The Edgartown zoning board of appeals unanimously approved granting a comprehensive permit to the Meshacket Commons affordable housing project. The project can now move forward, with several allowances permitted.
Meshacket Commons was awarded as an affordable housing project to be developed by Affirmative Investments and Island Housing Trust (IHT) in November 2021. Since then, the project has received community feedback, was presented to Edgartown committees and boards, and underwent public hearing sessions and received approval, with 28 conditions, from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
Representatives of the project — from Affirmative Investments, IHT, Union Studio, and Horsley Witten Group — provided an overview presentation about the proposal, largely led by Affirmative Investments senior vice president of real estate Craig Nicholson. The proposed project, which will be located on 36 Meshacket Road, will consist of 40 affordable housing units (36 rentals, four for ownership) alongside a community house. According to Nicholson, there are several requirements the project must maintain for it to qualify as chapter 40B, such as keeping costs affordable and limiting profits. Union Studio architect Alanna Jaworski stated that the neighborhood’s units will be built in the style of Martha’s Vineyard buildings, with cedar or asphalt shingles and fiberglass windows. Additionally, Jaworski said the neighborhood will use sustainable building features, such as solar energy, highly insulated walls and roofs, and heat pumps. Horsley Witten Group engineer Jason Kroll told the zoning board about the design for vehicular travel, including the 70 parking spaces, while Brian Kuchar, a principal from the same firm, gave an overview of the landscaping plans that utilize existing plants.
Meshacket Commons will also provide a boost to Edgartown’s lacking subsidized housing stock.
“Currently, Edgartown, as of the last inventory I saw on the state website of December 2020, is at 3.7 percent. That’s well below the state minimum that they’d like everybody to get to,” NIcholson said. “With the approval of Meshacket and its completion, that would bring the town up to 5.5 percent. So it’s a very big gain in that index for you guys.”
The living costs were also shown for the income-restricted neighborhood. These costs fluctuate based on annual income levels. Rental units ranged from a $631 monthly rent for households with an income of $27,675 (30 percent of the area median income) in a one-bedroom apartment to a $2,736 monthly rent for households with an income of $146,910 (110 percent of the area median income) in a three-bedroom apartment. Homeownership units ranged from a $250,000 two-bedroom house for a household with an income of $99,630 (90 percent of the area median income) to a $420,000 three-bedroom house for a household with an income of $146,910 (110 percent of the area median income). The units will be deed-restricted “so these conditions remain,” according to Nicholson.
Nicholson asked the zoning board to allow for several forms of “relief” from zoning bylaw restrictions in order for the project to move forward as proposed. These included allowing the 40 multi-family units in the lot rather than 15 as a cluster development with a common driveway, allowance of a bigger sign, and a 150-kilowatt solar array rather than a 36-kilowatt solar array, among others.
Nicholson said one aspect the Meshacket Commons design emphasized was creating “a sense of community within the neighborhood,” such as the building placements and the common areas.
Prior to the public comment period, zoning board of appeals assistant Lisa Morrison shared several letters of support from town departments’ leadership, including Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee and Fire Chief Alex Schaeffer. Similarly, there were no opposing voices during the public comment period.
The zoning board members followed with their own discussion about the project. While there was no one who was against the project, there were some questions regarding it. Most of them came from zoning board of appeals member Robin Bray, who asked a series of questions around environmental and conservation concerns, such as the use of leaf blowers and protection of the moth habitat the neighborhood is close to.
After further discussion it was decided that these concerns, such as whether to avoid leaf blowers or provide habitat education, will be left up to the discretion of the developers. Nicholson said some requests are already implemented, such as the habitat education, or will be written in, such as avoiding bug zappers.
“I think it’s a terrific idea,” zoning board of appeals chair Martin Tomassian said about the project. “Maybe because it’s taken so long, all of the issues have been addressed.”