Demolition hearing closed

112 Dukes County Ave. project sees overwhelming support.

The current property had to halt construction when the MVC said it had to review the project. — Brian Dowd

Updated 3:50 pm 

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission closed out the public hearing on the already demolished 112 Dukes County Avenue home, following overwhelming testimony in support of the project.

Review by the commission comes months after the home was already demolished, after owners Ryan and Abigail Dillon received sign offs for demolition from the Oak Bluffs historic committee, town building inspectors, and the MVC.

A month after saying the project did not have to be reviewed by the commission in a letter, MVC executive director Adam Turner found the project was not in a historic district and therefore had to be reviewed.

Turner previously told The Times that a person, who he did not specify, indicated the project needed to be reviewed. 

Speaking to The Times by phone, Oak Bluffs planning board chair Ewell Hopkins said it came as a surprise to him that the commission was reviewing the project since it has not been seen or referred to the town.

“The commission, based on my informal inquiry on whether or not this triggered a DRI or a review by the commission, indicated the act of demolition required a review by the commission,” Hopkins said.

He said he was also “very surprised” to learn the project was being reviewed as a DRI because no project application was submitted to the town.

“I’m surprised the commission is doing anything more than reviewing the aspects of the demolition before sending it back to the town,” he said. “Now that they’ve reviewed the entire project I look forward to reviewing what they have already seen.

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.

In a statement to commissioners, Abby Dillon described how her family lives on the Island year-round and how she and her husband run a cabinet making business that employs other year-round Island residents.

“We demolished a structure that had no foundation, that was sitting on blocks, with rotting posts and still found wood to salvage to repurpose because we are not a throw-away family,” Dillon wrote in part. “That being so, I can assure you, we were incredibly thoughtful in our decision to demolish this structure. In fact, the decision to demolish came on the day when we decided we could not remodel the home safely enough for our own four children in an environmentally conscious way. Just because a structure is old doesn’t mean it is healthy for our environment.”

She went on to describe how she and her husband went through the proper permitting process and have been financially and emotionally drained.

The lone voice of opposition came from Candace “Candy” Nichols, who owns 110 Dukes County Ave., a property she rents out to tenants. Nichols said she was concerned about her property and the neighborhood.

“In a nutshell the project is too big, it’s too high,” she said. “I don’t find the plans attractive and in keeping with the property with the house that was there or anything in the neighborhood. To me it looks like a box hotel.”

She pleaded for the commission to downsize the project and require adequate parking.

Sean DeBettencourt said the commission’s role is to protect the Island’s environment, economy, character, and social fabric.

“The project as presented is clearly appropriately sized and built with a sustainable vision which fits into enhancing the Island environment. The project is in keeping with the motif of the neighborhood which fits into the character. The project adds workforce housing and sustaining middle class jobs on the Island which fits in the economy. This allows workers to have stable homes and encouraging their family stability,” DeBettencourt said. “This hits every aspect of the MVC’s role.”

Leah Brown, who owns two homes in the neighborhood, said she renovated her homes to help beautify the neighborhood same as the Dillons.

“The person who’s opposed to this has a history of combating anything we want to do that’s fun, innovative, uplifting in our neighborhood,” Brown said. “I ask you to rule in favor of the Dillons because they’ve done everything right.”

Over 20 other letters in support of the project have been sent to the commission.

Commissioner Fred Hancock, who represents Oak Bluffs, said the MVC’s language referring to demolition referrals has not changed recently and the Oak Bluffs historic commission was taking liberties and exerting authority that it doesn’t have.

“I would certainly blame the historic commission and the town building department for putting this applicant in this position,” Hancock said. “I would really apologize to them, through no fault of their own. They’re in a very uncomfortable position.”

Attorney Robb Moriarty, who is representing the Dillons, asked the commission to approve the project.

“The benefits of it clearly outweigh its detriments,” he said.

With the public hearing closed, the written record will remain open until Friday, Aug. 13, at 5 pm.

In other business, the commission continued a public hearing on a proposed demolition of 19 Mill Square Road in Oak Bluffs. The project seeks to demolish the existing historic home and build a larger four-bedroom 3.5 story residence in a similar style.

The home is listed on the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS). It was built around 1898 as a seasonal swelling. It’s considered significant as part of the Vineyard Highlands, an alternative to the Wesleyan Grove Campground.


Updated to include comments from Ewell Hopkins. — Ed.


  1. Where is the sign off sheet indicating the steps the applicant needs to perform before any action is done?
    So easy to ‘miss’ a step when heads turn the other way.

Comments are closed.