The Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals referred a proposed mixed-use development that hinges on a controversial home demolition to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission at a public hearing on Tuesday.

Robert Sawyer, the developer behind Flowerwood LLC, has applied to build an eight-unit housing complex at 3 Uncas avenue, where an 1874 home currently stands. Mr. Sawyer first proposed the project in 2019, but plans to demolish the existing home were denied by the town’s Copeland plan review committee.

The board also extended the public hearing to its next meeting on August 16 or possibly longer, pending action from the commission.

Flowerwood is hoping to develop the project under the state’s “40B” affordable housing regulations, which allow zoning boards of appeals to grant waivers to some provisions if the developer has a certain proportion of units designated as affordable.

Plans for the project were determined eligible as a 40B project by subsidizing agency MassHousing, but it will not move forward without approval from the zoning board and the MVC.

The mixed-use development plan includes eight “workforce housing units” and a drive-through ATM, Mr. Sawyer said.

Two of the project’s eight units would be affordable for families at or below 80 per cent of area median income, and all would be homeownership units for year-round use by “Vineyard working folks,” the permit application states.

Mr. Sawyer said the community needs housing projects like his.

“We have a housing crisis on the Vineyard, and the only thing we want to do is tear down this decrepit house and put up workforce housing units which this community needs,” Mr. Sawyer said.

Mr. Sawyer has twice applied for and been denied approval to demolish the Victorian-style home from the Copeland plan review committee, first in March 2019 and again in September 2022. The committee is responsible for approving the demolition of any structure in the Copeland district.

The committee cited the historic building’s relationship with the district and the Oak Bluffs building official’s determination that the structure is not in imminent danger of collapse.

According to minutes from the September 2022 meeting, committee chair Gail Barmakian stated Mr. Sawyer knew the building was protected before he bought it and that he “voluntarily let the house go into disrepair.”

Flowerwood, LLC filed a lawsuit against the Copeland plan review committee and its members, asserting that the demolition of the building was effectively approved because the committee allegedly failed to issue a written notice of the most recent denial within 30 days of the application being submitted, the case filing states.

A Dukes County Superior Court judge in May denied Mr. Sawyer’s motion for the case to be ruled on before going to a trial, leaving the Copeland committee’s ruling intact. The case is ongoing. 

Ms. Barmakian, chair of the Copeland Plan Review Committee and Oak Bluffs Select Board member, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.