MVC tired of inaccurate renderings

During a marathon meeting, commissioners also discussed Navigator, marina, and Stillpoint.

Commissioners expressed frustration after receiving and reviewing what turned out to be inaccurate renderings for a proposed replacement on Look Street in Tisbury.

In a jam-packed meeting consisting of four public hearings Thursday, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission mulled over a senior living facility, residential demolition, marina reconstruction, and a West Tisbury commercial space.

The commission discussed a request from Michael Morrison, agent for 43 Look St. in Tisbury, to demolish the existing four-bedroom, 1,920-square-foot house, and replace it with a five-bedroom, two-story, 3,479-square-foot “solar-ready” house featuring a basement.

Commissioners expressed concern over the many inconsistencies between submitted renderings of the proposed replacement and Morrison’s testimony. 

The current house is believed to be around 100 years old, and is located outside the William Street Historic District, said DRI coordinator Alex Elvin. The house is not listed in the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) or any other historic register. 

The style of the existing house is consistent with ”most other houses” in the area, Elvin said, and features much of the original form. 

Demolition of the existing house is preferred over any alternatives, according to the applicant, as it is allegedly most cost-effective. 

Elvin said that the town assessor deemed the property “slightly below average” in its condition. A structural report by John Lolley identified a handful of problem areas in the existing house, including water intrusion, rot in the attic, and “structural cracking in various places.” 

According to the proposal, the replacement structure would have a front-facing deck on each level, and exceed the current house’s height by three feet. The replacement house would be the largest and tallest on Look Street. 

The new building would feature “extensive, large-scaled windows,” in addition to large glass sliding doors that open to the front-facing decks. According to MVC staff, “there is no precedent for this more elaborate Victorian-era house style and form on Look Street.” There is also no precedent for double-height porch/decks, and it would be the only house with more than one door (four) on the front elevation on the street. 

Commissioner Trip Barnes noted that the rendition of the proposed replacement looks like the house sits on stilts, to which Elvin replied that “the rendering is not actually correct.” He said the house would have a regular foundation. 

Commissioner Linda Sibley commented that the plans being relayed by the applicant are not the same as the rendition being shown. “We have to have presented to us renderings of this house that are accurate, visually,” she said. 

Commissioner Ben Robinson said it is his understanding that the proposed replacement is a modular home, subject to changes.

“The rendering is basically just a drawing to entice the buyer,” said Morrison. “What you’re looking at,” he confirmed, “is not accurate … It’s like the box of a TV dinner — a serving suggestion.” 

“In other words, you provided us with an inaccurate rendering, and we’ve been relying on it,” said Commissioner Doug Sederholm. 

Morrison said that the rendering submitted is the only rendering for the house. The buyers, he said, are not to rely on the rendering, but the “stamped plans,” and pointed out that fine wording on the submitted rendering reads “on site by builder … it doesn’t mean we have to build that.”

Regarding decks, and features, Morrison said the house may not come with some of those options.

“That’s the first time you’ve told us that,” said Sederholm, to which Morrison replied, “You never asked.” 

Sederholm stated that applicants must provide to the commission plans for what is being built, not what can be built. 

Sederholm suggested that Morrison submit to the MVC a “narrative description that very accurately describes” what will be built, with matching plans and renderings. “What the replacement building will be is an important factor in determining whether or not to approve the proposed demolition,” he said. 

“The plans that you provide to us,” said commission chair Joan Malkin, “you will be required to build exactly those plans.” She said if Morrison doesn’t agree, the commission would deem him not in compliance. “I would strongly urge you to produce drawings of what you intend to build,” she said, “nothing more, nothing less.” 

Following a gradually more heated discussion between Morrison and commissioners, the commission agreed in a 13-3 vote to afford him the opportunity to work with MVC staff to come up with a consistent application. 

Commissioners Greg Martino, Trip Barnes, and Peter Wharton opposed, citing Morrison’s likely refusal to submit different documents. The hearing will remain open until a later date.


