Navigator Homes project gets pushback from abutters

Residential development would cater to senior population and their healthcare providers. 

The commission was provided with a rendering of the proposed entrance to the development.

A public hearing at Thursday’s Martha’s Vineyard Commission meeting, regarding the proposed Navigator Homes development, pitted hospital and nursing facility reps — citing urgency to alleviate the effects of the housing crisis on its staff — against disgruntled abutters taking issue with the project’s size. 

Through collaboration among the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Navigator Homes, and Healthy Aging MV, the development’s initiative cites plans to house 76 nursing facility and hospital staff in addition to the 66 senior residents at its Edgartown location. The project calls for a total building footprint of 55,000 square feet on its 26 currently undeveloped acres. 

The project is able to be taken up as a result of a new amendment to the Edgartown zoning bylaw authorizing the construction of a senior residential development, contingent upon meeting a small number of requirements.

Per the Edgartown bylaw, requirements for a senior residential development are that it must be located on two or more acres, with at least 100 feet of frontage on a public way, in addition to having public water or wastewater service availability.

Representing the hospital, attorney Geoghan Coogan noted that each requirement has been met or is in the process of being met, as the development will be located on over 26 acres, and situated 1,300 feet from the public road. 

Coogan said the project will not be tied into the town sewer as initially proposed, because of the development’s projected nitrogen output far exceeding the town’s load limit. 

Instead, the project is slated to consist of on-site “highly advanced” denitrifying septic systems to reduce nitrogen output, in order to prevent seepage into the Sengekontacket Pond watershed, in which the property sits. 

Coogan emphasized the need to move forward with the project, citing the urgency of housing needs, especially for the prospective residents of the development. 

With no existing nursing facility on the Island capable of effectively catering to the community, and senior residents now making up a third of the Island’s population — exceeding off-Island ratios — securing care is crucial, reps explained, hence the need for onsite healthcare providers, who need housing provided in order to retain continuity of care. 

Coogan said the project is not only a proposal for desired workforce housing and a necessity for the development, but legally required under the senior residential development article in the town’s bylaws. 

On who can legally be provided living arrangements within the development, Coogan stated, “It has to be in employees of the hospital or Navigator [Homes].” If units are available, he said, housing can be provided to public safety staff.

“This is not an Airbnb situation, it never could be,” he said. “These are not private rentals. This is workforce housing and elderly services.”

”This project does not have 18 years to wait,” he said, adding that opponents to the project, particularly regarding the plan’s workforce housing component, have “their head is in the sand, if you see what’s going on on this Island right now … this [project] doesn’t even dent the housing needs of the hospital.” 

Denise Schepici, president and CEO of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, highlighted the urgency of housing the hospital’s staff. The hospital is “in the midst of a major housing crisis,” she said, “one that has been mission-critical to the future of our hospital.”

Rodianna Pope, speaking on behalf of her husband Devon, who was not present, testified as both legal representative and grandchild of abutting Teaberry Lane homeowners asserting opposition to the project. 

Pope said the development will “affect the solitude that all of the Teaberry [Lane] residents have had since the cul de sac was built.” Pope said she feels “alternative options were not adequately explored.”

In addition to raising concerns of increased traffic congestion in the area, Pope said the project will “alter a large amount of residents’ expectations of peace and quiet in their backyards.” 

Pope said that if the project were to be approved, they hope that any resulting “collateral damage” is thoroughly considered, and that due to the Island’s “specific vulnerabilities” regarding climate change, “such a major construction project should only be done if absolutely needed.” 

Abutter Patricia Turken said she is “directly affected by this [project],” expressing concerns about the close proximity to the site. Although Turken stated that the development proposed is “within 100 feet” of her residence, Coogan noted Turken’s property sits 243.7 feet from the closest planned structure. 

Noting the environmental impact, Turken said, “Edgartown simply does not have the infrastructure right now to support the density of this. That’s a fact … we know this.” 

Turken suggested having the construction be scaled back in size. “It’s just too big,” she said, citing impacts to wildlife habitat. Turken said maybe it can “push[ed] toward the back of the lot,” to create more of a “buffer” between the development and other area residents. Ultimately, she said on the project, “our family is opposed.”

Founder and member of both Navigator Homes and Healthy Aging MV Paddy Moore testified about the nearly 10-year process of forming what she deemed “a product of the best approach to developing in new directions.” 

“I think the Island, and all of us, are at a turning point in looking at ourselves and what kind of life this Island hopes to have as a community,” she said.

Preserving the Island’s flora and fauna are undoubtedly very important, said Moore, “but we need to look in a different way; that involves acceptance of some changing issues.” Part of that, she said, is really “considering what kind of future we need.” 

The public hearing will continue Sept. 1.

In other business, a lawsuit filed by attorney Dylan Sanders claiming the commission had violated the Open Meeting Law in regard to its out-of-court settlement with Harbor View Hotel was addressed by MVC chair Joan Malkin.

The complaint by Sanders, filed at Dukes County Superior Court on July 20, on behalf of some of the hotel’s abutters, argued that the commission violated the Open Meeting Law when voting to accept the settlement with the hotel at a July 7 executive session.

The complaint stated that commissioners did not follow the proper procedures when entering into the executive session, in addition to the session itself exceeding the scope of what can be determined without public input. 

