Tensions continue to climb between the Edgartown planning board and residents of the Dark Woods neighborhood over an apartment complex planned for Post Office Square.
The planning board has closed a public hearing but has yet to vote on whether to approve plans for an eight-apartment project in the busy B-2 business district off Upper Main street.
Developer Charles Hajjar is hoping to build five apartments on the second floor of the building that houses the Edgartown Post Office, and three more in a building that houses a Bank of America vestibule and Ocean Breeze Bedding.
His plan, which includes a complete redesign of the square parking lot, was approved this spring by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
The commission approval took note of the dire need for workforce housing, but review at the local level has brought out loud opposition from residents of the Dark Woods neighborhood, which abuts the project.
Last week at a fourth meeting on the subject debate intensified as the residents raised concerns that the planning board was not representing their interests.
Resident Barbara Phillips said if any other board in town saw so much opposition to a project, it would deny it.
“To me it’s a no-brainer,” she said.
Bob Senior, also a Dark Woods resident, asked what the advantages would be for the town from a project that doesn’t provide affordable housing.
“There seems to be a tenor of approval pending and I am curious to what the benefit is,” he said.
Planning board chairman Fred Mascolo said the board was working to reach a conclusion that was right for the town, not for board members or for a small group. “The point of being on the board is you are trying to think for the town,” he said.
The planning board has received 47 letters about the loft apartments, seven in favor of the project and 40 opposed.
“Why is the planning board not listening to the taxpayers of the town?” wrote JoAnn Ryan. “Does someone on the board have special interest?”
Mr. Mascolo paused while reading the letter, and said neither he nor his fellow board members had a special interest in the project.
“Are you going to sell fudge there?” he said, addressing fellow board member Michael McCourt, who owns Murdick’s Fudge in downtown Edgartown. Mr. McCourt said he would not.
“Are you going to sell paint there?” he asked member Robert Cavallo, who owns a paint shop on Upper Main street.
After the board closed the hearing, Sean Murphy, attorney for the developer, spoke to issues raised throughout the hearing process.
A big concern among residents has been the impact of the proposed project on congestion at the Triangle. Mr. Murphy argued that traffic impacts of the project would be negligible.
Citing a traffic study prepared by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, he said there are 12,400 cars a day that go through the Triangle intersection in August.
The apartments allow for eight vehicles to be parked in the lot, and he said 16 trips a day would have very little impact on the heavy traffic already present in summer.
He also said the board had not heard from the majority of Edgartown residents.
“The people that are going to benefit from the housing don’t have time to write letters, they are out at work; they are working hard,” he said.
Board members questioned the applicant about building egress, potential fire hazards and parking enforcement. Mr. Hajjar said his staff would police the lot to make sure tenants did not have more than one car per apartment.
They asked for specificity on the cost of renting an apartment there.
“Let’s nail it down once and for all,” said planning board member Robert Sparks. Mr. Murphy has said the apartments will rent at the lower end of the market, but did not specify further.
“It’s going to be what the markets will bear,” he said.
The board said it would seek comment from two builders in the community about architectural aspects of the plan.
“What are we missing?” said the chairman near the close of the meeting.
“Common sense,” came the answer from the audience.
The planning board will take up the apartment plan again at their meeting on August 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the town hall.