MVC sued for conditions placed on elderly housing project

Aidylberg III project was approved in June — contingent upon a complete redesign.


Island Elderly Housing has filed a lawsuit against the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for conditions placed on an approval of IEH’s proposed elderly housing project in Oak Bluffs, Aidylberg III. 

The June 9 approval of the IEH project — in a 7-5 vote with two abstentions — was contingent upon certain conditions being met. 

Mainly, the conditional approval called for massive alterations to the construction plans, essentially requiring a complete redesign of the proposed building. 

Per the commission’s written decision, “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.”

In the lawsuit, filed August 19 in Dukes County Superior Court, IEH legal reps deem the conditions placed upon the project’s approval “arbitrary and capricious, and in excess of the authority of the MVC because it imposes requirements that exceed the standards set forth in the local zoning bylaw.”

The conditional approval stemmed from various commissioners’ — and some abutters’— distaste for the construction; many of them had previously taken issue with the actual design of the building, and the expensive nature of the project. The commission had previously expressed frustration over IEH’s alleged refusal to search for less expensive construction alternatives, in addition to repeatedly ignoring suggestions to consider a redesign. 

The suit argues that additional conditions placed on the project by the MVC are similarly detrimental to construction timeframe and finances. 

Per the MVC’s approval, “all heating and cooling shall be via electric heat pumps; no PVC materials may be used for the exterior cladding and trim of the proposed building; the Applicant shall explore the possibility of installing rooftop solar panels, and report to the LUPC on their viability prior to receipt of a building permit.”

In addressing each condition in its complaint, IEH argues that they do “not have an open-ended budget to accommodate MVC’s preferred energy system,” as they have “already made alternative arrangements for energy conservation by entering into a 20-year Solar Utility Credit Purchase Agreement with Solar Invictus 4, LLC, that will produce energy without polluting the environment.” 

The suit cites that PVC materials in exterior cladding and trim planned for the construction are to help reduce the costs over the building’s lifespan, and restricting overall use of the material “imposes an uneconomic condition.”

Located at 38 Wing Road, Aidylberg III is slated to be the third building of its kind, with construction of Aidylberg I and II having been completed in 2006.

The land on which the units sit was previously subdivided by the former owner of the property, Marguerite Bergstrom, who had retained one lot for her existing house and granted the rest to IEH with the intention of providing housing for senior citizens, as stated in the DRI (development of regional impact) project history.

Upon Bergstrom’s death in 2003 — and per her will — the existing house on the remaining lot was granted to IEH. Built around 1900, the 1,200-square-foot house is listed in the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) as being “a significant part of the continued expansion of Cottage City.”

In 2019, a demolition permit was issued by the Oak Bluffs building department, and with a COVID-caused extension of the permits’ expiration date, the house was demolished in May 2021. The demolition took place without the approval of the MVC.

“We want [the buildings] to fit in with the vernacular of the neighborhood,” commission chair Joan Malkin said at the MVC’s June 9 meeting. 


  1. The MVC better be careful. Towns will once again vote to end the MVC in their towns. We need the MVC, but not bad decisions.

    • How many of us think the MVC is making poor decisions?
      Should we put it to a vote?
      All the MVC does is hold back the ability of Islanders to make money.

  2. I retired in 2008 from IEH as its founder and 30 year Executive Director. Aidylberg I and II and our other projects were designed by Peter Zorzi and MacNelly/Cohen and David White. I am shocked at what IEH is now doing! The MVC should know that when Berg gave IEH her house, her intent was that it be renovated and rented to Islanders (not necessarily elderly) and that the rental income be used to help subsidize non-federal supportive services like the Van and The Meals Program. When I was at IEH, that’s what we did. The 2006 Aidylberg projects were designed with her input and mine. Berg would be shocked that her house has been demolished and her wishes ignored. IEH always worked with the MVC. We didn’t sue them. IEH needs a new development team, maybe a new Board of Directors who can work cooperatively with the local boards. There are still 2 buildable lots at Woodside. Build more HUD subsidized housing there but don’t ruin the popular and well designed Aidylberg and suing the MVC is a waste of money which could be used to improve the lives of IEH’s current tenants. I have never aired my views on what IEH has become, how they have abandoned our original vision, abandoned our chosen architects, etc. They have become just a HUD project, not a Vineyard project. It is very sad!

    • Just curious, have the current IED looked for funding elsewhere? Is HUD the only funding source available today?

      • No there are other sources but maybe they should avoid HUD, raise the money privately and through the State and rent to moderate income elders. Like Havenside Apts.

    • It is time to end MVC.
      They have clearly become incompetent.
      It is time for a County of Dukes County Commission.
      Martha’s Vineyard is not a political subdivision.

  3. How many lawsuits is enough to tell the MVC they are out of bounds in promoting their arbitrary agendas and unlawful actions? How many? The MVC is waisting tax payer money with lawsuit after lawsuit against them for illegal actions. Lawsuits are not a small thing. They are expensive and are sending the defendant the MVC a message. The MVC doesn’t care and isn’t listening to the message. The island residents and towns must stand up to the arrogance of the MVC. End the MVC and institute a County Commission that is accountable with clear rules which do not exist under the MVC. They are not serving the towns and the people of the island. MVC -Clarify and codify the rules so that everyone can follow them fairly and stop making up reasons to justify your decisions. It is way past time the MVC be held accountable. The State must better define and clarify the MVC powers. It is overdue. The MVC could serve it’s constituents for the better but it is out of control especial under this current leadership on the MVC. Hold the MVC accountable for bad judgment, arbitrary and poor decisions with no clear mandate of law. Spot zoning is illegal.

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