At the MVC’s Thursday meeting, Malkin deemed the litigation “practically over,” stating that the court ruled in favor of the commission, denying the plaintiffs’ motion to have a new public hearing. Additionally, Malkin explained, it was determined that the MVC did not exceed the scope of its authority while in executive session, and was not in violation of the Open Meeting Law. 

Updated to clarify town’s bylaw regarding wastewater


  1. Everyone needs to understand this is a for profit development just like any developer building vacation homes please lets look at it the same way. They will hide behind so called non profit status and doing good works but if the MVC is consistent they should scale this way back or turn it down. Also if approved in any way they need to pay to the town full property taxes as any other developer would. Lets not be fooled by what this development is by hiding behind the senior logo.

  2. I would say the hospital is one of the most important entities on our Island. If we don’t support them many will either not get proper care or simply die. Without housing many hospital staff will simply leave the Island.

    It is also a crime for Bob Murphy to suggest the hospital has any private agendas in their attempt to provide housing. Support this hospital or expect much worse care.

  3. If it takes “for profit development” to help alleviate two significant island based issues, so be it. Imagine being a 75 year resident of the Vineyard (93 years of age) and no longer able to maintain your own home, although you remain self sufficient. You need reduced housing and occasional medical attention. So, where do you go? Sadly, you leave the island. Try that on for size when the time comes.

    • You hit the proverbial nail on its head, Phil. As great admirers of the person to whom you refer, we are looking forward to being in her same position before very long at all. We are somewhat industriously trying to mitigate the day-to-day dangers in our home, but eventually there’ll be a stand-off. “For profit development” are not bad words. As many bemoan the changes that have come to the Island, we need to stop shutting our eyes, turning our backs and thinking we’ll all freeze at some point where we’re still able. We’re getting older and older as a community, and we need to step up and ameliorate the services available.

  4. Where are the loud mouth business owners who were all over social media promoting the housing bank, supposedly for nurses and infrastructure employees? Crickets from them, when all along the housing bank promotion was usurped by many business owners wanting housing for their staff so they could increase their own profits by not scrambling for employee housing. It was never about the importance of housing for our hospital heroes. Or police. Or teachers. Or seniors. Otherwise, the restaurant and store owners who couldn’t carry on more obnoxiously for a housing bank would be supporting this at least as loudly as they carried on for the housing bank that benefits them.

    I hope this newspaper editorializes about the importance of supporting this medical and senior housing, also as much as they carried on for taxing wealthy home buyers to create a housing bank for every Tom, Dick, and landscaper.

    I’ll never understand why personal greed and NIMBY get the better of people, when supporting infrastructure helps everyone in the end. I can’t think of anything more urgent.

      • Albert. Can you at least please try for a more original line and not steal mine about you liking YOUR name in the paper? Thanks.

        If 3 different people who comment frequently here told me my comments made no sense and that they contribute nothing to any discussions or thought, I would ask myself how I could express myself better.

  5. I’m not sure about the tax question, but as they do procure, or would procure an income I think taxes should be collected.
    If anyone has ever had a friend or family member in need of long term care I’m sure you’d understand there is a sort of wait, second this with a lack of housing for those willing to help the sick and invalid? I’m all for this! I don’t see traffic being a problem, they’re not selling lobster rolls with an ocean view!

    • The hospital should pay taxes?
      How much in the way taxes does the Hospital consume?
      In one pocket and out the other.

  6. My concern about this project is the building heights for the worker housing (limited to 2 story?) and wide entrance shown in this rendering, which looks very different from the rendering shown at a Zoom meeting I attended in June 2020. You might notice now that the area is currently woodland. Ocean Heights is the often ignored, unsung, but distinctly quiet area of Edgartown which many of its residents enjoy, and will be enjoyable for the residents of this project. However, this rending looks very similar to the entrance of the Hospital and does not fit with the current wooded feel of this area. The artist’s rendering that was shown on the project proposal in 2020 appears very different from what this looks like, and includes a longer and winding road that would seem to hide the development better – (scroll down to see the proposed site layout). Perhaps the entrance could be concealed a bit more as the original site rendering shows, and set back further, allowing for the maintenance of the existing character. Look at other developments along this stretch of road for inspiration – Dodgers Hole, Major’s Cove etc. Yes, housing for the elderly is needed. Yes, we have an aging population, there is no question that this is an important project. This is a for-profit company and the Green House Project is innovative, and has a history of other projects around the country ( Research to learn more about this project and the concepts behind it. My understanding is that 34 beds are designated as Private Pay and 34 beds will be Medicaid. I did not see the most recent presentation, and have not seen the most recent plans. Obviously, there is a sewage concern. Yes, the watershed ends up in Sengekontacket. We already know there are problems there, as with the other ponds on the island. An added concern is the landscaping for this project. We should avoid the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers as that also goes, even more directly, into the watershed. A landscape plan that includes a (well-planned) natural landscape with the desired walking paths, etc., using original island plant species and pollinators would be more appropriate than irrigated grasses and non pollinating, genetically modified cultivars. We have lots of resources on the island that can help with this aspect. Perhaps there are compromises that can be accomplished in these planning stages that will make this project work for everyone involved. If you care to, research the issues, and show up at the September 1st meeting to make your concerns heard. We have an opportunity at this stage to make it work and perhaps come up with some solutions. Later will be too late.

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