In 1975, my grandfather, Roger DeFeo, went to Martha’s Vineyard with his older brother Lawrence to find an ideal place to build family homes. Collectively, they found two pieces of property on Bayberry Lane, now known as Teaberry Lane.

Being two sons of Italian immigrants from Revere, they did not grow up summering on the Vineyard, but had a vision of providing a place for their children and grandchildren to enjoy many ideal summer vacations.

They chose Teaberry Lane because it was close enough to Edgartown, Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, but was set far enough back from Edgartown Vineyard Haven Road enough where you could enjoy peace and quiet in the dense Edgartown forest.

My grandfather died before I was born, but I was lucky enough to get to live out his dream of spending summers on the Vineyard every year growing up with my family in the house he personally designed. The house has since turned into an almost year-round home for my family.

With that background in mind, our family is extremely concerned about the proposed construction of a new nursing home facility/professional housing at 490 Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road by the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and Navigator Elder Homes.

The project proposes the construction of eight housing buildings in an extremely quiet, wooded residential area, and directly abuts many homes on Teaberry Lane and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. The proposed project would irreversibly negatively affect the geographic and societal landscape of the area that many of the local residents have invested their time, money and spirits in across many familial generations, like my family.

The proposed project, which still requires zoning approval and numerous other public approvals, would:

• Cause the destruction of at least eight acres of previously untouched forest (at least according to their current proposal);

• Cause the Edgartown sewer system to take on an estimated 20,000 extra gallons of daily flow (which would put it 40,000 gallons per day shy of its state permit), causing the town to undertake a costly comprehensive wastewater management plan;

• Add at least 130 residents (not including daily staff that don’t live on site) to an area just a mile away from the most traffic congested area of the Island at the intersection of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and Beach Road;

• Forever alter the Island’s longstanding hesitancy to allow commercial projects outside of its three big towns, a change that can never be undone.

If this project were to proceed, and in the coming decades this nursing home is under populated and under-performing like the current Windemere, what will become of these buildings and it’s ecological footprint? The environmental and societal damage could not easily be reversed.

I acknowledge that there may be a need for a new nursing home facility (and professional housing), but I believe more time should be spent exploring alternative options and determining whether this project truly is a need rather than a want, given the great environmental impact it would cause on an Island much more susceptible to climate change and overpopulation side effects. The hospital has stated that it’s not viable to renovate Windemere and this is the best option, but by teaming up with Navigator Elder Homes, part of the nationwide Green House Project, Navigator has the infrastructure in place to build anew, so of course they wouldn’t renovate existing buildings, it’s not part of their business model.

I feel that the hospital needs to explain their relationship with Navigator Elder Homes and why they are the best choice for this project that will greatly impact the community as a whole. Furthermore, the hospital has stated that 40 to 50 per cent of the beds at the nursing home will be occupied by private-pay patients, but how many of the current full-time baby boomers on the Island would be able to afford these services, which is the demographic the hospital has said this project is intended to serve?

I would urge the members of the community and town officials to consider these points and to think critically about the issues this proposal will cause for Edgartown and the Island as a whole, and whether this proposal truly solves the problems it claims to be addressing, and whether the proposal would truly be a net positive or negative for the Island in 10, 20 and 30 years from now.

Devon Pope