Huge Housing Plan Moves Toward MVC

Affordable Housing Project Is Pushed by Golf Developer and Partner in Oak Bluffs Woodlands

By JULIA WELLS
Gazette Senior Writer

Against a backdrop of quiet maneuvers to develop yet another plan for a private luxury golf club in the southern woodlands, a massive affordable housing project planned for the same property in Oak Bluffs is now on track for review by the Martha's Vineyard Commission.

The Chapter 40B housing project was referred to the commission for review as a development of regional impact (DRI) two weeks ago. The developer of the project is CK Associates, a company owned by Connecticut golf club developer Corey T. Kupersmith and Bolton housing developer Brian Lafferty.

The 276-acre property is owned by Mr. Kupersmith.

Mr. Kupersmith's plan to build a luxury golf course in the southern woodlands has been turned down twice by the Martha's Vineyard Commission in the last two years.

The 366-unit 40B housing project, planned for the same property, was filed 11 months ago, but the project quickly landed in litigation when Mr. Kupersmith and Mr. Lafferty challenged the right of the Martha's Vineyard Commission to review it.

The commission won the case late last month when the chief justice of the Massachusetts Land Court ruled that the commission has full power of review over 40B housing projects.

Two weeks after the land court ruling, the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals referred the project to the commission for review.

A July 15 meeting has been scheduled with the applicant and the commission's land use planning subcommittee, although as of yesterday the commission had received nothing from the developer in the way of actual plans.

"I would suggest that you forward to me all the information you have regarding this project at your earliest possible convenience. This will allow me to review your submittal and alert you to further information requirements we may have," wrote commission staff planner and DRI coordinator Jennifer Rand in a letter to Mr. Lafferty on June 17.

Ms. Rand attached a checklist of materials that are required by the commission before a public hearing can be scheduled. The list includes site plans, building plans and subdivision plans, plus reports on surface water quality, groundwater, wetlands, habitat, archaeological resources and traffic. The applicant is also required to submit a certified list of abutters and proof of ownership, along with a $1,900 application fee.

As of yesterday Mr. Lafferty had not replied to the letter.

A resident of Bolton, Mr. Lafferty has been actively involved in residential development projects in central Massachusetts for some time.

His latest project is a Chapter 40B condominium project in Bolton called Sunset Ridge. The project was approved by the Bolton board of appeals in April, but Mr. Lafferty appealed the decision to the state Housing Appeals Committee after the board of appeals reduced the size of the project from 32 to 28 units and added a condition to cap the developer's profits at 12.4 per cent.

The Sunset Ridge project has been the subject of ongoing coverage in The Bolton Common, a weekly newspaper. News accounts describe the Sunset Ridge debate as acrimonious, and the paper also reported that Mr. Lafferty is involved in a number of disputes with the board of appeals, including a dispute about fees.

Filed with the Oak Bluffs board of appeals last summer, Mr. Lafferty's plan called for a 366-unit housing project, including a mix of single family homes and townhouses and also a mix of affordable and market-rate homes. The original application appeared to be a quick job, and included a number of pages that were nearly illegible.

On a related subject, a series of behind-the-scenes maneuvers by Mr. Lafferty and Mr. Kupersmith to develop a new luxury golf, and luxury housing plan for the property have seen little progress in the last month.

After the land court ruling - seen as a clear win for the commission - the developers tried to soften the blow by putting out a quick press release announcing that a new plan was on the table that had the blessing of state environmental officials, the Oak Bluffs selectmen and the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank.

In fact, Mr. Lafferty's press release was premature and it was quickly revealed that there was no new plan - only a proposal that had been sketched after a single meeting that included Mr. Lafferty, one Oak Bluffs selectman, state environmental officials and the executive director of the land bank.

The new proposal calls for an 18-hole luxury golf course, 14 luxury homes, 16 affordable housing units, a state-owned camp ground and 26 acres of conservation land. The proposal includes a pledge by the developer to buy the Windfarm Golf driving range and then sell it to the town and the land bank for use as open space.

Located on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in Oak Bluffs, about a half-mile away from the southern woodlands, the driving range is privately owned.

Last week the Martha's Vineyard Commission voted to appoint a three-person subcommittee to join any planning talks about the southern woodlands - although commission chairman James Vercruysse said yesterday that he is not aware of any plan for more talks.

Mr. Vercruysse said the subcommittee was appointed after the commission received a request from Cape and Islands Rep. Eric T. Turkington.

"I don't know if anything else is going to happen - I called [Oak Bluffs selectman] Michael Dutton and he doesn't know either. He said he would call people if something was going to happen," Mr. Vercruysse said.

The Oak Bluffs selectmen have scheduled a discussion about the southern woodlands for their regular weekly meeting tonight.

Any new plan for Mr. Kupersmith's property would require approval from the commission as a DRI.

Mr. Vercruysse said the subcommittee includes himself and commission members James Athearn and Roger Wey.

"This is just for the sake of listening and discussion. This is not a mediation, and there can't be any decisions made," Mr. Vercruysse said.