MVC closes Harbor View hearing

Written record remains open for two more weeks.

The MVC closed out the public hearing for the Harbor View Hotel and heard more opposition from neighbors. -Gabrielle Mannino

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission closed out the public hearing for modifications to the Harbor View Hotel, leaving the written record open for two more weeks. The hearing was the fourth for the project.

The company proposes to build a 4,625-square-foot spa at the hotel’s Bradley Cottage with seven treatment rooms, instead of building a 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. 

After listening to concerns from neighbors, the hotel is restricting the spa to registered guests of the hotel. Registered guests can have up to two members of the public join them at the spa. The spa would provide massage, image consulting, hair styling, manicures, and pedicures. Construction would take place in fall 2021, and be finished by spring 2023.

Thursday night’s hearing was the fourth the commission has held for the project. Commissioners heard from several members of the public, including some who have previously voiced their opposition to the modifications

Portions of the project have already been built per previous modification approvals, some dating from 2008. These include increasing the main hotel building from 36 to 40 rooms, and increasing the Mayhew Cottage from 48 to 51 rooms.

Commissioner Fred Hancock said the hotel should look at making an increased affordable housing payment. During the 2008 modification approval, the hotel agreed to pay a $111,000 payment upon completion of the project. “It would seem to me that in the resulting years it would go a long way if the applicant made at least a progress payment on that amount, which I think is still small compared to what we would ask for today,” Hancock said. “To still have it hanging on from 2008, I think, is a little outrageous.”

At the request of commissioner Douglas Sederholm, commission staff will review the affordable housing contribution for the built portions of the 2008 approval and a contribution under its current policy for the unbuilt portions of the hotel’s project.

Attorney Marilyn Vukota, who represents the Harbor View, said the hotel has made more than $100,000 in improvements to the property at the behest of the neighbors, including installing 67-foot tall arborvitae trees, installing 200 feet of new wood fencing, moving an emergency generator, purchasing a new trash compactor and baler, and moving trash to the main building, installing vegetative screening behind the Mayhew building, and replacing a broken sidewalk at the driveway entrance of a Fuller Street neighbor.

Vukota also referred to the proposed modifications as “de minimis.” 

Commissioner Kathy Newman disagreed with the use of de minimis. “We have a bunch of neighbors here who don’t think it’s de minimis,” Newman said. “I would feel much better if the hotel said, ‘We get you, we’re going to keep an eye on it.’”

Dale Hamson, a seasonal Edgartown resident, supported the expansion. “The current request that they have for the amenities is going to let them remain competitive for the sophisticated clientele I think the Vineyard is looking for, and which I believe we want,” he said.

Hotel neighbor Joe Wargo reiterated a request for the hotel leadership to sit down and meet with neighbors to go over concerns and plans. “What people are complaining about is the death by a thousand cuts,” Wargo said. “Where is the master plan? … No one on this commission knows what’s next. That’s the problem with granting this application in a vacuum. So I would respectfully suggest it’s your duty to consider not only what’s happened since 2008, but what may happen later. It is your duty to consider that. That’s what people are referring to when they’re talking about piecemeal. Piecemeal means disgruntled neighbors, crime, violence, nuisance.”

Robert Forrester pleaded with commissioners to look at the wider implications of approving the hotel’s modification. “It’s about the character of our Island that we’re dealing with. I ask you to keep that in mind. It’s not as specific as a spa,” Forrester said.

Amanda Philips, a seasonal Chappaquiddick resident and daughter of a hotel abutter, said she opposed the modifications, and asked the commission to consider the hotel’s “larger actions.”

“The owner’s actions demonstrate consistent escalation of negative impact,” she said. “There’s been this sort of piecemeal feel to the project … it’s sort of a creeping expansion.”

Vukota said public hearings have been neighbor-centric, and there has been little discussion of protecting commercial properties. “I understand the neighbors have their concerns, but commercial properties are a dying breed on Martha’s Vineyard. At least a dozen properties or more in and around Edgartown have been converted from commercial properties to residential properties,” she said citing the Daggett House, the former Martha’s Vineyard Museum, the Vermont Shop, the Chiverick, Dr. Nevin’s office, and others. 

“This concern about chipping away at the character of the area or the community or the Island — you also have to look at the impact on chipping away at the commercial endeavors on Martha’s Vineyard. There is a very real, legitimate, residential creep,” Vukota said.

She added that residential creep isn’t noticeable since permits or permissions are not required, but for commercial expansions they are.

