Open space and affordable housing are the hallmarks of the master plan Island Autism Group unveiled in front of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission last Thursday.

Founded in 2008 by Kate DeVane and Marcy Bettencourt, IAG offers programming and helps fund therapy sessions for Islanders with autism. The three-phase master plan would be carried out on 7.5 acres of land off Lambert’s Cove Road in West Tisbury. IAG bought the property in 2020 from the Child family, jointly with the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank. The land bank acquired 10 acres, while 7.5 acres went to the autism group.

“The reason that this nonprofit was formed was to keep Island kids — and I call them kids, but a lot of them are adults now — home,” Ms. DeVane told commissioners.

The project is under review by the commission as a development of regional impact (DRI).

The plan calls for creating a working farm with affordable housing for people with autism. A barn, a farmhouse for recreational space and 17 residential units are all planned. A program director would be housed on-site. Three acres of the land will be developed while the rest will be kept as open space. Programming will include after-school activities, events during the summer and job training for young adults.

“We have many families, including my own, who now have children who live in residential programs off-Island. We have many families who have their adult children living in their houses until they cannot manage it anymore . . . so this project is so valuable for so many reasons,” Ms. DeVane said.

The project is being funded by a combination of Community Preservation Act funds from all six towns as well as private donations. The timeline for carrying out the three phases was unclear but Ms. DeVane said the first two could be carried out at the same time based on current funding.

The architect is Providence, R.I.-based Union Studio. Island Housing Trust is helping to develop the housing units. The design was carried out with the needs of people with autism in mind, Union architect Douglas Kallfelz told commissioners. Balancing communal and private space, clearly marked property boundaries and materials which consider sensory sensitivity are all part of the plan.

“Speaking as an autism parent, it’s going to change the life of a dozen or more families here on the Island in a really big way,” IHT developer Derrill Bazzy said.

The project involves knocking down a three-bedroom house built in 1965 as well as two sheds. While the house does not meet the MVCs definition of a historic structure, commissioner Michael Kim wondered if IAG could do anything to preserve some of it.

Preserving parts of the house is not in the plan because the house is not well suited for people with autism, Ms. DeVane said. Habitat for Humanity has indicated it would take parts the house for redevelopment elsewhere, she said.

“It’s got a lot of space issues,” Ms. DeVane said of the old house. “Douglass’s whole presentation was about people with autism and the spaces that they’re in, they’re very sensitive to those kinds of things, so we can’t reuse it.”

Commissioner Trip Barnes asked how IAG would make sure residents do not come from off-Island. A screening committee will ensure that the people who get housing have Island roots, Ms. DeVane responded.

“We are legally not allowed to say that we will only take people who live on Martha’s Vineyard,” Ms. DeVane said. “But there is also a very specific preference for Island housing.”

In other business Thursday, the commission approved an application to build a new marijuana dispensary in Vineyard Haven. Main Street Medicinals will convert a 7,448-square-foot auto repair shop into a grow facility and retail store at 65 Mechanic’s Street.

The roll call vote was 11-1 with one abstention and one recusal. Mr. Barnes, who owns an abutting property, recused himself while commissioner Fred Hancock abstained. Commissioner Ernie Thomas voted no. Commissioners Jeff Agnoli, Brian Smith, Doug Sederholm, Greg Martino, Ben Robinson, Jim Vercruysse, Jay Grossman, Christine Todd, Kathy Newman, Joan Malkin and Mr. Kim voted yes.

Commissioners opened a public hearing on a request from Fine Fettle, another dispensary in West Tisbury, to allow walk-in customers.

The commission also approved the written decision of its denial of a request to decrease the number of workforce housing units at the Lampost building in Oak Bluffs. It also approved a change to its decision approving Island Grown Initiative’s master plan to clarify how IGI will mitigate nitrogen overages from wastewater.