The Martha’s Vineyard Commission voted 15-0 with one abstention Thursday night to deny a request by the owner of the Lampost building in Oak Bluffs to reduce the number of workforce housing units in his building.

The critical need for worker housing was cited repeatedly by commissioners. “We have businesses that can’t open because they can’t find employees. And when they do find somebody, they have no place to live,” commissioner Kathy Newman said.

Lampost owner Adam Cummings, who did not attend Thursday’s meeting but was represented by his attorney, had asked the MVC to allow him to decrease the number of units restricted for workforce housing in the apartments above the building at 6 Circuit avenue from 10 to four. The modification request was filed after it came to light last year that Mr. Cummings was renting some of the units through the short term rental website Airbnb.

A 2018 approval by the commission of the original Lampost plan as a development of regional impact (DRI) hinged on the proposal to use the building for all-workforce housing. On Thursday commissioners revisited that in light of the requested modification.

“There is absolutely no logical reason to think that this applicant offered, or we allowed, the rental of these units to anyone but people employed on Martha’s Vineyard,” commissioner Doug Sederholm said.

Commissioner Linda Sibley agreed. “I feel blindsided . . . like this is some sort of incremental development,” she said.

In separate unanimous vote, the commission decided Mr. Cummings was out of compliance when he rented through Airbnb, but is now in compliance because the developer has said all units are currently occupied by employees of Island businesses. A certificate of noncompliance will be filed with the Dukes County Registry of Deeds.

Commissioner Brian Smith abstained from the vote on the modification request but voted in favor of the decision on compliance.

The two votes followed a unanimous recommendation by the land use planning subcommittee early in the week to deny the modification request (the committee did not take up the compliance issue). The Oak Bluffs planning board and affordable housing committee had also asked the commission to deny the modification, citing the critical shortage of work force housing on the Island.

On Thursday every commissioner was present. Discussion about the benefits and detriments of the plan focused on two areas: Island housing needs and the impact on economic development.

"Eliminating workforce units would be bad for the local economy because it would mean fewer residents to support local businesses," commissioner Joan Malkin said.

“To eliminate those workforce housing [units] means you would not be providing benefit to local businesses which support local people year-round,” Ms. Malkin said.

Commissioner Greg Martino, who co-owns an Island oyster farm, spoke from the perspective of a business owner. “To take away housing, which takes away the work force . . . that is crushing,” he said.

Commissioner Fred Hancock summed up the opinion of the group.

“I don’t see how we could possibly think that a 60 per cent reduction in workforce housing could be anything but a detriment,” he said.