The Martha’s Vineyard Commission on Thursday continued a public hearing on a plan to convert a building at the corner of Ryan’s Way and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in Oak Bluffs to a mixed use building with a Brazilian church, a community center and a day care center.
After two hours of testimony from applicant Valci Carvalho, pastor of the Assembleia De Deus Nova Vida (Assembly of God), and neighbors with concerns about the plan, the commission continued the hearing until June 28.
The plan calls for building a 150-seat church that would also house a 28-child day care center and a six-bedroom boarding house and rectory. A sanctuary is planned for the second floor with a footprint of 2,560 square feet, while a community center is planned for the basement.
The house was previously an 11-room boarding house and was a former dance studio, among other things. Mr. Carvalho purchased the property and sold it to the church several years ago. In June the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital moved their day-care into the first floor of the building, which is expected to remain there until the hospital renovation is complete.
Last April, Oak Bluffs building inspector Jerry Wiener issued a cease and desist order to stop a landscaping business and a boarding house from continuing to operate on the property while the project is reviewed by the commission as a development of regional impact (DRI).
The building is currently registered with the secretary of state’s office as a religious, nonprofit corporation that has tax-exempt status.
Neighbors have expressed concerns about the project’s impact on traffic and parking.
According to a commission staff report, the proposed use would double the area of the church to 4,800 square feet and would nearly double the amount of trips to the church. A preliminary report also indicates that the expanded facility would create no major problems with traffic and parking.
At Thursday’s hearing, Mr. Carvalho said church services would be limited to three a week, although there would be several other activities such as bible study, music class and Sunday school. He also said there would be approximately two special activities a month that would attract larger crowds of between 120 and 150 people.
Mr. Carvalho said he did not expect any loud or disruptive events. “This is people at church . . . there will be no parties or loud music . . . just church,” he said.
But several neighbors said activities held at the church are already causing problems with noise and traffic.
“This is a project where the traffic problems are all going to happen at once,” said Ryan’s Way resident Russell Wendt. “This street is one way and it operates like a funnel, everyone who lives on [Ryan’s Way] has to drive by the church to get onto Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, so everyone has to come through this little funnel.”
Mr. Wendt compared the Nova Vida church to another Brazilian church down the road, the World Revival Church, which has drawn criticism from residents for traffic and parking problems and lighting that is reportedly left on late into the night.
“That World Revival Church isn’t setting a good example here . . . I hope the commission considers the impact of both these churches as well as the YMCA and the planned Mormon church,” Mr. Wendt said.
Farm Path resident Ann McMannus said she was disappointed with the lack of response from both the town and the commission to complaints about the World Revival Church.
“We complain to whoever listens, but there don’t seem to be any consequences for the World Revival Church. This entire stretch of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road is now known as church row, and we as neighbors are placed in this terrible position because we don’t want to criticize a church, but churches are different today than they once were. It’s no longer just services on Sunday, it’s seven days a week both day and night,” she said, adding:
“Our lives have been seriously affected by this church; we now have to compete for the use of our own backyard.”
Mac Starks, her husband, agreed.
“It’s not my responsibility to go to the pastor or members of the church to ask them to quiet down. When the commission takes on a project, there is this gap between what they approved and what is enforced. I pay my taxes, and I have rights and my rights are being violated. What the [commission] approved is not being followed,” he said.