The Martha’s Vineyard Commission this week declined to send a proposed veteran affordable housing complex to a full public hearing, helping fast track the project in its attempts to get funding. 

The commission Thursday voted 8-7 to send the 12-unit affordable veterans housing project planned for Bellevue avenue in Oak Bluffs to the Oak Bluffs zoning board for review. While almost all commissioners agreed the project was well-intentioned, there were disagreements about if the commission should hold a public hearing, potentially adding several weeks onto the permitting timeline. 

The $5.4 million project is being proposed by the Town of Oak Bluffs, which is working with nonprofit developer Island Housing Trust and the Cape and Island Veterans Outreach Center. On a long and narrow lot near the capped town landfill, the project would have three apartment buildings, each with four single-unit apartments. 

Apartments would be for veterans making between 30 per cent and 80 per cent of the area median income, and rents would range from $574 to $1,632. Vineyard veterans would get first preference. 

During Island Housing Trust’s presentation to the commission Thursday, trust executive director Philippe Jordi said the town is applying for $1.5 million in competitive grant money, and pushing the project forward to the zoning board of appeals would help increase its odds for funding. 

“The more that we can get done in the permitting process, the higher our ranking in our application,” Mr. Jordi said. 

Commission member Brian Smith argued that the commission didn’t need to hold a public hearing on the project, saying each of the six Island town’s pledges for funding at town meeting signalled support. 

“I don’t see any benefit whatsoever for a public hearing,” he said. 

Others were not so sure. 

Though she thought the project was a good idea, commissioner Linda Sibley felt it was best to give it a full review. 

“Sometimes things that are wonderful need review,” she said. “I would like to hold a public hearing.” 

Commissioner Peter Wharton, a veteran himself, also had questions about the housing proposal from the town. He wondered if it would be better to have more family-orientated options. 

“The one-bedrooms kind of give me pause,” he said. “Not so much about the income, but because half of the veterans I know are female, have family, have kids…One-bedrooms simply do not work to support veterans with families.” 

Island Housing Trust officials said the number and size of the units were decided on by the town, which put out a request for proposals last year. Island Housing Trust was simply responding to what the town sought. 

After the tight vote, commission member Doug Sederholm said he didn’t want people to be confused by those who felt the housing proposal should go to a public hearing. 

“Just because somebody is in favor of having a public hearing, it doesn’t mean we don’t think it’s a fantastic project,” he said. “Some of us get hung up on process.”