Commission Sets Dates for Golf Project Review

By JULIA WELLS

Gazette Senior Writer

The stage is now set for a fresh round of debate on the third plan in two years to convert the last stretch of unbroken woodland in the town of Oak Bluffs to a luxury golf club and housing development.

The land use planning subcommittee of the Martha's Vineyard Commission agreed last night that the Down Island Golf Club plan is ready for a public hearing. Back-to-back hearings are planned for Sept. 4 and 5, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the regional high school cafeteria.

The LUPC also agreed last night to waive a traffic study requirement for the project and to recommend that the commission reduce the developer's application fee to a third of what is normally required.

"We'll pay the [full fee of ] $35,000 if you approve the project," joked Bolton developer Brian Lafferty last night after the LUPC agreed to recommend that the commission reduce the application fee to $11,000. Commission staff planner and DRI coordinator Jennifer Rand said the $11,000 fee will adequately cover commission staff time to review the project, since much of the information accompanying the project is not new. The full commission will take up the recommendation at their regular meeting Thursday night.

Mr. Lafferty is partners with Connecticut developer Corey Kupersmith, who was also present at the meeting last night. Mr. Kupersmith owns 270 acres in the southern woodlands that he wants to convert to a private 18-hole golf club. The golf club plan has been rejected twice by the MVC in the last two years. The latest plan includes the addition of 30 units of housing on the property.

The meeting last night was technically a pre-public hearing review of the plan. The project calls for an 18-hole private luxury golf club, 14 market-priced homes, 16 affordable units and a state and land bank conservation package that the state and the land bank have not yet endorsed. The developers are also proposing to buy the windfarm golf driving range and convert it to conservation land.

Last night Mr. Lafferty outlined the changes to the plan, which principally involve the addition of houses.

Kelly Cardoza, a partner with Avalon Consulting in Taunton and a new member of Mr. Kupersmith's development team, spoke about the nitrogen impacts on the Lagoon and Sengekontacket Ponds from the project. A package sewage treatment plant is planned to service the clubhouse and private homes in the development. The developers have shifted away from an all-organic turf management plan and are now planning to use a more conventional integrated pest management plan with oversight by the Oak Bluffs selectmen.

Last month Mr. Lafferty and Mr. Kupersmith tried without success to get the commission to agree to approve the plan with no public process, and last night Mr. Lafferty continued to press for a quick review.

"This project is costing around $6,000 a day. It's the old story - time is money. It's critical from our perspective that we get this through quickly," Mr. Lafferty said.

"We need time. We the public, we have an interest in this," countered Joan Wuerth, an Oak Bluffs resident who has opposed the last two golf club projects.

The commission did agree to hurry the process somewhat. Back-to-back public hearings will be held next week, and a third public hearing has now been scheduled for Sept. 12.

The subcommittee firmly nixed the suggestion that a hearing be held on Sept. 11.

"We're not having a public hearing on Sept. 11; it's just not appropriate," said commission member Linda Sibley.

A legislative hearing on a petition by the town of Oak Bluffs to withdraw from the commission is also scheduled for earlier in the day on Sept. 12.

The new plan is difficult to decipher, because it involves an annotated document with footnotes, italics, numbers and letters that refers to the second version of the plan. There is no central staff report for the plan yet, only a series of hand-written questions from Ms. Rand penned into the annotated document, with a separate response sheet from the developer that answers the questions. The answers include references to page numbers that are out of sequence.

MVC water quality staff planner William Wilcox detailed his own questions in a stand-alone staff report.

Traffic planner David Wessling said he had nothing. "We have no information about the impact from the new changes and there is no indication when I will receive that information," Mr. Wessling said.

Mr. Lafferty said instead of a traffic study, the developers propose donating $25,000 to the town to help solve the traffic problem at the blinker light.

"Rather than spending $10,000 to do a study that tells us what we already know, we'd like to contribute $25,000 to help solve the problem," he said.

The committee assented and voted to waive the traffic study requirement.

Mr. Kupersmith spoke little, except during a brief discussion about the location of a stand of beech trees on the property.

"The beech trees will stay. I like beech trees. I'd like to add beech trees," he said.