The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society made a giant leap toward its dream of a permanent home on Thursday night when the Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved a new 6,000-square-foot, 190-seat theatre at the Tisbury Marketplace overlooking Lagoon Pond off Beach Road in Vineyard Haven.
The developer for the project is architect Sam Dunn, who built the marketplace in 1984. The tenant will be Richard Paradise’s itinerant, nonprofit film society.
The vote to approve the plan was 6-3. The majority viewpoint held that the theatre would be a community benefit and a boon to business; conditions attached to the approval include a requirement that movies not be shown prior to 7:30 p.m. in July and August.
“It’s a good project in a good place,” said commissioner Brian Smith. “Where else are we going to put it?,” he said. “Are we going to put it on Main street Vineyard Haven? . . . Are we going to put it at the airport and continue our sprawl? Isn’t this the place we want it? Especially in the evening when there’s nothing going on there . . . The majority of those units are office buildings that are gone by 5 o’clock, even in the summertime it’s a ghost town there after 6:30, 7 o’clock. I don’t see any issue with traffic.”
Commissioner Linda Sibley agreed. “Brian’s right,” she said. “By the time you get to this hour at night, additional business down there is largely a benefit to the town.”
But more than one member of the commission used the moment to question whether the project represents one development too many in an already-congested and ecologically-sensitive area.
“At some point somebody should be saying enough is enough and it doesn’t appear to be something we’re quite ready to say,” said commissioner Leonard Jason Jr., who voted against the plan. “Along comes a sewer and all of a sudden all the bets are off . . . We’ve already lost part of the view with that other damn building that’s gone up and we want to make a bad situation worse.”
Commissioner Ned Orleans sided with Mr. Jason. “It seems to me that we don’t have the guts to take hard, maybe even harsh, action,” he said.
“See you at the movies,” Mr. Dunn told commissioners after the vote.
On Friday Mr. Paradise expressed relief.
“I think in the long run, once it’s up and running the community benefit, the quality of life and the cultural life in the community is going to so outweigh whatever concerns there were,” he said. “It’s only going to be beneficial.”