MVC approves Beecher Park demolition 

Commission also votes not to concur on separate historic demolition in Katama.

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The Beecher Park home proposed for demolition in Oak Bluffs. The owners want to build a similar home in its place. — Courtesy MVC

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved a historic demolition for 9 Beecher Park in Oak Bluffs.

The vote was 11-0, with three abstentions from commissioners Ben Robinson, Jay Grossman, and Christina Brown. 

The project proposes to demolish the existing 2,029-square-foot, six-bedroom home, and construct a 3,593-square-foot, four-bedroom home in its place. The existing garage would also be replaced with a new one that has a second-floor office. The new building is intended to be the year-round residence of the Callahan family. Records show the Callahans purchased the home for $1.36 million in September 2020.

The existing home was built in 1877 in the Campground style, with many additions made over the years. The building is listed on the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS).

While going through the benefits and detriments of the project, commissioners were split on how to judge the demolition. 

Commission chair Joan Malkin said that given the fair condition of the home, the demolition was a detriment, but that some commissioners would say the proposed replacement does a “reasonably satisfactory job” of maintaining the architectural representation. “I think perhaps we need to leave that one with ambiguities or positions on both sides,” Malkin said.

“While I don’t like to see the old houses go away, it is nice to see a replacement that I think is a meaningful attempt at a building that looks like it could have belonged here,” Oak Bluffs commissioner Fred Hancock said.

Robinson said the home is not being replaced by a small home, but rather a larger home. “It’s a much different animal than what you would imagine would be the right type of house moving forward,” Robinson said. “I think it’s important when we think about historic replacement that the buildings we replace are more efficient, but they’re not smaller yet. I think that’s another piece of climate change we don’t fully weigh yet. There is a material impact on the planet that is a part of climate change that larger buildings are still a detriment to.”

Robinson told The Times in a phone call he abstained because he was conflicted with the project, but ultimately felt like it was “a missed opportunity.”

Grossman said he abstained from the vote because he has an issue with demolishing historic structures that are structurally sound, but he didn’t disagree with the applicant’s proposed design of a new structure, and didn’t want to get in the way of approving the project.

Brown abstained because she was not eligible to vote.

The commission was unanimous in determining that a public hearing was not required for a modification review of the SAV/FedEx Ground facility to replace two mini storage units with two modular docks, but continued the project to allow the applicant to work with MVC staff on project conditions.

The facility’s existing modular docks will accommodate a service center and employee offices.

The project is designed to meet increased demand for online ordering augmented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new modular docks will increase the number of FedEx vehicle delivery doors from seven to 20. 

According to a commission staff report, Allen Scott, the project applicant, stated the new modular docks will be all-electric, and FedEx may implement electric vehicles on a case-by-case basis.

Commissioner Ben Robinson suggested that Scott work with commission executive director Adam Turner on a set of formal offers. “I think we shouldn’t rush this, and I think we should continue this, craft proper conditions, and maybe get some offers from the applicant,” Robinson said.

In another historic demolition project, the commission voted not to concur on the demolition of 55 King Point Way in Edgartown. Essentially what that means is the commission won’t do a full review of the project.

The project proposes to demolish the four-bedroom early summer cottage — one of the few remaining in Katama — as well as guest house and garage. It would be replaced with a four-bedroom home, detached garage, detached fitness studio and spa, outdoor pool, hot tubs, shed, and terraces. 

The total square footage of the main dwelling would increase by 5,048 square feet, from 2,553 square feet to 7,601 square feet. The total square footage of all buildings would increase by 7,522 square feet.

The home was built in 1904, likely by William F. Jernegan, who obtained land in Katama in 1896 and 1907. The property could have been part of a working farm.

The home is not within any historic district, and is not listed on the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS), but is among the oldest remaining summer homes in Katama.

Alterations were made between 1991 and 2008, with a guest house added in 2000 and extensive renovations in 2002 that eliminated most of the interior historical features, such as the building frame, windows, and doors.

The commission voted 11-5, with one abstention, not to concur on the project. The project now goes to the Edgartown planning board. 

6 COMMENTS

  1. A commissioner who abstains for any reason other than a personal connection or financial interest should consider resigning from the commission. I just don’t understand abstaining because you don’t want to get in the way or not sure about the size and environmental impact of bigger. You are on the committee to represent. Please represent!

    • If on a particular issue a commissioner sees no pluses or minuses it should abstain.
      By represent do you mean that commissioners should poll the people they represent and vote with the majority regardless of self?
      That sounds do Democratic, might I say Socialist/Communist.
      America is a Republic.
      Republicans do not have to do what the we the people tell them to do except near election time.

  2. As is abstaining due to prejudicial bias. More commissioners whose preconceptions that bring to bare prejudicial bias likewise should abstain. Applicants and the public deserve judging of projects absent preconceived ideas. That is “due process” enshrined in our Constitution and the fundamental law of our land.

  3. I learned of a recent interior design from an architect on the island where the furniture budget is 2 million dollars. The MVC overall mandate is to protect island values, but also it has adopted a policy of attempting to say it is somehow going to limit Co2. Without making any judgment on the decision to demolish and build it simply is a fact that they chose to go against those two principles. There is something else going on here, and not making any judgment but just saying. Every decision of the MVC is pro development. It is just a fact. The entire SUP fiasco taking up over a decade was also pure development attempt of their own design.

  4. It’s interesting that a commissioner abstained because of his own proclivity for ‘tiny houses’. That certainly shows a bias towards anyone who doesn’t want to live in the ‘Swiss Robinson tree house’. With the climate getting warmer it might be nice to be inside a home that isn’t tiny and stuffy.

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