A new plan to turn 54 acres in Katama into a nine-lot residential subdivision saw favorable review by the Martha's Vineyard Commission last week, while stubborn sticking points remained for a pending church expansion in Oak Bluffs.
The Houlahan family land between Katama Road and Katama Bay, owned through Tara Hills Trust, was approved as a subdivision by the MVC in 1997 for estate purposes. At that time, it was divided into five residential lots.
The plan shown by engineer Dough Hoehn at the Thursday commission meeting calls for nine residential lots on the 53.89 acres off Katama Road. There would be four inland lots in addition to five waterfront lots already approved. Four more lots would be preserved for open space, three of which cannot be touched and would have management plans provided by Natural Heritage. The fourth open space lot would serve as a buffer lot, and may have screening plantings. Under the proposed plans, building would be done up to 100 feet from the wetlands.
Attorney Sean Murphy, speaking on behalf of the Houlahan family, said the land has been in the family for more than 60 years and is a “very special piece of property.” He said the subdivision is about planning for the future, not maximizing development.
“This is about a legacy,” Mr. Murphy said. “[Andy Houlahan] wants to know what this property is going to look like in 100 years . . . there is never going to be more development than what is there.”
About 72 per cent of the land would remain as open space. The land includes salt marsh, pitch pine forest and old fields. The entire property is a moth habitat.
Town board of health regulations allow up to 146 bedrooms, but Mr. Hoehn said the number of bedrooms would be limited to 78.
According to the applicant and a commission report, the proposed nitrogen load is well under limits. No guest houses will be allowed on three of the lots.
The plan calls for adding three piers to two existing piers on Katama Bay, still subject to approval at the local level.
The applicant has offered to contribute $300,000 to the Edgartown affordable housing committee upon the sale of the first waterfront lot sold to an unrelated third party.
“I think this project has been well-detailed,” Edgartown planning board member Michael McCourt said, commending the Houlahans for going “the extra mile to make this project work.”
“All of us are grateful for families who take estate planning this seriously,” commissioner Christina Brown said.
A deliberation and decision on the subdivision is scheduled for Sept. 12.
In other business, the commission continued public hearings on two more controversial subjects: NStar’s new utility poles and the expansion of the Alliance Community Church.
The church, formerly Nova Vida, proposes a roughly 9,000-square-foot addition to its Ryan’s Way property that would house a 150-seat church and a three-bedroom parsonage. With four public hearings so far, issues have centered on concerns by neighbors about the size of the expansion and use of the building and concerns from the commission about nitrogen from wastewater.
The proposed nitrogen load is above commission guidelines but with denitrification, it will fall below an amount grandfathered in from previous decisions about the property. But the applicant and the commission continued to spar about how the property would be used. The commission wanted a firm number of events like weddings and funerals that would be held at the church on a yearly basis to calculate wastewater use.
Attorney Rosemarie Haigazian, who is representing the church, said the church is willing to offer that there will not be more than three church services per week on average, but this will not limit weddings, funerals and other parishioner celebrations, which are not anticipated to exceed 12 times per year, according to the applicant.
Ms. Haigazian suggested that the church would keep count of events and report them to the commission. “We’re trying not to be unfair to the demands of the community and the public,” she said. “This is their place of worship, you can’t ostracize people from their place of worship when they’re involved in church related activities.”
Commissioners urged the church to be liberal in their estimates so they had flexibility when it comes to church use. “Our mandate is to protect the natural resources here and there should be a way that this organization can use this property as its place of worship and still shop respect for an impaired watershed,” commissioner Doug Sederholm said. “It’s your job to propose something that works.”
The hearing was continued to Sept. 19. Also continued to the same night was the commission’s review of NStar’s replacement of old utility poles with new, taller utility poles on Island roads.