Neighbors continued to fume about a major expansion to Edgartown’s boutique Hob Knob inn at a Martha’s Vineyard Commission public hearing Thursday, even after applicants spent four months redesigning the plan.
The project, which includes an approximately 1,400 square foot addition to the current building and an expansion of the Tomassian Law Office across Tilton Way, came before the commission for multiple public hearings earlier this summer, with abutters criticizing the expansion as out of character with the residential neighborhood.
The Hob Knob is a small, 17-room hotel situated on Edgartown’s Main street. Expansion plans call for an additional 16 rooms, increased employee housing, an outdoor pool and about 4,000 square feet of additional building space, including a teardown and remodel of the current law office.
Attorney Sean Murphy, who represents the Hob Knob, said in an earlier phone call with the Gazette that the 124 Main street property is under agreement. The Hob Knob is addressed at 128 Main street.
After three public hearings this summer in which neighbors voiced concerns about the project’s traffic, noise and character, the project’s review stalled this fall, with multiple public hearings getting rescheduled as the development went back to the drawing board.
The project has garnered immense public interest, with the commission receiving more than 50 letters of correspondence. General concerns focus on traffic and character, while letters in support have come from members of the town’s business community.
On Thursday, applicants presented a slightly altered plan that includes an about 1,000 square foot space increase, reorganizes parking to the 124 Main street side of Tilton Way and moves the pool back to the 128 Main street property. Patrick Ahearn, the project architect, argued in Thursday’s public hearing that the new plan was in character with the neighborhood and that it didn’t alter the current Hob Knob’s status as a boutique, neighborhood inn in any substantial way.
“The big change is that there is no change to the current Hob Knob Inn. There’s no change to the landscaping. There’s no change to the existing dropoff. There’s no change to the parking,” Mr. Ahearn said. “I think I’ve defined and described how we’ve really improved it in a significant way.”
But neighbors — many of whom had previously spoken against the project in public hearings — strongly disagreed, expressing intense disatisfaction with the revisions.
William Fruhan, who said he lives across the street from the inn, said the proposal caused an “uproar” in the community and that described the new project as a resort, equipped with a pool and spa. He felt the altered proposal made no substantive changes to address concerns from the neighbors.
“I can only imagine that the project’s petitioners might have hoped that over four months, the tumult caused by the earlier proposal might have faded somewhat in the memories of MVC commissioners,” Mr. Fruhan said. “I hope it has not.”
Dan Bailey, who was representing abutter Graham Greeley, argued that the expansion represented far too much commercial development and noted the project had actually been increased in size over the past four months. Jane Chittick, a frequent critic of the proposal, spoke for about 15 minutes about her concerns, including aesthetic issues with the project’s dormers and its character.
“Now we’re looking at a motel,” Ms. Chittick said. “This is really a vacation resort and spa.”
Appointed commissioner from Edgartown James Joyce, who has recused himself from the review hearing because he is an abutter of the Hob Knob, spoke as a member of the public on Thursday evening as well. He also railed against the proposal.
“They made a big deal about how they did a redesign of the whole plan,” Mr. Joyce said. “But one of the things they didn’t redesign, was they didn’t redesign a residential zone to a commercial zone. They are still trying to put a square peg in a round hole. It still doesn’t work.”
After more than two hours, commissioners decided to continue the public hearing to Thursday, Nov. 12, asking questions about staff housing, energy and noise.
“We will finish it then,” chairman Doug Sederholm said.
In other business, the commission hired Oak Bluffs conservation agent Liz Durkee as their new sustainability and climate change planner, executive director Adam Turner announced Thursday. Ms. Durkee was selected out of a pool of 150 applicants for the position.
“This is a very talented lady, and I think she’ll be a real good addition,” Mr. Sederholm said.