The Martha’s Vineyard Commission closed out the public hearing for the expansion of the Hob Knob Inn in Edgartown, but not before hearing another round of complaints from neighbors concerned about the project that will double the size of the boutique inn.
The project has two parts. The first is located at the existing 17-room inn on 128 Upper Main St., and consists of adding three new guest rooms and enlarging the existing spa and fitness room with four new treatment rooms which all add 1,450 square feet.
The second part of the project would incorporate 124 Upper Main St., the Tomassian & Tomassian Law building.
The Tomassian building’s office space would be removed and a 4,401-square-foot addition would be added in its place. An existing carriage house would also be renovated, altogether creating 16 new guest rooms for the inn. The project also calls for creating four rooms to house up to eight employees.
In addition to the renovations, nine parking spots would be created, resulting in 20 parking spots between the two properties. A pool, which was originally planned for behind the existing Hob Knob, has been moved to the Tomassian building.
The project has gone through several public hearings, drawing intense ire from abutters who claim the project creates a large commercial hotel in a residential district, adds to the existing traffic issues, and would create a loud party atmosphere with the addition of the pool. Supporters say the Island will benefit from the renovation for aesthetic reasons and increased tax revenue for the town.
At Thursday’s meeting, attorney Sean Murphy and architect Patrick Ahearn presented their offer for the employee housing, which would be restricted to hotel employees, be year-round rentals, and cost $250 a month. After discussion with commissioners, Murphy and Ahearn said they would go back and discuss with their client about potentially adding more beds for employees or building a house off site for employee housing.
One of the chief concerns abutters have is the addition of the pool. While Hob Knob is not allowed to serve alcohol to its guests, guests are allowed to bring their own to the inn. Murphy said the inn owner established a policy so the facility would not become a “party zone,” but would allow guests to enjoy an alcoholic beverage by the pool.
Commissioner Josh Goldstein, who said he was not voting on the project, was not happy with the strict regulations the inn faced.
“I am shocked at how puritanical this board has become, that we are concerned about someone bringing a glass of wine to a pool,” Goldstein said. “Give me a break people, let these people do business. We’re really crossing a line here.”
Murphy also said the inn’s customer demographic was primarily older, wealthier couples, who did not bring children.
The neighbors were not convinced and several voiced their concern about the pool area.
Linda Simpson, another neighbor, called the inn a wedding destination.
“You’re not talking about a bunch of ladies my age sitting around the pool having a glass of wine. You’re talking about a bunch of 30 year olds drunk as skunks at the pool, not calm…but raising hell all night,” Simpson said.
Jane Chittick, who lives across the street and has given extensive testimony against the project, said there will be up to 80 guests who can use the pool everyday.
Sara Piazza, who lives on Upper Main Street stressed the project was too big for the residential area and said the project would ruin the neighborhood.
There are suitable places for businesses, and this is not the right place,” Piazza said. “If the Martha’s Vineyard Commission can’t help us preserve the Island way of life, who can?”
After lengthy testimony from the public all addressing similar concerns about the proposed size, pool, noise, and traffic, commission chairman Douglas Sederholm closed the hearing and said the project would be decided on before the end of the calendar year.
In other business, the commission approved the owners of the Jolliffe House on Iroquois Avenue in Vineyard Haven to lift, excavate, and pour a new foundation as well as renovate the majority of the north facing side of their home.
The Jolliffe House is listed on The Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) as historic. The building was constructed between 1897 and 1898 on West Chop.
Commissioners took issue with the project being referred to as a demolition, since the house was not being torn down, but renovated. The project was considered a demolition according to the commission’s guidelines that say a project is a demolition if it’s a historic structure and more than 25 percent of the facade is being redone.