The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News

A nursing home and workforce housing project in Edgartown is nearing the final stage of its review before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, after the commission closed its public hearing on Thursday evening.

Located on approximately 28 acres of land at 490 Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital-Navigator Homes project would replace the hospital’s Windemere facility with a 66-bed qualified nursing home comprised of five separate residences , as well as 76 rooms for Hospital and Navigator employees in 48 townhouse and duplex units.

“We’re working to build that,” hospital administrator Ed Olivier said during Thursday’s hearing, which followed a series of earlier public hearings this fall.

Hospital hiring has almost come to a standstill due to the Island’s housing crisis, Olivier said.

“Recruiting is getting harder and harder,” he said.

Some neighbors of the undeveloped property have decried the project, saying it will bring traffic and unsightly views to their semi-rural area, while developers maintain it is urgently needed to help address shortages chronicles of nursing home beds and workforce housing.

“There is no other location for this,” said project lawyer Geoghan Coogan, who noted that the hospital and Navigator Homes have agreed to plant additional trees and shrubs to help mitigate the visual impact of the main entrance, among other landscaping.

“We think with the surrounding buffers that we have and have created, we can really minimize the impact on the neighborhood,” Coogan told the commission.

To offset the buildup of nitrogen from sewage from the development, the project applicants propose to use an advanced denitrification system and build 14 more houses elsewhere in the catchment area.

Commissioner Ben Robinson asked project engineer Ed Pesce if an extra level of treatment could be added to account for the number of drugs. Mr Robinson said it was likely an elderly population of care home residents would pass through the sewage stream.

The advanced septic system will be sufficient, Mr. Pesce said, adding that the use of pharmaceuticals already continues in the neighborhood.

“People on Teaberry [Lane] take drugs,” he said.

Other concessions made during the public hearing process include switching from vinyl siding to cedar shingles for the duplexes visible from the road and cement siding for the townhouses at the far end of the property.

The Navigator Buildings, also known as Green House Residences after the nonprofit Green House Project for Alternative Living in Nursing Homes, cannot be shingled due to strict federal safety regulations, said company chairman David McDonough to the commission in September.

“They’re hypersensitive to anything that has fire-causing abilities,” he said.

Staying at Navigator Homes will cost $600 a day for privately insured patients, McDonough told the commission on Thursday.

Medicaid-insured long-term stays will cost $328 per day and Medicare-insured short-term stays $689, both rates set by the state of Massachusetts, he said.

Although high at $219,000 a year for private payers, the rate is not out of place in today’s market, said Mr. McDonough, echoed by Mr. Coogan.

“The cost of care in a nursing home is pretty much the same everywhere,” Mr Coogan said.

“It’s a very expensive place to live no matter what. [insurance] track you are on.

Navigator Homes has committed to having no more than 50% privately paid patients, Mr McDonough told the commission.

“That’s how you make the economics of the project work,” he said.

Mr McDonough also said the average remaining lifespan of a patient in the planned Green House-style facility for Edgartown – with a limited number of residents in each of the multiple buildings and staff living nearby – is 5 .5 years, compared to 1.5 years for someone in a traditional nursing home.

Vineyard residents cannot legally be given preference in admissions to the facility, Mr. Coogan said.

If approved, McDonough said, the project is expected to take 18 months to two years.

Navigator Homes recently announced $44.5 million in loans for the US Department of Agriculture project.

Although the VMC public hearing is closed, the written record remains open until 5 p.m. on Nov. 3, followed by panel deliberations at a later date.