The Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved renovations to the Mill House, began a public hearing for the Harbor View Hotel, and closed a public hearing on the Hob Knob Inn during a marathon three-hour meeting Thursday night.
The Harbor View Hotel began its public hearing for the relocation and expansion of a proposed spa at the hotel’s Bradley Cottage.
In 2008, the commission approved a $55 million, two-phase renovation to the hotel. Plans called for a 19,287-square-foot combined increase to several buildings, and removing three rooms. Since then, the hotel has had two new owners, and gone through several modifications, both big and small, in 2009, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018. The 2018 modification was the most extensive, and included adding a 1,620-square-foot spa at the main hotel, keeping the Mayhew building instead of demolishing it, and increasing the total number of rooms by 29, to 146.
The proposal Thursday night was to build a 4,625-square-foot spa at the Bradley Cottage with seven treatment rooms, instead of the 1,620-square-foot spa at the main hotel. The spa will be marketed to hotel guests, but will also be open to the public from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week. Hotel manager Scott Little told commissioners the spa would provide massage, image consulting, hair styling, manicures, and pedicures. Construction is proposed to take place in fall 2021, and be finished by spring 2022.
The proposal also calls for reducing the Bradley Cottage rooms from 12 to four, and adding a room at the Pease Cottage.
The commission heard from several members of the public who all voiced opposition to the proposal.
Joe and Lisa Wargo, abutters to the hotel, asked the commission to defer any decision. Joe Wargo took issue with the commercial use of the hotel in a residential area. He said a mediator from Boston, neighbors, and hotel management should all sit down to review the entire use of the property.
“Let’s make a list of what the neighborhood wants and let’s see what the Harbor View really needs, and make a decision about the full use,” Joe Wargo said.
Jane Chittick, an Edgartown resident, was also concerned with the construction of the commercial hotel in a residential area.
Sara Piazza, another Edgartown resident, agreed. She took issue with the “creeping and crawling” of business downtown.
“I am greatly, strongly opposed to the expansion of business into residential areas. It needs to be curtailed,” Piazza said. “It seems you care more about business than you do about real people.”
The commission continued the public hearing to Feb. 11.
In other business, commissioners closed out the public hearing for another round of changes to the Hob Knob Inn project, leaving the written record open until 5 pm on Jan. 28.
The boutique inn’s proposed expansion went through several iterations, and multiple public hearings. Commissioners closed the original public hearing in November, only to reopen it Thursday night after new plans were proposed, following objections from abutters.
The project aims to double the size of the boutique inn by adding two new guest rooms and enlarging the existing spa and fitness room with four new treatment rooms, which all add 1,450 square feet.
The project also seeks to 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 10 new guest rooms and four new employee rooms for the inn.
The newest iteration of the proposed Hob Knob project eliminated a proposed swimming pool, added 17 parking spaces, and finalized employee basement housing.
Piazza and Chittick, who live in separate homes across the street, also voiced opposition to this project.
“You’re trying to cram a hotel into a residential zone,” Piazza said. She added that she was “disgusted” that Martin (“Skip”) Tomassian was selling to the Hob Knob.
Chittick took issue with the parking, and presented commissioners with photos of a Holiday Inn Express in Detroit, Mich., that Vic Partners purchased in 2013. Vic owns and operates the Hob Knob Inn.
“They also don’t own that parking lot,” Chittick said referring to an aerial photograph of the Detroit Holiday Inn. “Just like the Hob Knob cannot provide parking for all of its guests.”
Chittick added that by her calculations, 20 percent of Hob Knob’s guests will have to find parking on the street — which she said was the opposite of other inns in Edgartown.
“This is a motel, in my opinion,” Chittick said of the Hob Knob.
Sean Murphy, an attorney for the Hob Knob, said guests have to reserve a parking space when they book their room, and said the project could be tweaked to add more green space.
In other business, commissioners found that a discrepancy between the blueprints of the Mill House and the actual construction was insignificant.
The discrepancy involved a balcony door on the second floor that was built in place of a window. In a letter to the commission, Sullivan Associates architect Peter Gearhart, who is acting as a third-party compliance monitor of the construction, wrote that the door was on several sets of approved floor plans, and only appeared as a window on one set of elevation plans. Harold Chapdelaine, chairman of the William Street Historic District Commission, said the issue was that the permitting letter for the construction clearly stated that elevation plans would supersede any discrepancies anywhere else in the plan.
Chapedelaine added that in his personal opinion, the change was not significant, and when viewed from the beach, it was “difficult to discern the difference.”
Commissioner Kathy Newman said it was clear from the plans what the builders were supposed to do.
“It wasn’t that the builders didn’t know what the right thing to do was,” Newman said. “I’m always in a dilemma when you ask someone to do something and they don’t comply. In the end I certainly don’t think we should make a big deal, but I think we should think about when somebody doesn’t comply, should there be a consequence for it?”
“It’s not the first time with this house,” commission chair Joan Malkin added.
The Mill House saga began in April 2019, when the historic home — portions of which dated back to 1750 — was unilaterally demolished without MVC review. The home, one of the most recognizable waterfront homes in Vineyard Haven, was known for its distinctive mill tower and history as a bunkhouse for British soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
Commissioner Jim Vercruysse said the commission should have noticed the discrepancy between the floor plans and the elevations. Chapdelaine admitted the discrepancy also fell through reviews by himself, the building inspector, and the historic commission.
While noting its overall insignificance, the change drew the ire of some commissioners. “We had conditions, and this one wasn’t met, and I just think it’s bad practice to go and do something, then ask for forgiveness after,” commissioner Christine Todd said.
Commissioners voted the change was insignificant, and approved it in two votes, 14-1. Commissioner Ted Rosbeck, the newly appointed Edgartown representative whose brother is the contractor for the project, recused himself from the discussion and vote.
Commissioner Ernest Thomas voted against approval both times. “I voted no because I feel like this whole project has been a fiasco, right from the beginning. They took the building down … they cut huge holes in [the mill], they put steel beams through it, jacked it up, ripped it off the foundation, moved it. There’s nothing historic about this situation at all, except it looks a little bit like the original building,” Thomas said.