The Martha’s Vineyard Commission voted 9-5 late Thursday to allow the Harbor View Hotel to expand its Bradley Cottage into a 4,000-square-foot spa.

But at a three and a half-hour meeting that saw commissioners labor over a mountain of complicated project conditions, the question of the spa was overshadowed by the broader issues of the hotel’s piecemeal expansion and creeping commercial development in recent years that have put it increasingly at odds with the quiet Starbuck’s Neck neighborhood that surrounds it.

And the approval came with a clear message from the MVC to the hotel, as commissioners tacked on a pile of conditions that will strictly limit its commercial activity going forward.

“I’m going to vote for this, because I think it would be madness to deny it,” said commissioner Linda Sibley. “But . . . I do think that this hotel, which I’ve known for 70 years, is morphing into something that isn’t particularly Vineyard. Do we want to attract people by saying we’ve got spas? Or do we want to attract people by saying we’ve got pristine beaches, and woods?”

Conditions of approval include a pointed requirement that the hotel return to the commission with a plan for its controversial pool bar, which has been a main bone of contention with neighbors. The condition essentially allows a retroactive review of changes that were approved by the Edgartown zoning board of appeals in 2018 but never sent to the commission for review. The pool bar is the subject of ongoing litigation between neighbors and the town.

Thursday’s decision caps months of review, as the commission was forced to grapple with its own powers and prior approvals of hotel renovations in the face of neighbors who voiced concerns about the seemingly never-ending string of minor modifications.

Many commissioners said they thought those concerns were legitimate.

A grand, historic hotel that overlooks the outer Edgartown harbor and its iconic lighthouse, the Harbor View’s original $55 million renovation plan was approved by the commission in 2008. But over the following decade, the hotel faced a slew of challenges, including two ownership changes and a devastating fire that stalled aspects of the project. In the ensuing years a variety of minor changes were approved, culminating in a broader expansion in 2018 that added about 30 rooms to the 2008 plan and relocated the spa.

In 2020, new owners of the hotel filed the plan currently before the commission. Some aspects of the project had already completed, including a major renovation of the main building and room interiors.

On Thursday, many commissioners expressed worry about the extent of the hotel’s growth as a pre-existing, non-conforming business in a residential area.

“We need to look at this project in totality, that’s what the abutters have been screaming about this whole process,” commissioner Ben Robinson said. “Endless growth is going to be a detriment to this Island. And already our normal year-round community is being forced off the Island because of it.”

Although commissioners found significant detriments to character and identity, as well as energy and climate resilience, in the end they concluded the spa addition on its own was relatively minor, and opted to approve the project with conditions rather than deny it.

“I was hoping that the applicant would see a denial as a possible stick to work with the neighbors, because they have legitimate concerns, and it’s clear they don’t feel like they’ve been heard,” said commissioner Jim Vercruysse. “But I don’t really think we had a reason to deny.”

Commission chairman Joan Malkin agreed.

“I think impact on abutters will be negligible after completion,” Ms. Malkin said, speaking of the spa. “I felt like we don’t have a basis in the confines of this decision to help the abutters as much as I know we would like to have.”

The list of conditions is extensive.

The spa will be restricted to hotel guests, with all charges required to go to hotel rooms. A former private home at 119 North Water Street can no longer be used for hotel business without commission approval. The hotel will also be required to provide a five-year master plan before it can receive an occupancy permit. And it will be required to provide a detailed future roadmap for going all-electric.

The hotel will have to provide a total of 25 units of year-round workforce housing, with rent prices adjusted to 40 per cent of market rate, as well as pay approximately $157,000 in affordable housing mitigation for the Bradley Cottage, and an additional $360,000 in connection with the completion of other cottages that are in later project phases.

A condition that would have restricted hotel guests to two visitors at the pool bar was scrapped after vocal opposition from commissioner Josh Goldstein, among others.

And as a final condition, the hotel will also be required to make its best effort to form a “neighborhood preservation committee” that includes all interested abutters within a 600-foot radius of the hotel.

“Maybe [the Harbor View] will see this is a reluctant yes,” commissioner Kathy Newman said of the decision. “And maybe they should do something about that.”

The roll call vote was as follows: commissioners Clarence (Trip) Barnes, 3rd, Christina Brown, Josh Goldstien, Michael Kim, Ted Rosbeck, Doug Sederholm, Linda Sibley, Ernie Thomas and Joan Malkin voted yes. Commissioners Jeff Agnoli, Fred Hancock, Kathy Newman, Christine Todd and Ben Robinson voted no. Commissioner Jim Vercruysse abstained.