A group of roughly 20 neighbors and abutters have organized to protest a proposed renovation of 81 South Water street in Edgartown, claiming that the new construction will block one of the last public views of the harbor.

The group, the Friends of Historic Edgartown, is asking members of the public to send comments opposing the proposal ahead of its public hearing before the Edgartown historic district commission on May 18.

The waterfront home is one of 10 high-end properties in Edgartown acquired over the last several years by private equity investor David Malm or Goldeneye, the real estate investment company he controls.

The proposed new construction, designed by longtime Vineyard architect Patrick Ahearn, will be 751 square feet larger than the previous building and includes an expanded porch, relocated garage and guest house, and waterside pool and retaining wall.

A rendering of David Malm's renovation plans for South Water street in Edgartown.

Neighboring resident and group spokesman John Brittain said in an interview that the renovation violates the historic commission’s community guidelines, particularly limits against oversized development.

“The proposed building would be dramatically larger than the neighboring houses,” Mr. Brittain said. “This is more of a modern, Hamptons-style mansion.”

In a preliminary hearing with the historic commission on April 20, Mr. Ahearn shared a presentation of the building’s renovation history and renderings of the proposed changes. The front, street-facing rendering shows the expanded building and screen porch.

In a phone call with the Gazette, Mr. Ahearn said that the current plans retain a 24-foot view corridor to the harbor, and the 12-foot screen porch extension would still allow a partial view of the harbor as well.

There are no local bylaws protecting abutters’ rights to retain their views, he added, except for properties with deeded view easements. In 2003, Mr. Brittain worked with the town to encourage residents to deed restrict their view easements for public enjoyment. Only two properties opted in, one being the Mayhew parsonage next door to the Malm residence.

Mr. Ahearn also said that due to a series of previous renovations, the current structure has very little in common with the 1912 Mayhew Cottage that originally sat on the property.

“In terms of the historic house, that doesn’t really exist anymore,” he said. “In light of that, I believe that gives us some creative license to improve upon [the property.]”

Mr. Ahearn noted that while the commission did not give any feedback in the preliminary hearing, he was willing to hear and address any concerns in the public hearing this month.

Mr. Ahearn said his client Mr. Malm was away on business and unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Goldeneye, Mr. Malm’s company, acquired the house on South Water street in January for $15 million. According to the Wall Street Journal, he has spent nearly $100 million on properties in the Vineyard and Nantucket in the past five years. Mr. Malm and his company own 10 properties in Edgartown alone, valued at a total of $87 million, according to Edgartown assessors’ records.

Some neighbors see the proposed renovations as an existential threat to the community’s character and are concerned about the potential for another home in the neighborhood to be used as a short-term rental.

“I don’t think he’ll have too many friends on the street,” seasonal resident Denise Slaughter said. “Why is he buying in a historic area to build a monstrosity?”

Lucy Dahl, whose home sits across the street from the property, wrote in a letter to the Gazette about her memories sitting on the stoop admiring the view with her mother, Patricia Neal.

“Hundreds of people stop daily to take in and photograph the serenity and beauty of the harbor,” she wrote. “If this plan is not met with protest, the public vista will vanish, and visitors and residents would no longer be able to see what they have delighted in for hundreds of years.”

In his 50 years living on South Water street, Mr. Brittain said that he’s seen private development gradually edge out public views and vistas.

“The last time I spoke to David [Malm] was about a year ago,” he said. “I asked him about the view, and he said he wasn’t going to block it or do anything to upset the neighbors.”

The Edgartown historic district commission public hearing will take place May 18 at 4 p.m. via Zoom.

Story has been updated to show full expanse of rendering of proposed architectural plans and clarify the descriptions of those renderings.