A development project that will prove highly disruptive, and dangerous, to traffic flows in and around the Edgartown Triangle is moving forward with little notice and even less outrage. The project, should it be approved, will potentially add dozens of vehicles to the already saturated parking area around the post office, turning an often chaotic traffic scene into one that is out of control.
The matter is now before the Edgartown planning board, which is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Tuesday, June 17, at 6:15 p.m. in the first-floor meeting room at town hall. Please join me at the hearing to oppose this ill-considered development.
For those who know little about the project, here is a brief history and the reasons why it should be voted down.
For $3 million in December 2012, Mr. Charles Hajjar (as Trustee of Haven Road Realty Trust) purchased half of the private condominium property known as Four Flags at the Triangle. He has applied for a special permit to construct eight second-story apartments over his two buildings: five above the post office building and three above the next building, which includes Bank of America’s ATM.
Mr. Hajjar owns a number of off-Island apartment complexes and is proud to still own the first condo he ever purchased. (For more information, Google him at Hajjar Management in Milton.)
He calls the project Edgartown Lofts and presented his plan to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, which held two public hearings before negotiating its conditional approval as a development of regional impact. The project is now back again before the Edgartown planning board for the board’s review, public hearing and decision.
The applicant and his attorney say that Mr. Hajjar plans to:
• Not sublet, or sell, or transfer any units to a third party for at least 10 years;
• “Target” the units as rental apartments for the year-round Island workforce at market rates;
• Spend another $2.5 million on the construction of these units;
• Use “quality materials” (including pop-out windows for second-floor egress in case of fire. Outside enclosed stairways to the apartment units will be constructed to serve as primary access and egress);
• Reconfigure the existing Four Flags parking area to add 14 spaces;
• Build seven two-bedroom units and one one-bedroom unit;
• Limit, in his leases, the number of vehicles to two per apartment, limit vehicle size to a normal, not oversized, truck, and designate specific parking spaces for each unit.
Common sense questions the credibility of these plans.
With regard to the first four points, a temporary restriction against changing the status of the units will do little to satisfy the perpetual need of housing for the year-round workforce. If Mr. Hajjar’s real goal is to serve this “target market,” he should agree to restrict the use of these proposed units in perpetuity.
The problem is that the math doesn’t work as apartment revenue — unless after these 10 years of a tax loss, Mr. Hajjar’s real plan is to sell off these apartments as individual condos or co-ops.
As for the last three points, the Four Flags subdivision is a privately-held condominium complex. There is no municipal enforcement either over its parking lot, or any proposed living units having lease terms known only to, and enforceable by, the landlord and the tenant. Fifteen bedrooms can house 30 or more tenants. Again, the math doesn’t work, as the 14 proposed additional parking spaces hardly would accommodate all of these tenants, their guests, their maintenance and delivery people, all of whom will need parking space.
There is no controlling where the public — you and I — will park in this commercially thriving mini-mall. The developer should be required to provide adequate parking for the uses he creates. He should not expect his overflow to be accommodated in the town’s park and ride which was created, ironically, to alleviate downtown parking problems and congestion via shuttle service.
Our planning board is urged to recognize these compelling reasons to deny the developer’s application if only because it will create even more severe parking problems in an overburdened lot, increase the overflow into surrounding mini-malls already short on parking for their own customers and tenants, and produce even more congestion for bikers, joggers, and power-walkers who use the two converging cross-Island roads to shop, bank, pick up mail or travel to and from Upper Main street — which is equally plagued by traffic. The Triangle is clearly a failed and dangerous intersection now. If this development goes forward, the dangers can only increase.
But if the planning board thinks these new dangers are outweighed by the potential benefits from adding rental units for the year-round workforce, then it has a responsibility to make sure that goal is guaranteed, by having it run with the land. In that instance, I would urge the board to require a non-rescindable restrictive covenant of Mr. Hajjar, for himself and his Haven Road Realty Trust, their heirs and assigns, in perpetuity, ensuring that these units would never be sold off individually as condos or co-ops.
The board should record such a document in the Dukes County Registry of Deeds before any permit for this project were to be issued. Please express your opposition to the project by attending the board meeting on June 17 at 6:15 p.m. If you can’t be there, please write a letter (Planning Board, P.O. Box 1065, Edgartown MA 02539). The board needs, and welcomes, your opinion.
Planning board members are: Robert Sparks, Robert Cavallo, Fred Mascolo, Michael McCourt, Alan Wilson and alternate, James Cisek.