Commission navigates nursing facility proposal 

The proposed Navigator Homes, a skilled nursing facility with 66 beds and 48 workforce housing units, slated for Edgartown, had received some pushback by abutters and conservationists regarding material use, character, potential traffic, and projected nitrogen output.

The 26-acre 490 Edgartown Road site is to be subdivided, with half going to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH), and half set aside for Navigator Homes. 

The facility itself will be replacing Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which is currently the only nursing home facility on the Island. The additional housing units will be allocated to MVH and Navigator Homes employees. 

Robinson inquired about the materials that will be used for the proposed work force structures’ exterior siding, a vinyl-based synthetic. He noted that per the application, MVH and Navigator Homes reps cited cost as the reason for the material — expenses that if used for the structure, could not be used for patient care. Robinson questioned the logic, and said patient care expenses are not the responsibility of the Navigator Homes, but either patients or their insurance. 

He asked if development called for a “higher-quality, safer, less toxic exterior material housing, how would that actually be taking away from money they would be using for patient care?” 

MVH president and CEO Denise Schepici responded that “any extra costs that we add to an operation take away from those expenditures that can be used for nursing salaries, physician salaries, services, supplies for patients — all directed to patient care.” 

She said MVH is working to keep “overhead costs really tight.” Additionally, she said, not all services are paid for at the hospital, as they provide “a fair amount of free care and charity care to those that can’t pay or don’t have insurance.” 

Representing the hospital, attorney Geoghan Coogan noted that there is still room to pivot in regard to exact materials used for portions of the project.

Navigator Homes president and CEO David McDonough said much of the material choices are to keep the cost of maintenance down. 

“Proper construction processes also lower the cost of maintenance,” Robinson said, adding that there are potential health risks associated with toxic materials, which would be of concern, considering the vulnerabilities of the facility’s residents. He said there are many structures on the Island built without plastic that have proved the test of time.

McDonough said the proposed designs are “fully compliant with U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services CMS code, and [USDHHS] are hyper-sensitive to anything that has any fire-cause capabilities.” 

Robinson noted that the synthetic building material is more dangerous than wood in the event of a fire, because it releases dioxins. McDonough clarified that the polyvinyl will only be used on the sidings of the workforce units.

Sederholm said the commission would need Navigator homes to submit a more concise proposal before the closing of the public record, stating the exact materials that will be used in the project, “rather than just saying it’s going to be more costly, or it takes away from patient care.” 

Commissioner Michael Kim echoed Robinson’s statement, and noted that the synthetic material is “in fact, quite flammable,” but took issue with Navigator Homes citing federal regulations when it comes to material use for.the senior facility, which will not make use of vinyl siding. “It’s a red herring,” he said. 

Kim also expressed concern about the grading of the facility site, and noted that renderings consisted of “quite a lot of grade,” which would be antithetical to the mission of the project, which is safety of the elderly. “It’s too steep,” he said.

“The whole argument that it has to be asphalt paving for the safety of the seniors is another red herring, isn’t that true … The safety of the seniors is not relevant,” to the project based on the provided renderings, Kim argued.

Project engineer Ed Pesce cited permeation as the reason for the paving of the surrounding area. He said the design calls for 100 percent of infiltration runoff: “We should get some credit for that.”

Kim clarified that the issue lies with project reps citing reasoning for design choices that are inconsistent with their testimony. 

Regarding traffic, a study conducted by Fuss & O’Neill determined that “the irregular intersection configuration may eventually lead to congestion as the area continues to develop, so the intersection could be a candidate for redesign in the future.” 

Commissioner Kathy Newman pointed out that more consideration can be had when it comes to the proposed entrance to the development, as it shows little vegetation, and features a “big open entry” — an aesthetic detriment. 

Navigator Homes reps said the large entrance of Edgartown Road is necessary for safety reasons, as many driveways along the road are hidden. 

Preliminary nitrogen mitigation proposals did not meet the necessary criteria, per the MVC Water Quality Management Policy, as the expected runoff and wastewater flow exceeded the yearly nitrogen load limit of the property. 

After being required to submit additional nitrogen mitigation plans, MVH/Navigator Homes provided a revised proposal that involves upgrading 14 systems within the watershed, in addition to other mitigation measures. Sederholm said that because the official revision was submitted the day before Thursday’s meeting, the public hearing will be continued in order for all new information to be reviewed. 


