MVC considers legal action against Circuit Ave. building owner

The building, which received permission for renovation, was intended to provide housing for Island employees.

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The MVC is considering legal action against the owner of 6 Circuit Avenue over workforce housing apartments being listed on Airbnb. - Brian Dowd

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission will consider legal action against the owner of the building that houses the Cardboard Box and the Oyster Bar 02557 on Thursday night after alleged violations of a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) relating to workforce housing the Circuit Avenue property.

The Circuit Avenue building, which houses the restaurants and three floors of apartments, is owned by Adam Cummings. The building received extensive renovations in 2018. Before its renovation, the building housed the Lampost and hotel rooms.

The issue was brought to light by Mark Leonard in May when he sent an email with Airbnb links to the Oak Bluffs building department after seeing two apartments listed on the popular short-term rental site.

“With the critical shortage of housing for the Island workforce, businesses and individuals must be held accountable to deliver the housing as conditioned in their approvals,” Leonard wrote.

Links to the two Airbnbs show the interior and deck views of apartments at the Circuit Avenue building owned by Cummings. The Airbnbs are hosted by “Janet,” whose profile showed two additional apartments for short-term rentals — all inside the Circuit Avenue building. One of the units did not show any availability for rent.

All four units boast of their downtown Oak Bluffs location above the Cardboard Box and Oyster Bar, private patios, and “panoramic water views” in a “newly constructed five-level building.”

Rates for the units were upwards of $750 a night during the busy summer months. Reviews for Janet’s units stretch back to 2019.

Janet declined to comment through an email on the Airbnb website and instead directed The Times to Cummings. Cummings did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The commission’s decision states compliance will be enforced by the building and zoning enforcement officer of Oak Bluffs, that a yearly rental documentation is required to prove the residential units are “utilized by Island employees,” and that the building shall be heated year-round so “workforce housing” can be provided to workers.

“As offered by the applicant, the units shall be rented to employees of local businesses either as permanent year-round housing or temporary housing as needed,” the 2017 decision reads.

Additionally a special permit granted by the Oak Bluffs Planning Board outlines that the project is subject to the commission’s decision.

In an August 10 letter to Cummings, DRI coordinator Alex Elvin said he was following up on a July 19 conversation about the short-term rental use of the apartments at the building.

“At our meeting on July 19, you stated that it was your understanding that the commission had discussed the possibility of not restricting the top floor to workforce housing,” Elvin’s letter states in part. “But we were not able to find any record of that in our files, including in the minutes for the MVC and LUPC meetings. There were, however, comments by the commissioners during both the original review and modification review that the units should not be for short-term rentals. Regardless of what may have been discussed at the time, the 2017 decision clearly states that the units shall be for employees of local businesses, so any other use of those units would require a modification from the MVC.”

In an email to Elvin, Oak Bluffs local inspector Matt Rossi agreed.
“I completely agree they’re out of compliance,” Rossi wrote.

In a Dec. 7 letter to Cummings, commissioner Douglas Sederholm said no action had been taken to bring the building into compliance since notification of the violations was made in August.

“The committee agreed to allow seven days from the date of this letter for the applicant to 1) cease using any dwelling unit in the building for anything other than local workforce housing, and 2) inform the MVC as to what measures have been taken to comply with the DRI decisions,” the letter states in part. “If this is not done to our satisfaction by that time, the compliance committee shall recommend to the full commission that the commission file an action in Dukes County Superior Court to enforce the conditions…including seeking injunctive relief…”

In an Dec. 8 email to Elvin and Sederholm, Geoghan Coogan, Cumming’s attorney, said the building “is not currently in any violation of the DRI decisions.” Additionally, Coogan said the building is currently occupied by staff members of the Santoro Group and one Rockfish employee. He said the remainder of the building is vacant. Coogan said he intends to file a modification request to bring the building and its intended uses into compliance.

The commission meets Thursday night at 7 pm to discuss the issue.

8 COMMENTS

  1. It’s just incredible how often an individual or a developer on this Island gets permission to do a certain thing, under certain conditions, then, after they get their go-ahead, they use that so-called permission to do other, more profitable things. Enforcement, compliance, following the rules, too often lacking. Any MVC or local building authority decisions should include some degree of follow-up, to forestall these flaunting of regulations.

  2. You should look at various Town sponsored projects where required referrals under MVC checklist regulations have been ignored. The executive director simply refused to even present these compliance issues to the full MVC, claiming the facts were not true, in spite of clear evidence of overreaching! Corruption is rampant!

  3. Oak Bluffs Building Department
    Is so Corrupt nothing would surprise me.
    Big old greedy Boys Club at work again.
    Fine time to check out tenants when season is over!!! Try again in summer then you will find tourists.
    What a joke ….glad I’m gone don’t miss the OB corruption 😕.
    When I moved to Vineyared 52 years ago I always heard rumor about OB
    The most Corrupt town in Commonwealth!

  4. Patricia!
    I am offended. Everyone knows Tisbury is first among equals in The Most Corrupt MV Town competition.
    Between Jeff Kristal, certain Tisbury detectives, Tree Wardens, I am not going to allow you to take anything away from our accomplishments.

  5. Adam Cummings needs to honor his agreement. Sounds like a businessperson who’s willing to become successful then forget those who help him. Not ok!

  6. As a former Oak Bluffs entrepreneur this is a tough call. The property owner is clearly outside of is agreement, but as a former landlord I would say there could be valid reasons why he took this route. That was never discussed. Was it right? I do not know the answer to that but who is the MVC to judge? They nourished a Shared Use Path plan for over a decade all the while knowing it was, if not illegal, definitely not recommended, and in fact singled out by Mass DOT guidelines as absolutely never to be done on two lane roads. But they figured there would be around $100 million in projects if they could push it through and blocked all scrutiny into the project. Then they had the nerve to say they would get MV to net zero by 2050 and in the meantime approved multiple home teardowns for much larger more carbon producing homes. They approved artificial turf for the High school. They approved the MV Museum removing hundreds of trees absorbing pollutants and putting in a massive lawn for profits renting out space for parties and weddings. They approved, unanimously, a massive environmentally catastrophic offshore wind project diminishing our harbor, with zero research or input. The property owner may well be wrong, but who are they to judge?

  7. EXACTLY to what “massively catastrophic offshore wind project” does this fool refer? These offshore farms have existed off the Danish coast for decades, I know this from being hired to study then. They have proven to be the most effective conservation effort in a century. As a founding officer of Greenpeace New England in the 1970’s and winner of the highest US Environmental teaching award & Prize in 2001, I’ve had more than enough of such BS from uneducated types. Spend a decade studying our environment at U-Mass/Boston, MIT Sea Great, and Harvard Grad as I did before spouting off. America trails the entire rest of our industriàlized planet in protecting our frail ecosystem. It’s quite easy to see just how this happened!

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