The Martha’s Vineyard Commission resumed its public hearing on the Meshacket Commons affordable housing project, focusing on parking and traffic, as well as pedestrian and bicycle safety on that stretch of Edgartown–West Tisbury Road in Edgartown.
Meshacket Commons is an affordable housing project with 36 rental and four homeownership units in Edgartown proposed by Affirmative Investments and Island Housing Trust.
Most of the discussion came from commissioners, although Edgartown resident Dean Rosenthal did chime in to say that any issue with bicycles is seasonal. He said pedestrians in that area are pretty much “nonexistent.”
Commissioner Jeff Agnoli said knowing the area traffic is already an issue, the new neighborhood will only add to it. “It’s a problem,” he said. “There will be increased traffic, regardless, because there are more people living there, and there are more developments along this stretch.”
Agnoli asked if the developers are working with the town to have bike lanes. “I’m just wondering is the applicant willing to work — we’re adding this population and bus routes — would they work toward a bike lane solution, pedestrian safety considerations?” Agnoli said.
Craig Nicholson, a representative of Affirmative Investments, whose company is working with Island Housing Trust, said they would absolutely work with the town, and that should come up during the Chapter 40B process with the town departments. “We’re happy to be part of the solution,” he said.
Commissioner Doug Sederholm said it’s really the town that needs to step up and spend money when it comes to the bike lane or shared-use path. “You can’t do it,” he said. “The town has to do it.”
Commissioner Michael Kim objected to the number of parking spaces. “Is there any indication that these small unit owners and residents have that many cars, even?” he said. “I’ll say I hate it when we’re having more parking than will ever be used. It’s way above the requirement of the town.”
After learning there were 70 parking spots, Kim reiterated his objection. “Seventy parking [spaces] for 40 units of affordable housing, really?” He followed up, asking, “Do you have evidence based on similar developments that there’s that much car ownership on this Island for that population? Then I’ll shut up.”
Derrill Bazzy, design development manager for IHT, said they’re needed because from experience at Scott’s Grove, the two-bedroom apartments often have two vehicles, and Meshacket has some three-bedroom apartments. He said they figure a car and a half per unit. “The Vineyard is, unfortunately, a very auto-based situation, and this is a location that is a little bit distant from the towns,” he said.
Edgartown affordable housing manager Arielle Faria, who lives at Scott’s Grove, said the parking spots are almost always full when people are home. “I do not believe that the amount of parking the project has is excessive at all,” she said.
In answer to a question about Wi-Fi from Sederholm, Nicholson said that it would be provided in the community center so that children in the neighborhood could have access to the internet without going to the library. The apartments will also be wired for cable, he said.
Philippe Jordi, CEO for IHT, noted that the Island’s housing crisis received national attention, with a story in the Washington Post about hospital workers who can’t find housing on the Island.
In other business, the commission agreed to reopen the public record on Red Arrow Road Community Housing after developer John Abrams of South Mountain wrote a letter saying that the denitrification septic systems required are cost-prohibitive for the project. Abrams’ letter also questions some other conditions imposed on the project. South Mountain is proposing to purchase 3.17 acres from Island Co-Housings’ 29-acre Red Arrow Road in West Tisbury that involves the construction of six structures — four of which will be residential homes, with a total of 11 bedrooms.
The commission agreed to open the record for a week, and will deliberate at its meeting next Thursday on the requests made by Abrams, giving the public time to weigh in if they choose.
Meanwhile, there are some new people in new positions at the MVC. Executive director Adam Turner said a new DRI (development of regional impact) coordinator has been hired. Mike Senatore, an attorney, comes to the MVC from Baltimore, Md. “We’re lucky to have him,” he said.
Alex Elvin, who had been acting in that capacity, is moving into a new role as chief researcher and communications specialist, Turner said. “Alex really busted his butt as the DRI coordinator,” Turner said.
Joining the MVC is Kate Warner, who will be the MVC’s energy planner, with a grant from the Vision Fellowship. She joins Liz Durkee, who is the commission’s climate action planner. Turner also announced some departures. Christine Flynn has left after 23 years as the housing planner, and historic preservation coordinator Christina Mankowski has moved out of the state, and likely won’t be replaced, Turner said. “It’s an exciting time as we start to move in different directions,” he said.