Public outcry over Hob Knob expansion

Hearing continued until next month.

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The proposed addition to the existing Hob Knob Inn. — Martha's Vineyard Commission

“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.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Disgraceful! Never large enough these days! Makes me sick what is happening to our quaint and quiet island. It is being destroyed to make some wealthy at an alarming rate.

    • That is what you grandparents and parents said.
      That is what your children and grandchildren will say.
      In my 50+ years it has never been quaint or quiet, in the summer.

  2. New news – You don’t have one ? I live in W.T. Sara In case you haven’t noticed it is a little late to safe the island.

  3. It is to late for you but not for the people who just got here.
    They think it is perfect.
    Did you think it perfect when you got here and then it went straight to hell?

    • Not true. I guess you weren’t around in the fifties and sixties and seventies. Not to mention before that. The real ruination started in ca. 1979.

      • Most people think the real runniantion began a few years after they came of age or from when they washed ashore (the people who want to pull up the gangplank just as soon as their family in on board).
        Most people who came to the Island in the last year think it is wonderful, they wouldn’t change a thing, except maybe put up a three bedroom guest cottage for their summer overflow. And maybe down the road a place for their kids on their extra lot. To swing it they would have to rent it out when their kids were not there. Have you ever wondered why the Island is so crowded?

      • I washed ashore in 1962, I have the house, the guest house and my kid’s house next door. 11 bedrooms total, they are big, we are not crowded, the rest of the island is.

  4. “Who are these people? Transient people who are coming to the Vineyard to work? I have a problem with that.” Ouch. This project is not the only antipathy expressed.

    • A prime example of taking a piece of a conversation out of context and highlighting it in order to cause controversy. These words were in the context of my remarks describing this neighborhood as a year round neighborhood – possibly the only one remaining in downtown Edgartown, a precious yet vanishing way of life here on the island and the need to protect it. Anybody who thinks I have anything against our visitors and seasonal workers doesn’t know anything about me or my life.

  5. Our island community has way more pressing issues to mull over and solve. The expansion of an Inn that has no room for “quality “ expansion has got to be low on the list of the economic survival of Martha’s Vineyard right now.

  6. When I was a child my family lived in CT. with a summer home in Edgartown.
    What a magical time that was with many beautiful memories.
    As life went on our parents passed, we all left CT. for careers and lives of our own and sold the house.
    As i’ve grown older I’ve been feeling a tug back to the Island for my retirement years and purchased a lot at the top of Circuit Ave. several years ago with maybe the desire to build a small retirement home.

    The crowds, the traffic, the people are not what they used to be and I’m quite worried this may no longer be the paradise I once remember and long for.

    35 years of change has me frightened.
    Suggestions?

    • Things are not as good as they use to be.
      They never were.

      Everything goes downhill from the time you come of age .
      Young people coming to Island think it is perfect, it will only get worse as they age.

  7. These new people are running the Island.
    Just like you did when you were new and you built your places.

    • Actually there is a very big difference between the tourist AND developer population and demographic now and in the previous century. Many, many people came here to live simply in the summer, in a way they could not in their off-Island lives. That no longer seems to be the case.

      • Many people still come to the Island to live simply in the summer.
        Simply is a relative term.
        To some people coming to the Island without staff is living simply.
        As it was in the previous century.

    • Mr. 1962, you seem to have a major need to justify yourself.
      I guess we should write the history of MV titled 1962.

  8. Capawock
    As my grandfather always told me
    If In Doubt Don’t
    Things will always change here and everywhere else in the world.
    We can’t stop it or control it all we can do is try to slow it down but in the end it will change.
    I’m still here because I really can’t imagine myself anywhere else.
    Many things have changed over the years and they will continue change but you just have to roll with it.

  9. Often there is a fine line between being a cynic or realist, but we all know how this game is always played….particularly when people of local power stand to gain. You come with a totally unacceptable plan, know that it will be strongly opposed, pose as caring business citizens and slowly resubmit plan modifications until a “negotiated “ plan is approved. That way the approving authority will say they protected the town, the Inn gets what they really planned for/wanted, local lawyer sells his house and some neighbors may be fooled into thinking they succeeded in their opposition efforts. As an aside,we all can live nicely without more Hob Knob rooms or 4 additional low paying jobs.

  10. Should be an interesting corner in a few years, the new expanded inn and the VTA charging station for electric buses…..mighty busy area coming up…..

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