MVC approves YMCA expansion

Commissioners also reopened the review of a previously denied demolition request.

A nocturnal rendering of the expansion of the YMCA. —Courtesy of FM Architecture

A nearly 40,000-square-foot expansion to the Island’s YMCA was approved by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Thursday. 

The 39,000-square-foot, multilevel addition, which will consist of an indoor gymnasium, track, conference rooms, and additional event space, had been planned for the YMCA since its 2009 construction, but was postponed due to financial constraints. 

Organization representatives say the expanded facility will be able to accommodate the increased number of guests at the Y, and will serve as an Islandwide multipurpose facility. 

The project was approved unanimously, after little discussion.

Meanwhile, commissioners retroactively approved the demolition of a century-old Tisbury house, which had been razed earlier this year. 

The owners of 33 Lagoon Pond Road had come before the commission seeking approval to demolish the former two-and-a-half-story, two-family dwelling, and cited plans to replace the house with a larger, four-story duplex with two garage bays.

At a previous public hearing, the MVC heard from a number of Tisbury residents in support of the demolition, who shared that the property had long been neglected, and the house was often a site for criminal activity, which negatively affected the neighborhood. 

Commissioners had previously raised concerns about the size and style of the proposed replacement building — echoing caution by the town’s historical commission that the new construction might not match with the existing “architectural vibe” of Lagoon Pond Road. 

But on Thursday, the commission passed on adding any new conditions, and instead opted to remand the review of the new construction plans to the local planning board. Per the charge of Tisbury’s planning board, the new project can be conditioned to limit the size of the structure, number of occupants residing on the property, and the extent of facilities on the property. 

Also on Thursday, commissioners took up once again a request to demolish a historic East Chop house, which they had previously denied without prejudice

The commission’s denial, which was made in a 8-2-1 vote last September, was prompted by concerns over what impacts the demolition of 7 Arlington Ave. might have on the East Chop neighborhood as a whole, and underscored the MVC’s preference for finding alternatives to demolition that would better preserve the area’s historical significance. Commissioners also took issue with the size and design of the proposed replacement.

The homeowners of 7 Arlington Ave. filed a complaint against the commission with Dukes County Superior Court a few months later, appealing the MVC’s decision to deny the demolition, and argued that any alternatives to demolition, such as preservation, rehabilitation, and restoration were impractical and financially unfeasible. 

On Thursday, commission chair Joan Malkin explained that having been unable to resolve the lawsuit in court, the commission would instead take up the development of regional impact (DRI) application again, in hopes of settling the pending litigation. 

In a nonbinding straw poll vote made during an executive session in October, commissioners agreed that the homeowners, who have since proposed a revised replacement structure, had possibly “presented an approvable project,” Malkin said. “Based on the material presented, commissioners thought that the benefits could be determined to outweigh the negatives,” she said.

With the updated design plans and new information sourced by experts brought in to advise on the project, commissioners will be considering the application “in the context of a settlement proposal,” Malkin said. 

MVC legal counsel Johanna Schneider noted that “the updated project is intended specifically to address the bases for [the] initial denial,” which is hoped to resolve the current litigation.

In other news, commissioners voted in favor of a new slate of officers; Fred Hancock, the elected Oak Bluffs representative to the commission since 2010, will replace Joan Malkin, Chilmark’s appointee since 2013, as chair. Commissioner Peter Wharton, who was appointed to the MVC by the Dukes County Commission in 2022, was elected vice chair. West Tisbury appointee and current clerk-treasurer of the commission Ernie Thomas was chosen to continue his role.