Back to the drawing board

MVC requires Island Elderly Housing to redesign their proposed housing; begins hearings for West Tisbury residential campus.

The Martha's Vineyard Commission was presented with renderings of the Island Autism Group's proposed residential campus.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission convened Thursday night after a three-week hiatus in a lengthy meeting with a chock-full agenda.

The commission held public hearings for the proposed Island Autism Group master plan, which consists of a request to approve the construction of a residential campus on Lambert’s Cove Road, West Tisbury. In addition, it continued its public hearing on the modification proposal from Fine Fettle, which is requesting the ability to allow walk-ins, and tweak operating hours. The commission decided to table the hearing of the latter, after some concerns were raised regarding traffic buildup and parking problems, despite data presented by the dispensary showing less-than-expected clientele and sales. 

The Island Autism Group’s proposal to commence construction on its 7.5 acres cites plans for a 4,807-square-foot “Hub House” to serve as the main building, a 3,350-square-foot barn, two four-bedroom, 4,867-square-foot houses, and three two-bedroom, 1,543-square-foot cottages in addition to a farmstand, as the property has a pre-existing agricultural preservation restriction, and is expected to be a working farm.

Direct abutter and West Tisbury planning board member Matt Merry said, like many of his neighbors, he is in support of the aim of the proposal, but highlighted concerns regarding a previous — and rare — recommendation by the LUPC to waive a formal traffic study. 

Merry emphasized the frequency of Lambert’s Cove Road traffic, in that it provides direct beach access, and gets heavily inundated, especially on weekends and in the summer months. “To not complete a traffic study is crazy to me,” he said. 

In order to accommodate the commission’s other agenda items, the public hearing will remain open until June 23.

Modification proposals for the upcoming Vineyard Haven medical marijuana dispensary, Main Street Medicinals, were given the green light — after a discursive deliberation on traffic concerns and a focus on housing condition verbiage — with one dissent and one abstention. 

Commissioners deliberated over the proposed construction of Island Elderly Housing’s (IEH) Aidlyberg III, consisting of age-restricted housing units in Oak Bluffs. The construction is contingent upon the approval of the controversial, retroactive demolition of the property’s former dwelling structure. 

The property’s pre-existing building was formerly owned by Marguerite Bergstrom, who granted the property to IEH with the intention of providing housing to senior citizens. The request to approve its retroactive demolition was met with continued discussion about how dilapidated the dwelling actually was, and if it would have been a candidate for alternative actions to demolition, per the MVC’s historic structure policies.

Despite assertions by IEH representatives that the demolished building was overrun with irreversible damage, DRI coordinator Alex Elvin said he was “not aware of significant damage” to the building. 

“We don’t really know,” said commissioner Kathy Newman on the extent of the damage of the building. “Hypothetically, there was some mold, there was some water [damage],” she said. “But nobody really went to this building and decided that it couldn’t be saved.”

The commission approved an additional condition to the construction proposal in a 7-5 vote with two abstentions, which mandates a redesign of the building. The condition states, “The applicant shall return to the MVC with a revised design that reduces the massing of the proposed building, including the second story, and more faithfully replicates features of the demolished building. The revised design shall be subject to MVC review and approval prior to the issuance of a building permit.”

The conditional approval stems from various commissioners’ — and some abutters’— distaste for the construction; many of them had previously taken issue with actual design of the building, and the expensive nature of the project. The commission had previously expressed frustration over IEH’s refusal to search for less expensive construction alternatives, in addition to repeatedly ignoring suggestions to consider a redesign. Commissioners Michael Kim and Ben Robinson, both architects, said they would be willing to work on the redesign pro bono, to ensure a better outcome, despite Kim voting against the proposal altogether. 

Commissioners ultimately agreed with a statement by commission chair Joan Malkin: “We want [the buildings] to fit in with the vernacular of the neighborhood.”

Additionally, upon the approval of their written decision regarding Lampost building owner Adam Cummings’ housing modifications, which had initially proposed a reduction to workforce housing that was subsequently denied, the commissioners voted unanimously to rescind the filing of a record of certificate to the Registry of Deeds, citing the building owners’ past noncompliance, noting that Cummings is now in compliance with housing conditions.


  1. Regarding Island Elderly Housings Aidylberg III project; Comment from Island Elderly Housings Board of Directors or staff is significantly absent from your reporting. Is this sloppy journalism or bias? Elderly Islanders need affordable housing NOW. I hope that, in the future, the times can help fulfil this need by more complete and accurate reporting. Thank you Peter

    • Everyone one needs affordable housing.
      The Island is not a good choice for old people.
      Their places should be rented to rich people who spend lots of money on Island doodads, and restaurants.

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