LUPC strikes against unmerited demolition

MVC subcommittee recommends denying demolition of East Chop house, and really wants to save EduComp’s cherry tree.

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The Martha's Vineyard Commission will be considering the recommendation by the Land Use Planning subcommittee to deny the request to demolish the main house at 7 Arlington Ave.

At their Tuesday meeting, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Land Use Planning subcommittee recommended the denial — without prejudice — of a request by the owners of  7 Arlington Ave., Oak Bluffs, to demolish the property’s existing building. The house, built in 1875, and listed on Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) as a component of the East Chop historic area, is slated to be replaced by a structure nearly double the size. 

The recommendation to deny the proposal was agreed upon in a 6-1 vote, with commissioner Brian Smith as the lone dissenter.

“The historic significance of this house is not really challenged,” said Joan Malkin, adding that the commission has yet to hear a valid reason for the request other than to construct a replacement more in tune with the property owners’ wishes. 

“I hate to vote against DRI’s,” she added, “but I can’t quite see my way through to enabling a demolition here.” 

Per the motion language, and contingent upon a full commission vote to deny the request on Thursday, the property owners will have to go back to the drawing board with revised plans for any replacement building, to be submitted again in the future. 

The proposed redevelopment of the EduComp building, which has been a focus of many MVC and LUPC meetings over the past several months, has commissioners vehemently cracking down on housing conditions in the effort to maximize workforce units. 

Absent from the conditional housing materials was a requirement that any unused units must be filled with other Island workers; as written, the terms stated that the units could be rented at the owner’s discretion — a questionable gray area that has the ability to decrease long-term Island housing. The subcommittee subsequently agreed to remove the loophole. “If you do a proposal based on workforce housing,” said commissioner Fred Hancock, “it has to stay workforce housing.”

Additional offsite workforce units were offered by building owner Xerxes Agassi for a 10-year term, which raised questions from commissioners. “It’s not something we had been expecting, but it’s an additional offer by the applicant,” explained Hancock. 

“Without us knowing where these units are located, what status they are, who owns them, are there approvals required, it’s hard to weigh this as an offer that means much,” said commissioner Ben Robinson. 

“This is very difficult to quantify,” said commissioner Brian Smith, who raised concerns about how the offsite units would be regulated for the next decade. “We’re just taking housing out of the inventory,” he said. 

Malkin said the offer is an additional benefit to the proposal. “We can take it and condition it,” she said. Commissioner Christina Brown noted that the offer wouldn’t be consistent with the workforce housing conditions. 

After hearing from Island arborists concerning the cherry tree outside the building, MVC DRI coordinator Alex Elvin relayed their assessment, citing that typically it would take five to eight years to determine the impacts the proposed construction would have on the tree, and that there would have to be an approximate eight-year monitoring period. Per Agassi’s offer within the proposal, if the tree is unable to be saved, “it will be replaced in kind.” 

Smith suggested more discussion be had on the impact to the tree: “I don’t know if an arborist seven years from now can say [the tree] definitively died because of [the] construction.”

Brown posed concerns about the size of a possible replacement tree. “In Edgartown, we’ve seen some pretty skinny trees,” she said. 

Continued deliberations and possible decisions will take place at the commission meeting on Thursday.

2 COMMENTS

  1. As a former licensed arborist trained by Bartlett Tree Experts but not having seen the tree in question, there is a simple way to prevent soil compaction which is the primary cause of damage. Erect a snow fence around the tree. The circumference of the fence should extend out to the tree’s drip line. No human or machine should be allowed within the confines of the snow fence

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