The Edgartown Planning Board weighed in on the proposed Navigator Homes skilled nursing and workforce housing facility this week, seeking to address both town concerns and those of abutters.
The project was approved by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in November, and aims to resolve Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s needs for skilled nursing residences, patient care space and workforce housing.
The planning board is the last Island regulatory body to address the project before proponents seek state approvals. In its sixth public hearing with the board Tuesday, Navigator Homes officials sought to address septic concerns from the town as well as traffic, noise and lighting issues raised by abutters.
Upon its approval, the MVC conditioned that the project would need to install 14 nitrogen-mitigating septic systems on neighboring properties to offset its nitrogen loading impact. Navigator Homes spokesman Ed Pesce countered that the Edgartown board of health found only eight systems would be necessary at first, but the organization would continue to monitor nitrogen levels in the first year to determine needs.
“I would try to condition at least 10,” board member Scott Morgan responded. “The other option is to lessen your footprint, but I know you don’t want to do that, either.”
Mr. Pesce was confident that eight systems, all of which have received grant funding, would be sufficient to offset nitrogen levels.
“I expect that when the dust settles…we’ll be mitigating an excess of the nitrogen required to be mitigated by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s condition,” he said.
As a hospital facility, the project is required to provide generators for each building with the capability to provide four days’ worth of electrical power. The diesel-powered generators would sit in covered sheds on the edge of the property, where they would occasionally need to be run to ensure proper functioning.
Chair Lucy Morrison requested details on the proposed generators and regular decibel readings to control noise. At the time of the hearing, no construction schedule had been finalized, so the board could not weigh in on summer construction regulations. Although planning board bylaws prohibit exterior work in the summer due to noise and traffic concerns, the board has the power to grant exceptions.
Project attorney Geoghan Coogan hoped to waive that restriction.
“I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to get the project going and get it done,” he said.
During public comment, abutters on Teaberry Lane and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road broached concerns ranging from lighting design to noise to traffic. Teaberry Lane resident Rob Lanelli objected to the size of the project, which would provide 48 workforce housing units and 66 patient beds on a 28-acre forested plot.
“I know there’s a need but truthfully the location is problematic,” Mr. Lanelli said, adding that he and his wife had just done major renovation work on their house. “We’re fearful that our property value…it’s probably gonna go down.”
Juliet Mulinare said she had already observed frequent speeding in that the area of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and worried that the project would increase traffic in the neighborhood. Mr. Pesce replied that the MVC had already approved the project’s traffic plan, finding no significant increases in traffic or congestion.
Paddy Moore, a longtime senior care advocate and proponent of Navigator Homes, spoke in favor of the project.
“The residents will not be driving as you are well aware,” she said, referring to the fact that many of the senior care residents legally would not be able to operate a motor vehicle.
“What we are trying to do is keep the community of the Vineyard a community,” Ms. Moore said. “I think we all care about that, every one of us, no matter how we individually feel…We hope very much you approve these plans and let us get started.”
The public hearing will be continued on Feb. 7.
Article courtesy of The Vineyard Gazette