Plans for a large addition to a church off the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in Oak Bluffs have spurred concerns from neighbors for the second time in five years.

At a public hearing before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Thursday, commissioners and members of the public heard a proposal from Alliance Community Church (formerly Nova Vida) to build an addition with a 4,500-square-foot footprint and a 4,500-square-foot basement to the existing 7,000 square-foot building. If completed, the church would be 16,084 square feet.

The new building would house a 150-seat church, classrooms, and a three-bedroom parsonage. The commission is reviewing the project as a development of regional impact (DRI).

This is not the first time the project has been before the commission, nor the first time it has raised hackles in the neighborhood on Ryan's Way off the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road The building on the property was purchased by pastor Valci Carvalho in 2006 and sold to the Assembleia De Deus Nova Vida Church. In 2008, the commission approved a 150-seat church on the property, which would house the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s day care center on the first floor and the church on the second floor. The building was to have no residences involved.

The day care program no longer operates at the property, and the church has since become part of the Alliance Church, a Protestant evangelical church.

According to a staff report by the commission, the church was using the basement for services “long after a cease and desist order was issued,” and a staff report said the building was using more water than it was permitted to use.

With no sanctuary built on the property, church members have been worshipping elsewhere, most recently at the Federated Church in Edgartown.

Architect Darran Reubens said the proposed new building would be a simple shed style, and though permitted for 11 bedrooms, the proposal calls for three bedrooms on the second floor, plus a living area, that would be used for one family as a parsonage. The building would have a noncommercial kitchen. The property already has a three-story building.

The church proposes holding services Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights every week, with study classes and counseling hours on Monday and one or two weddings a year.

Attorney Rosemarie Haigazian, representing the church, said the plan calls for using the 4,500-square-foot basement for passive storage.

There is a residential neighborhood immediately surrounding the church. Nearby buildings include the regional high school, the YMCA and the Martha’s Vineyard Arena. The Church of Latter Day Saints purchased property next to the Alliance land, but the area remains undeveloped.

Neighbors said they had concerns about how the property has been and will be used, noting that people seemed to be living at the house.
Neighbor Preston Averill said that he thought a landscaping business was operating at the location, but equipment housed on the site disappeared when the commission made its site visit.

Ms. Haigazian said that unless landscaping is going on at the property, there will no longer be landscaping equipment stored on the site.
“We have no idea what this piece of property is,” Ryan’s Way resident Anthony Capelli said. “We have a lot of skepticism.”

A letter from Dr. John Campbell, a chiropractor who owns property nearby, said he felt that a boarding house had been operating on the second floor of the existing building as well as the landscaping business, which he said was in violation of the church’s nonprofit status. “I beg the commission not to allow this addition to be built,” Dr. Campbell wrote in the letter, which was read aloud by another neighbor.

Commissioners gave the applicant several questions and issues to address at the next public hearing about the matter, scheduled for June 20. Mr. Carvalho said that in four years of worshipping at the Federated Church, which is in a largely residential area, there has been one noise complaint.