The Martha’s Vineyard Commission has begun its review of a proposed affordable housing complex in Oak Bluffs, called Southern Tier, that is a near-twin of the Meshacket Commons development approved unanimously by the commission last December.

Both projects come from Island Housing Trust and Affordable Investments, who propose using the same three-unit and six-unit apartment building designs at each town-owned site.

However, as designed, Southern Tier would be more densely occupied than Meshacket Commons, which will have 36 apartments and four ownership units on 8.5 acres. Located just east of the YMCA and Ice Arena on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Southern Tier has 42 proposed two-bedroom apartments on 7.8 acres, of which 1.87 acres would be preserved as open space.

Apartments at Southern Tier are to be income-restricted to tenants earning from 30 per cent to 110 per cent of the area median income. The mix of incomes contributes to a more diverse community, said Affordable Investments’ Craig Nicholson at the meeting Thursday.

“Your horizons get expanded,” Mr. Nicholson told the commission, adding that the units themselves will be the same, regardless of tenant income.

Location of proposed development in relation to the YMCA and regional high school. — Courtesy Martha's Vineyard Commission

The complex will use an advanced nitrogen-removing septic system made by Kleantu, a Vineyard company, Mr. Nicholson added.

A second phase of development, expanding Southern Tier to 60 apartments, will rely both on a pending land swap and the expansion of the Oak Bluffs wastewater system, a prospect years in the future.

As the MVC hearing opened Jan. 5, some commissioners took aim at Southern Tier’s proposed community center, which essentially mirrors the one approved at Meshacket Commons.

As proposed, the Southern Tier community center would hold tenant mailboxes and the manager’s office and offer a gathering space for apartment dwellers, with covered bicycle parking outside. The applicants have also pledged free wi-fi in both community buildings, with tables and chairs for internet users.

“This isn’t a resort community in Florida. This is something we want to make as inexpensive as possible for the tenants,” said commissioner Brian Smith, referring the community center plans. “Wouldn’t it be better to maximize the affordable properties?”

Trip Barnes backed Mr. Smith’s suggestion that more dwelling space should replace the community building.

“These people want houses,” Mr. Barnes said.

Mr. Nicholson and IHT project engineer Derrill Bazzy told the commission the Southern Tier community center is a worthwhile trade-off for residential space because of the multiple purposes it will serve for the new neighborhood. Along with an office for the manager, Mr. Nicholson said, Southern Tier needs room to store maintenance tools, supplies and backup appliances, such as refrigerators.

“There’s also a great desire to have some community space, just to foster that sense of community as well as to provide that area for wi-fi so that kids, if they are needing to do homework, don’t have to be inundated with other siblings playing or watching TV — they could have a place to go,” he added.

The community center also will offer tenants a place to hold meetings, classes and parties, Mr. Bazzy told the commission.

“These apartments really aren’t set up for that, [and] we felt it was really an important part of the quality of life for tenants here to have that kind of facility available,” he said.

But two Southern Tier abutters said their own quality of life would be hampered by the applicants’ plans. Lashann DeArcy Hall and Adam Hayes, who each own property on Gamba Road just east of the town-owned parcel, objected to the proposed access road that would pass their homes.

“That asks for us to take on a burden that’s unfair,” said Ms. DeArcy Hall, while Mr. Hayes asked why the road could not be built to the west of the development instead of on the east.

The community center is uncomfortably near as well, Ms. DeArcy Hall said.

“We will get the noise of the parties and the reunions, as opposed to it being on the west side closer to the YMCA and areas where there is already traffic,” she said.

Ms. DeArcy Hall also raised an objection to the proposed Southern Tier lighting scheme, saying a 20-foot-tall pole light 50 feet from Mr. Hayes’ property would be intrusive.

Hearing officer Doug Sederholm continued the public hearing to Jan. 19, when the applicants will respond to questions raised by Mr. Smith, Mr. Hayes and Ms. DeArcy Hall.

Among other business Jan. 5, commissioners approved the Safe Harbor Marinas expansion in Vineyard Haven after a discussion that took them well past 10 p.m., leading to the postponement until Jan. 19 of deliberations on the proposed Four Sisters Inn in Oak Bluffs.

“It’s too late to do a reasonable discussion,” Kathy Newman said, as other commissioners agreed.

Also on Jan. 5, MVC executive director Adam Turner announced the hiring of Martha’s Vineyard Times reporter Rich Saltzberg as the commission’s next coordinator for developments of regional impact (DRIs).

“He’ll start on the 17th,” Mr. Turner said.

Mr. Saltzberg is taking the place of current DRI coordinator Alex Elvin, who will become the commission’s project planner responsible for communication, statistics and the development of reports and policies, Mr. Turner said.

Mr. Elvin’s new position represents the restructuring of a job formerly held by MVC grants coordinator and historic preservation specialist Christina Mankowski, Mr. Turner said.

“We haven’t hired any new positions,” he said.

The commission concluded its Jan. 5 meeting by confirming the written decision approving construction of a hangar at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.