Compromise at Bradley Square

The neighborhood looks tired and a little run down. The old church is boarded up and empty, while a sagging cottage across the street has a For Sale sign in front.

This is the setting for Bradley Square, a proposed development project that envisions affordable apartments and housing for artists on Masonic avenue in Oak Bluffs.

Two Island affordable housing groups have put forward the plan, which includes renovating the old Bradley Church into a community center and office space for the NAACP. The affordable housing groups and others see it as a good plan to revive the neighborhood.

But instead Bradley Square has riled the neighborhood. Some who live in the area are concerned about the changing face of the place with the small arts district that has grown up along Dukes County avenue over the last several years. The residents are concerned about added traffic, especially on Saturday nights in the summer when the handful of art galleries host opening receptions. The art strolls are low-key affairs, but they do bring added traffic to the neighborhood.

That is good for the businesses but also can be disruptive to residents.

And there lies the ingredients for conflict. This is a mixed-use neighborhood, where small businesses coexist with residential homes. It is a pleasant concept, really, for an area situated just a few blocks away from the hubbub of Circuit avenue. But there is a delicate balance to maintain.

The neighbors worry that the scale of the project is too large — with eleven units plus the church — for the small corner plot of land. They worry about the trees that will be cut down on the shady old street. They worry about adequate parking. They want the project to be a little smaller.

These are all legitimate concerns that were raised in front of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission when it reviewed the project as a development of regional impact. But the developers have said they cannot scale back the size of the project; it appears that they may need all the units in order to make the project financially viable.

Citing the need for more affordable housing as a benefit that outweighed other detriments, the commission let Bradley Square go through without scaling back the plan.

Now the neighbors have brought their concerns in front of the zoning board of appeals, which is reviewing Bradley Square at the local level. The zoning board recently reopened its public hearing, believing that not enough time had been allowed for public comment.

That was a good decision, because the Bradley Square project could benefit from more listening — on all sides.

The neighbors are not wrong. And the owners of the galleries and other small businesses in the arts district who want this project are also not wrong.

It’s just that some compromise is needed. Why not scale the size of the project back a bit? The zoning board of appeals has the power to broker such a compromise.

And then Bradley Square might be just the thing to help revive a forgotten old neighborhood on the outskirts of Oak Bluffs.