The Martha’s Vineyard Commission is set to review the demolition of a historic home Thursday after initially determining the building did not require review and after the building had already been demolished.
The former building at 112 Dukes County Ave. was built around 1880 in the Victorian eclectic style and is listed on The Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS). The building was a 3,200 square foot, four bedroom home.
The home is owned by Ryan and Abigail Dillon who propose to construct a new 3,500 square foot three-story home with a one bedroom apartment on each floor. The Dillons intend to reuse a small amount of wood from the previous building for cabinet making. The Dillons also intend to house employees for their cabinet making business.
Additionally, the Dillons own 114 and 116 Dukes County Ave. which they intend to develop in the future. Further development there would require a separate modification.
In January, the Oak Bluffs building inspector Tom Perry issued a demolition permit after the Oak Bluffs historic district commission determined the building was not historically significant at a December 16 meeting. The property was demolished shortly after January 21 with sign offs from both the historic district commission and the Oak Bluffs building department.
Despite being listed on MACRIS and being over 100 years old, both automatic DRI triggers, the project was not referred to the commission due to both the historic district commission and the MVC believing the property was inside the town’s historic district.
“We thought it was,” MVC executive director Adam Turner told The Times. “We were given information that it was, but it’s not. It’s the next block. First of all, the building was down before we even found out about it.”
The MACRIS description said the building was significant as part of the “continued expansion of Cottage City (Oak Bluffs) as a resort and year-round community. It is located in an area called Oak Grove, 15 acres of land developed by James Rothwell and Zebulon Pratt in 1871. Oak Grove is one of the many small developments which sprang up around Wesleyan Grove and the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company in the 1870s.”
Turner said it was Ewell Hopkins of the planning board who brought it to the MVC’s attention. “I go to Tony’s all the time and I drive by it all the time. It never occurred to me that that building was that old. Once he alerted us to it, we wrote back and said you don’t need to refer it because it’s in the district.”
But then someone, who Turner did not specify, told them they were wrong about it being in the district. “We did the research and found out we had been told it was, but it wasn’t. Once it wasn’t, we wrote the second letter. Since it’s not, you have to refer it.”
Turner wrote two letters, the first to Hopkins on March 19 saying the project did not need to be referred and the second on April 1 saying it did.
Turner said if it’s in the historic district, it’s under the town’s purview. “It’s exempt from our regulations. But once we found that it wasn’t, we wrote a second letter that said, ‘Hey, we’re wrong, you need to refer it.’ That’s what we’re doing now.”
Homes inside the town’s historic district are under the purview of the historic district commission. If they deem a structure “not significant” it does not need to be referred to the MVC regardless of age.
Construction has been halted since the commission determined it had to review the project.
Speaking to The Times, attorney Robb Moriarty, the Dillons’ lawyer, said his clients had gotten the required sign offs before they demolished the home.
“Ryan and Abby Dillon have followed the rules every step of the way. The Oak Bluffs Historic Commission found the historic value of the pre-existing structure to be “not significant” and both the OBHC and the Oak Bluffs building inspector approved the demolition,” Moriarty told The Times. “The Dillons have a young Island family, have built a successful custom cabinetry business, and look forward to presenting to the MVC their energy efficient and tasteful plan that will vastly improve 112 Dukes County Avenue.”
In a letter to the MVC, Morairty said demolition of the house would have been approved.
“While it may have held some historic value in the sense that it was part of the expansion of Cottage City as a resort and year-round community,” Moriarty wrote, “the structure did not possess any inherent architectural or cultural value that so contributed to public enjoyment and inspiration to warrant the MVC from interceding to prevent its demolition.”
The MVC has received several letters of support for the project from members of the neighborhood.
Matthew Viaggio, who owns 100 Dukes County Ave., wrote that the Dillons’ proposed building will vastly improve the neighborhood.
Restauranteur JB Blau, a secondary abutter to the project, said he was in full support of the Dillons.
“The previous building was an eyesore in the neighborhood and the open hole is even worse,” Blau wrote. “We hope this is approved at the earliest opportunity as presented so the construction can continue and the neighborhood can continue to improve.”
The commission will review the demolition at their meeting Thursday, August 5, at 7 pm via Zoom.