The Martha’s Vineyard Commission voted Thursday to approve a project to tear down a historic summer cottage in East Chop, deciding that the benefits of responsible rebuilding outweighed the loss of history.

Nestled in the Highlands neighborhood of Oak Bluffs, the Camp Ground-style house at 9 Beecher Park dates to 1877 and is listed on MACRIS, the state historic building database. The demolition project was mandatorily referred to the commission for review as a development of regional impact (DRI).

Homeowners are Bill and Melissa Callahan, who bought the 2,000-square-foot house in September 2020 for $1.4 million. Their architect is Chuck Sullivan.

A public hearing on the project earlier this summer saw a handful of neighbors and members of the town historic district commission weigh concerns over the tear-down and loss of history against support for the new home proposed in its stead.

The new owners want to replace the existing cottage with a winterized, four-bedroom, 3,600-square-foot home and a 700-square-foot garage. The architectural features will resemble the old house.

At the meeting Thursday, MVC executive director Adam Turner explained that the old house has quirks. While remodeling is possible, he said applicants testified that it would be costly and inefficient compared to rebuilding.

“It’s an older house that has oblong rooms,” Mr. Turner said. “It is structurally sound. But if they wanted to winterize it or make any kind of big moves, they would have to do a lot of structural work.”

As commissioners weighed the benefits and detriments, they struggled to find consensus on issues like stormwater, energy, housing and the demolition itself. Some commissioners, including Ben Robinson, argued that the demolition and construction of a new, larger home represented increased energy use and a loss of history, while others saw the project as necessary to transform a seasonal cottage into a year-round home.

“It’s hard to say that losing . . . history is a benefit. And that’s the tough one here, is that it’s a detriment to lose history,” commissioner Ben Robinson said.

But commissioners ultimately felt that the design of the new home honored the cottage’s historic features.

“I think what is being proposed is probably the best offer we’re ever likely to get on this property,” commissioner Fred Hancock said. “While I don’t like to see the old houses go away, it is nice to see a replacement that I think is a meaningful attempt at a building that looks like it could have belonged here.”

In the end commissioners voted 11-0 with three abstentions to approve the demolition, with commissioners Ben Robinson, Christina Brown and Jay Grossman abstaining. Commissioners Jeff Agnoli, Fred Hancock, Jim Vercruysse, Ernie Thomas, Linda Sibley, Doug Sederholm, Ted Rosbeck, Brian Packish, Kathy Newman, Christine Todd and Joan Malkin voted to approve the demolition.

The decision comes as commissioners are set to consider a handful of historic home demolitions in the coming months, including another home just north of the Beecher Park property in East Chop.

In other business Thursday, commissioners voted 11-5 not to review the demolition of a summer cottage in Katama as a DRI.

Located at 55 King’s Point Way, the main part of the house was constructed in 1904, but has had several alterations, remodels and additions over the past three decades, including a guest house, covered porch and a gutted interior. The home is partially visible from Katama Bay, according to commission staff.

The applicants are Michael and Susan Grenert, with Doug Hoehn as their agent and Hutker as the designer.

Although the house is not in a historic district nor listed on MACRIS, Mr. Turner said the house is one of the few remaining summer cottages in Katama, although it has had substantial alterations since it was built in the early 20th century.

Plans presented Thursday showed the construction of a 7,000-square-foot home, with a tennis court and a pool on the property.

Despite concern over the proposed new construction, commissioners sent the project back to the planning board for review at the local level.

“I have found that the house isn’t really of extreme historic value. And if this were just an empty lot, we would have zero control over what they built,” commissioner Linda Sibley said. “So I’m inclined to think we shouldn’t mess with this.”

Commissioners Jim Vercruysse, Ernie Thomas, Linda Sibley, Doug Sederholm, Ted Rosbeck, Brian Packish, Kathy Newman, Michael Kim, Josh Goldstein, Trip Barnes and Joan Malkin voted yes on a motion not to concur (require a hearing and review) on the project. Commissioners Fred Hancock, Ben Robinson, Jay Grossman, Christina Brown and Jeff Agnoli voted no. Commissioner Christine Todd abstained.