The Martha’s Vineyard Commission closed a long-running public hearing on the Harbor View hotel’s controversial renovation plan Thursday night, but not before frustrated neighbors took their last opportunity to castigate the hotel for what they called piecemeal commercial expansions to the detriment of the residential neighborhood.
The $55 million hotel expansion originally dates to 2008 and was modified in 2018. The request currently before the commission is to expand the hotel spa in the Bradley Cottage.
The numerous revisions and changes to the 2008 plan have been a central point of criticism from neighbors, and a point of concern from the commission. Renovation of the main building and restaurant were previously completed.
Last week the commission asked the hotel for a master plan that laid out all current and future redevelopments.
On Thursday, commission DRI coordinator Alex Elvin presented the hotel’s submission, which included comparative 2008, 2018 and current campus plans, floor plans and elevations for changes to cottages on the back portion of the hotel’s property, and a summary of $100,000 in improvements the hotel said it made to ease neighbor concerns.
Hotel attorney Marilyn Vukota said repeatedly that the proposed changes to the plan between 2018 and now were “de minimis,” not piecemeal, and that the spa is the only major modification.
“It really hasn’t changed,” Ms. Vukota said.
But abutters felt differently, using the final public hearing to voice concerns about the hotel’s expansion in recent years and its impact on the residential neighborhood.
They also questioned the sincerity of the master plan.
“It’s not about a spa,” said Bob Forrester. “It’s about the legacy of this part of our island that has been cared for by generations before us.”
But commissioners said the current modification was, in fact, about the spa — although executive director Adam Turner said because the hotel was also requesting an extension to the 2018 modification, other aspects of the project could be considered in retrospect.
Commissioners asked about renewing or expanding the hotel’s affordable housing contribution, which was based on the 2008 project approval and has not yet been paid. The commission has new affordable housing guidelines that would increase the required payment, which commissioners estimated at around $100,000, according to 2008 rules.
Ms. Vukota closed with a lengthy final statement, saying among other things that the hotel strives to be a good neighbor.
“Commercial properties need to be protected, and the Harbor View, I think, is one of the most important properties that this Island needs to protect as a commercial property,” she said. “This isn’t an expansion. This is an evolution. This is an improvement.”
Commissioners closed the public hearing, leaving the written record open for two weeks.
In other business, the commission approved a new energy policy for developments of regional impact after months of wrangling with the language.
The policy, which centers on requiring all-electric systems and on-site renewable energy generation, has been molded over the course of the past year, with multiple public hearings and revisions.
The tweaked version approved Thursday loosened restrictions regarding on-site solar generation and removed some post-project approval steps.