The Martha’s Vineyard Commission unanimously approved the old Stone Bank project in Vineyard Haven, which will turn the historic fieldstone building, formerly the Santander Bank, into a mixed-use condominium and commercial business development.
The project is being proposed by Island developer Sam Dunn, who wants to renovate two existing buildings and construct five new buildings for a total of 11 condo units and six commercial units. The project would reduce parking from 35 to 19 spaces, and includes pedestrian pathways and a small courtyard. In total, the project would have 14 bedrooms.
The Main Street building, known as the Old Stone Bank and last used by Santander, was designed by architect J. Williams Beal in 1905, and built by local mason James Norton, using Island fieldstones. The building has been vacant since Santander left in 2017 and put the property up for sale. No alterations will be made to the historic stone building. Santander ran into issues when the commission required the bank to replace period-appropriate terra cotta tiles it had removed without proper purview. The tiles were replaced in 2019.
The project will include a deed-restricted affordable housing unit in the building that fronts Main Street, with an income restriction of no more than 80 percent of the area median income. A recipient will be chosen through the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority.
Units will range in price from $600,000 to $1.32 million, according to a commission staff report, and the affordable unit would have an estimated price tag of $250,000.
The commercial space would be used for retail and office space, but Dunn said it could possibly include a restaurant, which would need another review and approval by the commission.
The commission’s Land Use Planning Committee voted unanimously Monday to recommend the project be approved. “I think it’s more than essential. I would say that this is a really creative and positive project for the location,” commissioner Linda Sibley said.
In other business, the commission continued a public hearing for the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown.
Thursday marked the third public hearing for the project, which has prompted more than 80 emails and letters from the public. Several members of the public have appeared before the commission to give testimony against the project.
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 Bradley Cottage rooms would be reduced from 12 to four, and a room would be added at the Pease Cottage. There are no net changes to the rooms, since eight rooms are added to the main hotel and the Pease Cottage and eight rooms removed from the Bradley Cottage.
Following concerns from neighbors, the Harbor View confirmed the spa will now only be open to registered hotel guests. 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 2023.
On Thursday, the commission heard public comments both for and against the project. Jim Swartz, a neighbor of the hotel for 20 years, said his family had “great peace” until two years ago, when increased noise and increased activity began to occur.
“Trust is gone,” Swartz said. “We all know we bought our property next to a hotel, but this hotel no longer plays by the rules put in a decade ago … Yes, we bought next to an airport, but this airport has become a rocket launch before our very eyes.”
Dylan Sanders, a lawyer from Boston-based Suagrman Rogers representing several neighbors of the hotel, said his clients want the hotel to succeed, but the spa is going too far: “The neighbors that I represent submit that the existing unpermitted activities of the Harbor View Hotel and the proposed 202 modifications do and will impair the unique character of the neighborhood and the Island as a whole, and should not be permitted.”
Others at the meeting voiced support for the project for its value to the town’s economy. Julia Tarka, vice president of the Edgartown Board of Trade, said the hotel’s project meets the commission’s Island Plan. “I want to share our overwhelming support for the Harbor View Hotel, for [owner] Bernard [Chiu], and for what they’re proposing here,” she said. “The hotel is essential to Edgartown business.”
Mitzi Lawlor, a seasonal resident, shared her support for the Harbor View and its spa plans. “A spa at the Harbor View will not only enhance the customer experience at the hotel, but allow guests to access these relaxing and calming services while on vacation,” she said.
Several commissioners said they wanted to see a more comprehensive plan for the hotel, and decided to continue the public hearing to May 6.
The commission also decided to set a limit of eligible commissioners at LUPC meetings.
One spot will be reserved for the LUPC chair, two to three for commissioners of the town in which the project is located, and others. The commission needs nine members to reach a quorum. For more controversial projects, there will be sign-ups for commissioners beforehand.
Due to the accessibility of meetings with Zoom, commission chair Joan Malkin said, there has been an issue during LUPC meetings where too many commissioners attend, creating a quorum.
Commissioners can still listen in.
“When more than a quorum looks at issues or settles issues, it’s like a quorum of the commission. That means when it goes to the actual commission, it’s kind of predecided,” she said.