The Martha’s Vineyard Commission held multiple public hearings Thursday evening to take testimony from Island board members and Vineyard residents concerning several proposed projects.
Following over an hourlong presentation from, and subsequent discussion of, Meshacket Commons, a planned affordable housing development with 36 rental and four homeownership units in Edgartown, hearing officer and commissioner Doug Sederholm panned the Zoom meeting’s participants in search of any offered testimony.
“Any members of the public who wish to testify about one of the biggest affordable housing projects that’s come before us in quite a number of years?” he asked.
The public hearing portion of MVC’s meetings regarding proposed projects are meant to give both supporters and opponents a platform to state their opinions or concerns, an opportunity to have their voices heard.
Through collaboration among Affirmative Investments and Island Housing Trust, the proposed Meshacket Commons calls for the construction of 10 housing structures — four six-unit buildings, four three-unit buildings, and two for-sale duplexes. Located on 8.5 acres at 38 Meshacket Road, the development aims to add much-needed relief to Vineyarders most impacted by the Island’s housing crisis.
In citing the MVC’s most recent housing needs assessment, Island Housing Trust CEO Philippe Jordi said over 600 year-round homes have been sold to seasonal and investment property owners within the past 10 years, to people “who can afford median homes prices in excess of $1.2 million.”
In Edgartown alone, Jordi said 92 percent of single-family homes on the market are priced over $1 million, essentially requiring prospective homebuyers to have an income of at least $250,000.
“The Island’s socioeconomic diversity is eroding at an alarming rate,” Jordi said, “as the affordability gap for working Island residents and their families is increasing exponentially, due to the skyrocketing real estate market.”
With the goal of addressing the urgent situation, Jordi said Meshacket Commons will be proving “100 percent affordable and community housing” for year-round Islanders.
The development has received substantial support from the Edgartown select board and the Edgartown affordable housing committee, and will be offering one-, two-, and three-bedroom unit rentals compatible with housing vouchers and residents with a range of 30 percent to 110 percent area median income (AMI).
Information regarding the Meshacket Commons project is available through the Martha’s Vineyard Commission website, with the public hearing remaining open until Sept. 22.
In other business, commissioners discussed the Stillpoint Meadows project in West Tisbury, proposed by Thomas Bena. The request is to repurpose an existing barn for “community and educational uses,” on a seven-acre site.
Because the site is the result of the approved 1998 Priester’s Pond subdivision, which resulted in a 51.9-acre lot split up into 12 lots, the proposal is considered a modification of a previous request.
Six lots were recently sold by property owner Claudia Miller, four of which were purchased by the nonprofit organization Stillpoint Meadows. The other two lots, directly abutting the Stillpoint site, were sold to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank to remain undeveloped. The Stillpoint property sits to the north of Polly Hill Arboretum, and is home to one 3,200-square-foot barn, which will serve as a community meeting and event space. The barn features rooftop solar, and is slated to be retrofitted with a heated floor by South Mountain Co. Two Stillpoint lots are to be restricted to “only off-the-grid developments.”
Currently the site is zoned for residential and agricultural, which can be possibly bypassed due to Stillpoint Meadow’s status as an educational organization, Sederholm explained, but will require a special permit through West Tisbury zoning board.
The proposal involves two additional bathrooms on site, the creation of 43 parking spaces — and three EV charging stands — and the installation of a public well, with future plans to construct a small workshop and “seasonal cabins for visiting participants.”
Per the application, the barn would be available for rent — “in conformity with [the Stillpoint] mission,” according to legal rep Marilyn Vukota — which will be “restricted to a minimum” but necessary to help offset costs.
According to the proposal, the site will serve as “a quiet gathering space for Stillpoint, as well as other year-round Island-based community groups or individuals that could rent the space for their own purposes,” and would include art groups, workshops, retreats, and various “mindfulness activities.”
Among a lengthy list of activity examples offered by the nonprofit were women’s boxing, a surfboard building contest, poetry readings, tai chi classes, mindful forest walking, and PTSD workshops.
Stillpoint will host evening events with a maximum of 100 attendees and three to six staff or volunteers during the peak season, and off-season daily events ranging from 20 to 50 attendees.
Commissioners expressed confusion regarding the specific usage of the venue. Sederholm inquired as to whether the barn could be rented for a wedding, but the question was never directly addressed.
After the public hearing, Sederholm said Stillpoint reps “will have to be very specific about the uses and the uses available for rental,” specifically concerning estimated noise level and alcohol on the premises, as this could “potentially impact abutters.”
“Instead of saying tai chi and yoga,” said commission chair Joan Malkin, the “categories of usage would be much more helpful” to understand the nonprofit’s overall plan. Malkin cited the applicant’s submitted request, which states “the barn is not intended for entertainment or seasonal events,” and said she would need clarification as to what is being considered “entertainment” or seasonal. The categorization would need to be “sufficiently descriptive” to avoid potential issues regarding venue usage. “It would be helpful to understand, with a lot more precision, what is planned,” she said.