Traffic, parking raised during Meshacket hearing

Lots of personnel changes also at the MVC.

Philippe Jordi, CEO of Island Housing Trust, answers a question during an MVC Zoom.

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.


  1. Yet another affordable housing project with 36 rental and four homeownership units. A significant development done without a new tax on Vineyard homeowner’s real estate transactions and without the creation of a new housing bureaucracy to distribute the housing. The housing bank is an unecessary boondoggle and it will have devastating consequences for the natrural environment. Keep Our Island Green

  2. A quick addition to the story: it is true that I “chimed in” to make clear that while bicycles on Meshacket are a seasonal disturbance, pedestrian traffic is “virtually non-existent.” Which is true year round.

    But I would like to add in this comment that I spoke twice during the meeting, the second time at the very end to make clear to all that while it is helpful to be secure in the details, the bottom line — completely — is that we need more housing and as I said: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    I sat on the Edgartown Affordable Housing Committee in 2015 as an alternate (always there, because inevitably someone skipped meetings, in particular one person appointed never once attended! Nice person, though, contributes in other ways.) and in 2015 — YES 2015 – this project was actively under discussion. Like I said last night, that remained unquoted, was that it was absurd that we can’t cannot get this done and figure out particulars. There are headlines in the Washington Post about us. Please, let’s not make even further news. It is not a good brand — it tells the world that Martha’s Vineyard can’t solve problems, even a little bit.

    Frankly, it wouldn’t be inaccurate. People put the blame on a lot: the pandemic, the free market, all kinds of things. Well, where there’s a will, there’s a way. I encourage the MVC to move forward speedily for a positive outcome. Why work against this? Get it right, but DO IT. Give it to Edgartown for the rest because it’s headed there.

  3. I find it interesting the MVC recently turned down an abutting 38 unit development with great contribution to affordable housing yet this higher density development is not getting the same scrutiny. Since the turned down development is currently in litigation one would think the MVC would be more careful.

  4. The “great” contribution did not exist — or spell it out, please? This is entirely devoted to housing on Martha’s Vineyard for those who live and work here, who staff your banks, fire departments, restaurants, supermarkets, schools, etc. Sorry, you’ll need to clarify how a resort development of Mega Mansions with a fraction of a contribution is in any way, shape, or form anything like what we are seeing approved. you

    • The MVC stipulates what new developments must contribute to affordable housing and that figure was greatly exceeded. My point is solely environmental. I question the fact that there are dual standards based on whose project it is when it should solely be based on science. I actually believe affordable high density housing is the biggest environmental threat to the Island, not mega mansions.

  5. “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,” Kim said.” What is that “population” Mr. Kim is referring to? Are residents not allowed additional parking in case they may have a visitor? Does Mr. Kim live here at all?

  6. The MVC Makes up its own rules depending on the applicant. Mark is correct in that they turn down a much more environmentally friendly project next door as well as more affordable housing contributions with its overall plan. It all depends on who the applicant is just look what they did for Abrams last week where they allowed him to re-open a closed hearing because it was going to cost him a few more dollars. They let Sam Dunn do pretty much anything he wants and yet others get shut down before they can even start. The problem with the MVC is there is no continuity and no real guidelines they always just shoot from the hip. It really is sad how the current group of commissioners look for things to find wrong and try to deny instead of trying to embrace and let’s make it happen.

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