For the third of the Island’s population that is over 65, the lack of options for skilled nursing care on Martha’s Vineyard presents a looming worry. That fact alone is reason enough to applaud the approval of Navigator Homes, which will provide 66 beds for seniors in an innovative residential setting.
Designed to replace the aging and institutional Windemere Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, the project also addresses another pressing community need — workforce housing — by incorporating 48 apartments for Navigator Homes and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital employees. Currently, Windemere is only half-filled, in large part due to inadequate staff.
Navigator Homes is by necessity a large development, and one that will occupy what is now 28 undeveloped acres of forest along the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. Neighbors have expressed concern about density and traffic and the Edgartown planning board wants the project to tie into town sewers, already nearing capacity.
But in weighing its benefits and detriments, both the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the town planning board agreed that the Island’s obligations to its elders make this project a priority.
In this they were encouraged by a dedicated group of Island leaders, including the estimable Paddy Moore, founder of the Healthy Aging Task Force, who have worked tirelessly to address the needs of a growing elderly population.
“What we are trying to do is keep the community of the Vineyard a community,” Ms. Moore told the planning board at one hearing. “I think we all care about that, every one of us, no matter how we individually feel.”
Denise Schepici and the hospital deserve equal credit for pulling together a project plan, based on the green house model of residential living, purchasing the property and working through many regulatory hurdles after concluding that Windemere, the Island’s only nursing home, needed to close. All current residents of Windemere will be afforded a place at Navigator Homes.
To minimize the impact on water quality, Navigator Homes has agreed to install denitrifying septic systems, whether or not it ties into the Edgartown sewers.
While Navigator Homes is a nonprofit organization, the costs of running a skilled nursing facility are high, and the facility will need some residents who can pay private rates. The organization has pledged to dedicate half its beds to lower-income Islanders, and it will be up to the community to ensure that promise is kept.
Several smaller hurdles remain before the development is shovel ready, but it appears that construction will begin soon. Its overall benefit to the community outweighs the inevitable stress it will add to an Island that is reaching the limits of new development.
Courtesy of the Vineyard Gazette