November 28, 2023

Traffic safety, public water use and free access to broadband internet were all topics for discussion when the Martha’s Vineyard Commission opened a public hearing last week on the first major affordable housing project planned in decades for the town of Edgartown.
The income-restricted Meshacket Commons housing development is planned for an 8.5-acre undeveloped site owned by the town at 38 Meshacket Road near the capped former town landfill. The plan calls for building 36 rental apartments and four homeownership units with a total of 78 bedrooms in a complex that includes apartment buildings, town homes and a community center with bicycle storage, all linked by walking paths and surrounded by native vegetation.
“[This] is one of the biggest affordable housing projects to come before the commission in quite a number of years,” said Doug Sederholm, who chairs the MVC’s land use planning committee.
The nonprofit Island Housing Trust is the developer, and will lease about seven acres, while the town would retain the rest of the property, according to an MVC staff presentation at the online hearing.
The project represents years of preliminary work, said Jason Mazar, a member of the Edgartown affordable housing committee who also chairs the town’s affordable housing trust.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Mr. Mazar said. “The committee in Edgartown is very relieved to see it all coming to fruition.”
Affirmative Investments, which manages Edgartown’s 60-unit Morgan Woods, is partnering with IHT as the future property manager for Meshacket Commons.
Under the plan, the rental units will be available to tenants earning 30 per cent to 110 per cent of the median income for the Vineyard, while the ownership homes will be available to people earning 90 per cent to 120 per cent of the median.
If incomes increase above these ranges, housing trust executive director Philippe Jordi said, the rents will increase in proportion, so tenants continue to pay the same percentage of what they earn.
Incomes will be verified annually and short-term rentals will not be allowed, he also said.
Two apartments are intended to be handicapped accessible, with washers and dryers inside the units. Other tenants will share laundry facilities in their buildings.
Solar panels and green building techniques will help keep utility prices low for the all-electric neighborhood, Mr. Jordi and Craig Nicholson of Affirmative Investments said.
Edgartown water superintendent Bill Chapman volunteered to advise the applicants on their utility plan.
“I think I can help that project with a design that will afford more fire protection and better water quality,” Mr. Chapman said.
Engineer Jason Kroll of Horsley Witten Group, which is designing the site, said he would contact Mr. Chapman.
Commissioners expressed concern about the twists and turns of Meshacket Road in the area of the proposed complex. A traffic study estimated Meshacket Commons would generate about 270 automobile trips a day.
“In both directions from this site, there is serious need of the building of bike lanes and pedestrian paths,” said Jeff Agnoli. “There needs to be town improvements. They would be essential to making this work.”
The road is outside the scope of the DRI application, Mr. Sederholm said, “but absolutely worth following up with the town.”
Mr. Nicholson said the Vineyard Transit Authority is considering the feasibility of a bus stop on Meshacket Road. The closest VTA stop currently is almost a mile away, near Morning Glory Farm.
Noting that some children in his town of Oak Bluffs have to go to the public library to access the internet, commissioner Fred Hancock asked whether Meshacket Commons would offer free wi-fi for its residents.
Mr. Nicholson said it was a possibility.
“Anyone who’s paid a Comcast bill on this Island will be very interested in you addressing that issue,” Mr. Sederholm said.
The hearing was continued to Sept. 22.
Two other hearings were also continued: one on a plan by Stillpoint Martha’s Vineyard, a new nonprofit that joined with the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank in a recent conservation purchase near Priester’s Pond in West Tisbury. Originally approved by the commission in 1988 as a 12-home subdivision, the property now has seven lots owned by the land bank, four by Stillpoint and one by a private home buyer.
Stillpoint wants to use a barn on the property for educational events. Commissioners asked the applicant to provide more detailed information about the proposed activities when the hearing continues Oct. 6.
A third DRI hearing opened on an application to demolish a 122-year-old house at 43 Look street in Vineyard Haven and replace it with a new, larger home.
Builder Michael Morrison of Reveal Homes told the commission the house is an environmental hazard, including water damage, and should be replaced.
The home lies outside the town’s historic district and is not in the state database of historical buildings.
Commissioners had little to say about the existing building, but Mr. Hancock expressed concern about the proposed replacement, which features porches on two floors.
“When I first saw the picture I said ‘Oh boy, this is the Hamptons,’” he said. “This just doesn’t fit at all.”
Innkeeper Fred Rundlett of the nearby Look Inn asked if the new house would be used for short-term rentals.
“I don’t ever see that happening,” owner Bryan Purdy said. “The intent right now is either going to be long-term rentals or it’s possibly going to be sold.”
He continued: “I’d like to make it a year-round rental so that people can actually use the place, preferably Islanders, to live there. That’s the thinking now.”
The demolition hearing was also continued to Oct. 6.
Finally, commissioners approved their written decision approving the Vineyard Wind maintenance building in Vineyard Haven, including an addendum that will prohibit long-term storage of materials outside the building.

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