Mulling over marina

In a continued hearing, commissioners took testimony from members of the public regarding the expansion of Safe Harbor marina in Tisbury. The proposed project consists of the removal of four structures at the 100 Lagoon Pond location, relocation of a fuel tank, wash shed, and boat racks, in addition to two new boat racks and construction of a boardwalk along the bulkhead.

Elvin said the project will result in a daily increase of valet service but a decrease in the amount of boats stored in the water.

Numerous abutters and lagoon boaters expressed concern over the environmental impacts of the project, such as water quality, at Thursday’s hearing and through written testimony.

Barbara Kopans said more needs to be done to better the condition of the lagoon, which is “in terrible danger.” 

“I’m concerned that there is any serious consideration of approving an expansion of a multimillion-dollar international corporation’s plan to add more boats [and parking spaces] to the Lagoon,” Kopans said.

Kopans took issue with the argument that the new construction will decrease the amount of boats being stored in water, since there will be a vast increase in the number of boats in the Lagoon at any given time. She said with more boat traffic, some boats with numerous motors, fuel leaks, head leaks, cleaning products, are more likely to end up contaminating the waters. 

In addition to the environmental impacts, she said, more boat traffic creates safety hazards. 

According to the MVC staff report, the marina’s property is within the Lagoon Pond watershed, which is impaired and connected to the town sewer system, and “in terms of nitrogen levels, that area is typically more than double the total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the pond.”

Elvin explained that the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) would frequently close the area to shellfishing, before permanently closing it in 2020. 

“While no one denies that additional boat storage/moorings, etc. are needed on this Island and no one wants to deny a business’ right to operate,” a letter to the commission from the Lagoon Pond Association reads, “West Arm is not the place for additional boats and marina activities.”

The letter continues, “At this point in the Lagoon’s history, we must protect the Lagoon from further damage … it is not even good enough to maintain the status quo. We need to take direct actions which will improve the water quality in the Lagoon.”

Jefrey Dubard agreed that long-term solutions need to be considered regarding how best to protect the lagoon, but also advocated on behalf of Safe Harbor (SHM Vineyard Haven LLC), and said the company has always operated in a responsible manner.
A letter from Tisbury harbormaster John Crocker states that the “proposed project [is a] positive addition to our waterfront. It provides an ecologically safer way to address the shortage of opportunities for people to enjoy the waterways with their vessels.” 

“There is a strong demand for vessels to access our waterways,” Crocker’s letter states. “In Lagoon Pond alone there are 62 people on the mooring wait list. Townwide there are a total of 273 people on mooring wait lists.” 


Stillpoint: A community barn

The Stillpoint project, which involves the repurposing of an existing barn for educational and entertainment purposes on its seven-acre site in West Tisbury, was discussed briefly at the end of Thursday’s lengthy meeting. 

The result of the approved 1998 Priester’s Pond subdivision, which resulted in a 51.9-acre lot split up into 12 lots, the Stillpoint 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. 

Per the application submitted to the commission, the barn would be available for rent — “in conformity with [the Stillpoint] mission,” according to legal rep Marilyn Vukota during the last public hearing — 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. 

Only a handful of testimonies regarding the proposed Stillpoint Meadows in West Tisbury were heard Thursday. Sederholm stated that the hearing will be continued at a later date. 


  1. Regarding Navigator and the Nursing Facility, I heard that half of the acreage is being preserved for conservation. Well done to the people who are taking care of our elderly….Richard

  2. MVC, if it hasn’t set up guidelines as to the nominal compulsory expectations of what is n needed to preserve a 100+ yr old home brought before them, then they best get going. MV is not a back water, hick island.
    Of course all drawings need to be detailed and accurate to a fault. It is up to the contractor to have them prepared so they are legible and not a seat of the pants, scratching my head type of work.
    Get going MVC, do what is necessary.

    It is rarely brought up that good design and historical restorations bring a better street scape and more tax for the town’s coffers.

Comments are closed.