The Outermost Inn in Aquinnah weathered the Covid-19 pandemic by focusing on its restaurant, turning the guest rooms upstairs into staff housing and offering patio dining in the open air. Owner Hugh Taylor now is seeking to expand the patio by 12 feet and install an arched, corrugated-steel canopy that won’t need to be taken down on windy days.

“We had a fabric awning,” Mr. Taylor told the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, during a public hearing held online Jan. 12. But when strong southwest winds hit the property, inn staffers have to scramble to take the awning down, he said.

“We have to dismantle [the awning] like... we’re taking down the circus tent in a hurricane,” Mr. Taylor said. “It’s dangerous to us. I did it five times last summer, [and] that’s the impetus for us wanting this solid structure.”

To commission and install the canopy, with steel supports and trusses, Mr. Taylor is requesting a modification of the Outermost Inn’s 1991 MVC approval as a development of regional impact (DRI). Approving this modification would also resolve several stipulations of the original MVC decision that the inn has not fulfilled, DRI coordinator Alex Elvin said.

“Most of those conditions from 1991 have not been satisfied,” said Mr. Elvin, citing in particular an increase in restaurant seating to 67 from the 34 allowed by the MVC decision in 1991, and parking that has overflowed onto an abutting lot also owned by Mr. Taylor.

Some commissioners expressed displeasure that the inn has not met the conditions of its MVC approval after more than 30 years.

“I wish that we could enforce compliance,” Brian Smith said.

But the MVC is not allowed to consider previous conditions when weighing a modification request, hearing officer Doug Sederholm and chair Joan Malkin said.

“Our [legal] counsel has indicated that we should not be considering violations of conditions... That would be a separate issue,” Mr. Sederholm said.

“We’re not weighing compliance or noncompliance,” Ms. Malkin added. “[Mr. Taylor] is asking for a modification which would cure any noncompliance. Our job is to assess whether the modifications...constitute more benefit than detriment.”

Mr. Taylor has identified a vendor for the steel canopy, he said, but the firm won’t discuss technical specifications until he is ready to do business with permits in hand. The structure should be built to withstand wind speeds of at least 115 miles an hour, he said, noting that 70 to 80 mile-per hour wind speeds are not unusual at the inn’s location near the Gay Head Cliffs and the lighthouse.

“It’s hard to imagine how hard the wind blows until you get out of your car,” he said. 

Commissioners debated Mr. Taylor’s plan to host up to 10 weddings or other special events at the inn. Aquinnah has no bylaw regarding weddings, and Mr. Taylor said that while they are not a big part of his business plan, he does not want to be restricted by the MVC from activities that his town allows.

“I hesitate to give that up,” he said.

While he is asking for permission to park up to 120 cars on the two properties, Mr. Taylor said weddings that large are not frequent events and that the largest, at 400 guests, was his daughter’s. Wedding parties are required to furnish their own portable restrooms and are not permitted to wash dishes or glassware at the inn, he told the MVC.

Commissioners agreed to visit Mr. Taylor’s properties before resuming the public hearing on Feb. 2.

The commission also held a final session of oral testimony in its protracted public hearing on a proposed fast-food restaurant at the former Stone Bank in Vineyard Haven. The written record remains open until Jan. 26.

Developer Sam Dunn continued to push back at abutter Peter Stam’s demand for the restaurant to install a ventilation scrubber to reduce cooking odors, saying the equipment is unreasonably costly to buy and maintain.

“He has also asked for a different liquor policy, which is not fair or appropriate,” Mr. Dunn said, referring to Mr. Stam’s request to hold the new eatery to Tisbury’s old law that required drinkers to order food with their alcoholic beverages.

“Anything about the liquor permits is strictly the town. We have no control,” said commissioner Fred Hancock.

Mr. Stam’s other nearest Main street neighbor, John Ryder, asked Mr. Dunn how he plans to limit trespassing on the Ryders’ private property fronting Vineyard Haven harbor. Mr. Dunn told the commission he will submit a fencing plan.

The developer did get one thumbs-up from Mr. Stam, who praised Mr. Dunn’s plan to create a settling basin for stormwater beneath the outdoor seating area of the proposed restaurant.

Retaining water under the restaurant will reduce runoff onto his own property, Mr. Stam said.

The commission’s deliberations on Stillpoint, a proposed humanities center in West Tisbury, were postponed after applicant Thomas Bena and his associates submitted a letter with enough new information to warrant reopening the written record, and possibly the public hearing, said Mr. Sederholm.

“It includes proposals by the applicant which could be considered offers, and we can’t consider them unless they’re in the record,” he said.

The comment period closed on Jan. 19. 

In other business, the commission approved the subdivision of a six-acre parcel on Scrubby Neck Road in West Tisbury into two three-acre lots, with no change to the limit of two houses permitted on the entire six acres.

The MVC also confirmed its written decision approving the expansion of Safe Harbor Marinas in Vineyard Haven and welcomed its newest commissioner, Carole Vandal of Aquinnah.

Ms. Vandal, a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), is the town’s appointee replacing Jim Vercruysse, who stepped down last year.

This Thursday, the MVC is scheduled to deliberate on the proposed Four Sisters Inn and continue its public hearing on the Southern Tier affordable development, both in Oak Bluffs.

The commission also will review its budget for the coming fiscal year.