“If the Harbor View isn’t permitted to grow with the times, then it’s going to fail,” Vuokta said. “This isn’t an expansion, this is an evolution, this is an improvement … If these things aren’t protected, Martha’s Vineyard is going to be like a Monte Carlo where only the super-duper, duper rich can buy property, and the town center’s will be dwindled down to nothing.”


  1. Mr Vuokta,
    The Harborview has done just fine since 1891 without encroaching on its neighbors or upsetting the island residents. I suggest you take a deep breath and a step back and show some respect for the character and soul of our precious island and instead of trying to steamroll through your ideas for “Expansion” start listening to what the island people are trying to tell you. You proposal is TOO MUCH. YOU need to LISTEN and dial it way back. The Harbor View does not need to get any bigger. The Harborview is an historic gem and it’s huge. This is not the Marriott. You’ve got plenty of space to work with. Respect the land, the residents, and the precious and peaceful and simple majesty of the Edgartown Lighthouse. People come for the peace and to stay in a grand old hotel that reflects the grace of a bygone era. You have the wrong take on this and clearly you do not understand the soul of the island. And people are trying their very best to show you how very much that means. If you’re going to run a hotel or an inn on Martha’s Vineyard that means staying in context with the soul the beauty and the understated character of what this island represents. You don’t just come here with an urban mindset and start pushing into the neighborhood with your expansions and think that that’s perfectly OK because it’s not. Mr. Vuokta – The island is talking to you. She is talking to you! Please show her some respect and LISTEN. Thank you.

  2. Wow listening to the Harborview’s lawyer should make everyone laugh. Kathy Newman is right to call her out on the Latin term De minimis that lawyers love to use. The lawyers partner at a recent public hearing also used the term residential creep it must be the new mantra that these lawyers want to use. She referred to buildings that changed from commercial to residential most of those happened 20 years ago. Another smokescreen by lawyers there is no residential creep it is commercialization creep that is happening around the downtown area of Edgartown. There is no danger of the Harborview not surviving if the spa is not built. There is no danger of the Harborview not surviving if no further expansion is ever done Period. I also think it’s funny that Vukota has not learned her history of the island and apparently has not been here long enough to realize that the character of the island has changed significantly. That is what we’re trying to protect it from changing anymore. And by the way the island is already only available to the super Duper rich if you have not been watching the billionaires are pushing out the millionaires.

  3. We repeat….

    That one statement alone shows a complete lack of understanding of what the Harborview hotel is all about , and has been about..since ohhh…. 1891!

  4. A great mistake only for hotel guest? What about island residents? Are we chicken liver now

  5. The comparisons to Monte Carlo are frightening. What’s next? Are we going to be reclaiming land from the sea a la MONACO to build condos for the “super duper, DUPER rich”?
    Edgartown has a serene simplicity all to its own–It’s the quintessential picturesque New England town.
    Walking along North Water Street and her adjacent neighborhood/s one discovers some of the finest examples of classical architecture and beautiful sea captains’ homes anywhere in New England. Why do we need to encroach on every last single breathable space in our environment on Martha’s Vineyard?

  6. Dear MVTimes,

    Thank you for your reporting on this. At the Harbor View Hotel we welcome you and your readers to visit the hotel property and see the proposed project location and receive a brief tour from our General Manager. In the last two months, we have welcomed over 140 island residents and our neighbors to stay and experience the hotel and restaurant. If you missed this off-season special package, it will be back next year for another islander opportunity. We also invite you to visit the hotel and see that the hotel footprint has not expanded in over twenty years; it has, in fact become smaller. While there are some additional refinements planned, they are designed to enhance the interior of our large campus and still represent a net decrease in the size of the hotel’s footprint. This Spring we have seen a welcome upturn in year-round locals coming to the hotel and restaurant to see all the inside improvements while celebrating their special occasions, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and holidays. Nothing makes us happier than welcoming islanders (and wash ashores).

    Mr. Chiu’s massive investment in the Harbor View in the last three years has resulted in the preservation of the island’s grand hotel for generations to come. Without that level of investment, the hotel was in danger of literally falling apart from top to bottom.

    We are appreciative of your reporting here. The hotel holds monthly community updates, and all are welcome to zoom in with us and attend. We welcome you and your readers to register for the zoom link by emailing

    Scott Little, General Manager, Harbor View Hotel


  7. The hotel has been there for far longer than any of it’s neighbors and contributed significantly to the value of it’s neighbors properties. The cranky Karen’s of the neighborhood are free to move away and perhaps they should.

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