A key Martha’s Vineyard Commission subcommittee informally, but strongly, recommended rejecting the 54-acre, 29-lot Meeting House Way subdivision on Monday, leaving the fate of the expansive project in limbo three days before it is set to go before the full body for a final vote.

“This is a character issue,” said longtime commissioner Linda Sibley at the land use planning committee meeting Monday night. “It’s enough that we have to deal with individual McMansions out there. But there’s something about the character of this development that isn’t compatible . . . I can’t see this. No, I can’t vote for it.”

The LUPC generally votes a recommendation on most development of regional impact (DRI) projects before they come before the full commission for a decision. The commission is not bound to follow the recommendation.

On Monday, commissioners decided rather than take a vote, to simply take a straw poll on the Meeting House development — the largest subdivision to come before the commission in decades. Commissioners said the consensus was so clear, it would not be worth running through a list of proposed conditions for the project.

The straw poll was 8-2 against the project. All commissioners eligible to vote on the project were present save four: Ernie Thomas, Josh Goldstein, Gail Barmakian and James Joyce.

“Where do we draw the line? Where do we finally say enough of development, of suburbanization of Martha’s Vineyard?” asked commission chairman Doug Sederholm. “I think it’s too much.”

The applicant, Douglas K. Anderson, is a Utah-based developer who bought the property with in 2017 for $6.6 million. He has been represented by Edgartown attorney Sean Murphy and engineer Douglas Hoehn at commission hearings.

On Monday, Mr. Murphy said he would take the commission’s straw poll back to Mr. Anderson and decide over the next days whether they wanted to pull the project without prejudice or let it move on to the full deliberation and vote this Thursday. If the commission votes to formally deny the project, the applicant has the option to appeal the decision in superior court.

Executive assistant with the commission Lucy Morrison confirmed on Tuesday that the commission heard back from the applicant and that they want to proceed as planned with deliberations on Thursday. 

The Meeting House Way subdivision has labored through the commission’s permitting process for nearly two years, receiving two full redesigns before coming back for its third public hearing before the commission over the past month and a half. A previous iteration of the plan was similarly rejected by the LUPC in a heated 7-2 vote in the summer of 2019, after which developers went back to the drawing board.

The project is proposed for vacant land off Meeting House Way in Edgartown that contains rare moth habitat and natural heritage land.

The current iteration of the plan has evolved from the original proposal in 2018, with smaller maximum home sizes, more open space, and the inclusion of 14 deed-restricted town-homes priced at approximately $400,000. The 28-lot project has a maximum home size of 3,800 square feet, significant energy and nitrogen standards, and a more than $1 million affordable housing offer that would go to the Edgartown affordable housing committee.

But commissioners on Monday — framing the subdivision as a defining moment for the body and the Island — said the changes were not enough for a project they felt already teetered much too far on the fulcrum of development versus preservation.

“This is one of the inflection point decisions for the MVC,” said commissioner Ben Robinson. “This is such a complex project, and I think we should be striving for simplicity. And the complexity belies the problem — that we can’t even get through the list of offers, to even get to what we would consider conditions, because it is so complex, because it is so big, and because it is essentially unwarranted for the Island.”

Most others agreed and said it would take significant changes to alter their decision. They included Ms. Sibley, Mr. Sederholm, Mr. Robinson, Joan Malkin, Rob Doyle, Fred Hancock, Jim Vercruysse and Christina Brown.

Two commissioners — Clarence A. (Trip) Barnes and LUPC chairman Richard Toole — indicated they would vote yes on the project, saying that the applicant had followed all the commission’s recommendations and that a rejection would be unjustifiable. Mr. Barnes had previously voted to approve an earlier version of the project at an LUPC meeting back in 2019.

“They’ve done almost everything we suggested they do, at every iteration, and it keeps getting better and better and it has come a long way since day one, when I would have said no way,” Mr. Toole said. “I am concerned about, we keep moving the goalposts. When this thing started, the rules were such and such, and now they seem to be stricter.”

Mr. Barnes said the project was “as good as it was going to get.”

“I think they’ve done a hell of a job, they’ve changed it around . . . it’ll bring in money for the town. I’m for it,” Mr. Barnes said.

But after the straw poll, Mr. Toole decided it wasn’t worth running through the applicant’s offers, instead letting them use the poll as a bellwether for their decision to either go on with or delay the scheduled vote on Thursday.

“I think the applicant heard the bad news,” Mr. Toole said. “I think we’re asking for a big change here.”

Deliberations are officially scheduled for the meeting of the commission's full body on Thursday, at 7 p.m. over Zoom.