiny for doubling the size of the inn, its potential effects on traffic, and the parking.
Attorney Sean Murphy, who is representing Hob Knob Inn, told commissioners, who were concerned about the housing aspect of the project, that if the project doesn’t go through Hob Knob, Martin (“Skip”) Tomassian would likely sell the house.
“Let’s be honest. If we don’t do this project, and Skip sells the house, it’s not going to be employee housing. It’s going to be somebody’s single-family residence, likely seasonal, it’s not going to be anybody working out here looking for housing,” Murphy said.
Opposition to the project has been twofold, via a string of letters to the commission and public testimony.
Sara Piazza and Jane Chittick, who both live across the street from the boutique Edgartown inn, and Dan Bailey, a Boston attorney representing Jennifer Rako, a trustee of a home on Tilton Way that abuts the proposed project, all voiced their antipathy to the project.
Piazza stressed the importance of neighborhoods and took issue with the Tomassian property becoming part of a commercial hotel, calling it a “monstrosity.” She described her history in the area as well as the history of her neighbors.
“We’re talking about putting year-round employees in there. Who are these people? Transient people who are coming to the Vineyard to work? I have a problem with that. You cannot replace a neighborhood, you cannot replace neighbors, and we are losing that aspect of the Vineyard here,” Piazza said. She added that she would welcome a family in the new home.
She also called out Murphy, the Hob Knob Inn owners, and architect Patrick Ahearn, saying they stood to make a lot of money at the neighborhood’s expense.
“I am not pleased with this. This is not OK,” an emotional Piazza said. “This is egregious, and it’s shameful … If the historic district commission and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission [are] not here to protect the Island way of life and neighborhoods, what the hell are you here for?”
Bailey called for the project to be “drastically scaled down.” “This is entirely inappropriate … It’s a resort. That’s what’s proposed here. A resort with 35 rooms, space for eight employees, a pool, a spa,” Bailey said. “It’s just too much.”
Speaking as a member of the public, James Joyce, a member of the commission who recused himself because he owns a home on Green Avenue across from the inn, reiterated Bailey’s comments that the project should be scaled down. “I think the architect did a lousy job in consideration of the neighbors. He did a great job for the owners of the property in how to maximize it,” Joyce said, referring to the parking spaces that abut the Rako property line on Tilton Avenue. “We have to stick up for the neighbors here. I think the plan is just too large.”
Chittick, who voiced her opposition to the project’s architectural features at the last public hearing, one again voiced her disdain. “They operate out of California, they are private investors, and they are not locally owned or even locally run,” Chittick said.
The hearing was continued to August 13.
In other business, the commission made final approval during its deliberation and decision for the Boys and Girls club subdivision. The complicated public-private land deal separates 32 acres into separate parcels for the Boys and Girls Club, the Norton family, and the town of Edgartown.
The commission also approved sending a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in support of the Supplemental Environmental Impact statement (SEIS) to assess the impacts of offshore wind developments along the East Coast.