The Martha’s Vineyard Commission will review a proposed demolition of one of the oldest homes on the Edgartown harbor, voting to consider the project a development of regional impact at a meeting Thursday.
Known as the Harman House and located at 189 Katama Road, the two and a half-story, 8,000-square-foot Colonial-style home dates to 1916 and is a prime example of historic trim and molding, with original, antique blown glass window panes throughout the building, according to a commission staff report.
The home, situated on a bluff above the harbor, is visible from the water.
Project applicants are Steve and Ellie Wise, who according to real estate records purchased the waterfront property in April for $11.2 million from the Harman family trust. An adjacent waterfront property was purchased by the homeowners on the same day for $4.8 million.
The historic home demolition was referred to the commission for concurrence review by the Edgartown building inspector, qualifying as a mandatory referral because the home is more than 100 years old.
The project applicants declined to provide a plan post-demolition, saying in a letter to the commission that they did not intend to restore the home. They noted that the house has nine bedrooms and one shower, a third floor addition from the 1980s, has fallen into disrepair, and does not meet commission energy standards.
“We do not plan to restore the house at 189 Katama Road as the economics are working against us. We believe investing our time and money in a new structure, one that will benefit the town and the harbor economically and aesthetically, is the best option,” Mr. and Ms. Wise wrote.
Commission historic preservation planner Christina Mankowski scored the home a seven out of a possible 13 in its historic structure screening, meaning it has limited historical significance. The home received the highest possible score for visibility and historic design.
In their letter, the homeowners disputed the commission’s historic assessment, saying its score should range between four and six.
Although the home is outside the Edgartown historic district, a letter from the town historic district commission advocated for the review and retention of the home by the commission, noting that the wainscoting, molding, plaster, floors and windows are all original to the house, and that it has a “commanding” location on the harbor.
At the meeting Thursday, commissioners Ted Rosbeck and Brian Packish took issue with the commission’s assessment of the house, describing the historic structure rating as subjective and advocating for not reviewing the demolition. They also questioned why the historic district commission had submitted a letter regarding the house, despite the fact that it lies outside the jurisdiction of the town’s historic district.
“I’ll be voting no [on whether to require a review] primarily because I have too much respect for the town boards and entities that have regulatory review of this project, once it makes it back to them,” Mr. Packish said. “The matrix bothers me on a variety of levels.”
But other commissioners said that while new home construction would fall under the purview of town boards, only the commission has the regulatory authority to review the demolition of the historic home.
“We have a letter from the historic district commission, asking us to review it. I think that’s important,” commissioner Linda Sibley said. “I think we should concur because I don’t think the town can duplicate our powers.”
After continued discussion, commissioners voted 10-3 to concur on the project, meaning it will require a full review.
Commissioners Jeff Agnoli, Christina Brown, Fred Hancock, Michael Kim, Kathy Newman, Ben Robinson, Doug Sederholm, Linda Sibley, Ernie Thomas and Jim Vercruysse voted to concur. Commissioners Josh Goldstien, Brian Packish and Ted Rosbeck voted not to concur.
Commission staff said a public hearing on the demolition would likely be scheduled for early August.
In other business Thursday night, the commission discussed a request from architect Sam Dunn to modify a condition on a 10-unit mixed-use development in the old Santander Bank building that was approved earlier this year in downtown Vineyard Haven.
Mr. Dunn asked the commission remove a clause in the conditions that limits condominium owners from renting the apartments for more than 21 days per year, saying the limitation was unnecessary because the condition already included restrictions that limit rentals to no less than one week, three times per year.
A master deed allows the condominium board to waive restrictions by a two-thirds vote in circumstances of hardship.
Commissioners agreed that the 21-day limit was unnecessary, but wanted to continue adjusting the recommended language. They requested the modification come back before a commission subcommittee.