MVC closes IGI expansion hearing 

South Mountain intends to protect or work around archeological areas. 

South Mountain’s proposed layout for Island Grown Initiatives’ campus.

Commissioners closed the public hearing on Island Grown Initiative’s expansion project and left the written record open until Feb. 17.

The nonprofit proposes a new, one-story, 3,200-square-foot education and innovation center for offices and educational spaces, three seasonal yurts 16 feet in diameter each, and two new employee housing buildings at the farm’s property in Tisbury. The new buildings will be all-electric and include rooftop solar panels. One structure will potentially be a net energy producer based on the amount of renewable energy it produces versus the amount of energy it takes to develop and operate it. Electrical vehicle charging stations are proposed at several locations on the property as well.

IGI is working with South Mountain Co. to design and build the project.

Commissioner Douglas Sederholm said the Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL) report will not be available as public record due to confidential information in the report. DRI coordinator Alex Elvin said commission staff will review PAL’s report and then submit their own report which will be public record.

In a Jan. 31 report, PAL senior archaeologist and principal investigator Holly Herbster wrote that PAL conducted an intensive survey of the six-acre building site, which revealed ancient Native American and 18th through 20th century “cultural materials.”

Five “cultural features” were exposed after topsoil was removed that “may be part of the previously identified Native American site.” Herbster recommended an Archaeological Site Avoidance and Protection Plan be created to establish protections for the cultural features. If a feature can’t be avoided, PAL recommends excavating the site.

South Mountain CEO John Abrams said his company would be able to do so.

“We can satisfy all of PAL’s recommendations 100 percent,” he said.

The site is not a burial ground, according to Abrams.

“I’m assuming that the site might contain artifacts, but would not be a burial ground or anything because otherwise you would not be allowed to excavate, is that correct?” commission chair Joan Malkin said.

“Right,” Abrams replied.

Commissioner Fred Hancock said the commission should wait for the site avoidance plan before giving approval. He cited issues in the commission’s past where applicants received PAL reports.

IGI executive director Rebecca Haag said the organization was committed to protecting any artifacts on the site and working around them.

“We want to treat this land and these issues with great respect,” she said.

In other business, commissioners voted 10-5 to not review a historic demolition at 22 Hatch Road in Vineyard Haven.

The home is owned by David and Lisa Grain. David Grain is a private equity firm manager and former Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduate. Then President Obama appointed  Grain to the National Infrastructure Advisory Council in 2011. The Grains also own the neighboring 453 Main St.

The home, which was built in 1900, has had several renovations and additions since 1993 and is not located in the town’s historic district nor is it listed on the Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System (MACRIS). The two-story 7,290 square foot home has six bedrooms, and is considered vacant.

The proposal is to demolish the house and build a new 13,536 square foot five-bedroom home. That’s about twice the size of former President Obama’s Edgartown home.

Commissioner Brian Smith said the home did not rise to the level of being reviewed.

“Neighborhoods are always evolving,” Smith said. “The point of our checklists is not to necessarily save everything that’s over 100 years old, it’s to save significant properties that we don’t want to lose for future generations and this property certainly does not rise to that level.”

Commissioner Ben Robinson said the checklist gives commissioners the ability to either concur or not concur. 

“It’s not the job of the checklist to tell you what to concur on and what not to concur on, that’s the job of us as commissioners to think of what it is that we’re trying to do for the Vineyard,” he said. “I think we’re scapegoating on our own decision making a little bit when we blame it on the checklist. We can concur then we can hash it out in a more rigorous manner. If we don’t concur we don’t get that opportunity.


  1. It is good the Grain’s are not trying to build in West Tisbury or Chilmark. I do hope the home will be all electric, face south and that they will be able to reuse material from the home demo.

  2. West Tisbury is contemplating a limit on the size of houses being built in their town, but it’s okay for a really humongous house to be built on Hatch Road in Vineyard Haven?! Hatch Road is a fairly small, very pretty area. How can this be in keeping with that?

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