After a long and at times bumpy review process, the Bradley Square housing project cleared its final hurdle last Thursday when the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals voted to grant a special permit for the plan.
The board voted 3-0, with two abstentions. Chairman Kris Chvatal and members Jane Lofgren and Peter Palches voted yes, while Gail Barmakian and Joseph Re abstained. Because the project was filed under Chapter 40B, the state affordable housing law, a simple majority vote was sufficient for approval.
The plan calls for rebuilding the Island’s first African American Church on Masonic avenue in Oak Bluffs into a mix of affordable and market rate housing, office space and a community center.
The review process for Bradley Square has gone on for 18 months before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and zoning board. The project has been controversial among neighbors and other town residents who felt it was too large and out of scale with the rest of the neighborhood.
The Island Affordable Housing Fund and its sister organization, the Island Housing Trust, which bought the Denniston House property in 2007 for $995,000, plan to build 10 apartments in three buildings.
The plan was approved by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission as a development of regional impact last June; a subsequent revised plan was approved by the commission in February.
Last week Philippe Jordi, executive director of the Island Housing Trust, said the economic downturn makes the project even more viable because it will create 100 construction jobs and generate taxes for the town.
The project continues to have strong critics and strong supporters.
At the zoning board meeting last week Tradewinds Road resident Richard Toole called the project smart planning and Vineyard avenue resident Guinivere Cramer said she preferred the new design. But Don Lambert said the lack of parking and increased traffic would create safety issues in the neighborhood, and selectman Kerry Scott said the project was too large for the proposed location.
“It’s too much of a good thing,” she said.
A condition imposed by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission specifying the Denniston building cannot be moved has been modified; moving the building will be permitted in order to save a large shade tree on the property.
Following the meeting, Mr. Jordi said he was pleased.
“We tried to get many different points of view, and I think the project is better for it,” he said. “This is a project we believe in, and we hope [the neighbors] believe in it too.”
Mr. Jordi said his group will be doing fund-raising this summer for the project, and will put out a request for proposals for contractors in the coming months. He said he hopes an Island contractor will be chosen.
And he said lessons were learned on all sides.
“We brought in a trained mediator to help bridge the gap [between the applicants and neighbors], and in the end we learned volumes about how there are other ways to resolve these things, in addition to the standard public hearing that excludes a lot of this dialogue from people who have something to say,” he said.