Tisbury rejects ‘ambitious development’ on State Road

Proposed mixed-use project would replace mini golf with rental housing and commercial space.

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Brook Katzen is looking to replace mini golf and food truck dining with a mixed-use development that includes workforce housing.

Tisbury town planners and the select board have written letters opposing a proposed mixed-use development at 386 State Road in Vineyard Haven.

According to a planning board letter opposing the Chapter 40B application, developer Brook Katzen is proposing a mixed-use development on less than an acre of land that would include 62 units of rental housing. The location is where The Cove Golf & Grill is currently located. Katzen is also the owner of Little House Cafe and co-owner of a food truck located on the mini golf property.

“Brook is a great guy and he’s doing some very good things,” Elaine Miller, chair of the Tisbury planning board, told The Times. “But this is like putting the Empire State Building on Martha’s Vineyard.”

In a conversation with The Times, Katzen said: “I also think highly of Elaine. I’m glad that she’s chairing the planning board, but referring to it as the Empire State Building is a bit of an overstatement. I’ve proposed a four-story building. It is larger than others in the neighborhood, but neighborhoods evolve over time.”

Katzen made it clear he is willing to work collaboratively with the town and reiterated several times that this is the start of the conversation. He said his application is a first step and he hopes the town will be willing to work with him and understand that revenue from the development, which includes 10,000 square feet of commercial space, will benefit the town and help with some of the infrastructure issues that have been brought up in the letters opposing his proposal.

“I’ve proposed an ambitious development for the site to have an impact on the housing affordability crisis. Big problems require big solutions,” Katzen said. “I’m not surprised that some people are thinking it’s too ambitious.”

In its letter to Mass Housing objecting to the proposal, the planning board states that the project would be four stories and 30 feet taller than the town’s 35-foot height limit. “The scale is out of context with the neighborhood, which is primarily two-story residential-style homes most of which have been renovated to accommodate storefronts or offices,” the letter states. “A few remain in residential use, along with [one-to-two] story business and light industrial use structures.”

Other issues cited by the planning board are a lack of parking and inadequate green space. Wastewater is another problem with the proposed project because the town’s system can’t handle the added flow. “The ability to have an on-site wastewater facility for the development does not appear feasible,” the letter states.

Both the planning board and select board letters point out the need for year-round workforce housing and their general support for such projects, but point out that the size and scale of the project is out of context for the area.

The select board voted unanimously to authorize town administrator Jay Grande to send a letter of opposition on behalf of the board. 

The issues with parking, the size of the development, lack of open space, and stormwater runoff are among the issues pointed out. Impact on traffic and the environment are also cited in the letter.
“The proposed concentration and the intensity of development are contrary to the growth management plans and strategies of the town of Tisbury and Island of Martha’s Vineyard,” the select board’s letter concludes.

Katzen said the area is perfect for workforce housing because it’s a 15-minute walk to Five Corners and is located in an area — across from Cronig’s — where residents can walk to stores and other businesses.

“If we’re going to make a meaningful impact on the Island’s housing crisis, we can’t do it piecemeal — six units here, seven units there,” Katzen said. “This site, given its location, provides a unique opportunity for those who need it the most.”

  • This project is way out of line for this area of State Rd. There is a need for mixed use development in the B2 district, but this is way beyond in scope and scale.

  • No way! The vineyard can not sustain these huge developments people are proposing and keep the small island feel. Way too crowded already! More housing creates more population and it’s a vicious circle. The whole world can not live on this tiny island. Just stop!

  • In addition to stormwater runoff, and traffic how would the considerable wastewater from all those housing units be handled? Tisbury is already concerned about limited remaining capacity at its WW treatment plant.

  • ““If we’re going to make a meaningful impact on the Island’s housing crisis, we can’t do it piecemeal — six units here, seven units there,” Katzen said. ”

    Katzen is dead wrong. A few units here and there is exactly the way to approach providing more housing while preserving basic atmosphere and respecting scale and the surroundings while avoiding overstressing infrastructure. Katzen’s tone is one of marked disrespect for those who guide development in Tisbury on behalf of all residents. Frankly, Katzen sounds like a bit of a know-it-all who thinks it is up to him to set the town’s agenda and goals with his breezy “we”!

    • Katherine, you are spot on in yor opinion…. in my opinion. Fewer Airbnb rentals more yr round rentals. The issue is how do we motivate homeowners to rent yr round when nightly, weekly, monthly rentals make more money??
      A lot of homeowners need that rental income to help pay that monthly mortgage payment. Understood. A lot of homeowners don’t need the rental income to pay the mortgage but given the choice most of us would opt for the option that pays more. We won’t voluntarily rent yr round if we don’t ‘have’ to so do we need to restrict short term rentals here???
      Rather than build more housing??

  • The mini golf course is an enormous tourist attraction. I can’t believe anyone would want to eliminate it. Will it take two decades to bring back like bowling did?! So sad.

  • For a developer to say this is perfect area for workforce housing should provide data. ! Of course it’s an easy walk to 5 corners and the grocery store across the street if you aren’t elderly or have toddlers. Then if the workforce people are being picked up outside their residence on ‘State Rd’ or Cronigs parking lot or other, isn’t this going to interrupt traffic.?

    Be realistic there are many other pieces of property on the island that can accommodate mass housing. Many developers don’t want to figure out where and how an infrastructure to handle it because pushing and shoving the small town administration is easier than being part of the overall solutions.

  • It is time to wake up regarding our affordable housing needs on the island. Every time someone attempts to build “three units here two units there” we bump up against the NOT IN MY BACKYARD!! Renters need locations where they can hop on a bus to get to work, not in the middle of nowhere.
    Before you wish to tar and feather a well intentioned developer, why don’t you explore compromises.
    All our wonderful quaint family businesses we rely on for our quality of life here, are going out of business because their employees have nowhere to live.
    It would be refreshing if the town fathers could come up with concrete plans to offer to well meaning developers… and Mr. Katzen is every bit as local as most people on the island.
    And please…” tar and feather” where the hell do you come from?

  • If you have objections, on the merits, to Brook Katzen’s proposal for work force housing on State Road that is fine. However, making personal attacks on his character is not.

    As Brook’s mother I want to set the record straight. My husband and I live on the island year-round. Early this year Brook left a well-paying and secure job in DC so he could live near us, his aging parents. At the same time he was well aware of the shortage of work force housing on the island and believed that his career expertise in development of such housing could be of benefit to this island that he loves.

    Brook has worked on the island for a number of employers including Mattakesett, Hob Knob Inn, Harbor View, IFP and Granite. I am certain that, if people chose to inquire, those employers would tell you that he is a respectful, reasonable and kind person. He has nothing but the best intentions.

    I am also certain that all parties involved in the process that goes into development (Planning Board, Selectmen, MV Commission) are and will be doing what they believe is best and with good intention. You won’t find me attacking their character and integrity.

    My understanding is that this process is still in its early stages and that there will be a lot of back and forth before anything is decided upon. In the meantime, I would like to treat any and all of you who have to date published your objections to a Little House Cafe breakfast wrap so that you can use the opportunity when you pick it up to meet Brook and have a calm conversation in which you can express your views and hear his thoughts as well. If you want to follow up on this invitation kindly reply.

  • After 6 years in Island, we decided to move out. In this beautiful, vast, safe country named USA, with lots of opportunities everywhere. Now we live n a warmer state, make about the same money and spend a lot, a lot less then we did. The island is a special place for sure. But so is the rest of America..

  • The neighborhood in question is not residential. It is commercial. But if the planning board chair likes the developer, why doesn’t she meet with him and reach a compromise? This is what good leaders do.

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