Focus was on traffic at first MVC Stop & Shop public hearing

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) began its formal review of Stop & Shop Company’s plans to expand its Vineyard Haven location at a well-attended public hearing held at the Tisbury Senior Center. Traffic was the focus of many of those who spoke at the July 11 hearing.

Stop & Shop proposes to consolidate three abutting properties and remove the existing buildings to make room for a new, two-story, 23,800-square-foot market, nearly doubling the size of the current supermarket. The building would include a 43-spot parking lot in an enclosed area on the ground level and a loading area at the rear, fronting on the town parking lot.

Many of the concerns expressed Thursday focused on how the expansion would affect the mercilessly congested Five Corners intersection, parking, and traffic flow. Members of the town historic commission expressed concern about a house located at 15 Cromwell Lane they consider of historic value.

The building site includes the block of land that houses the present grocery store, the space at the rear previously leased to Midnight Farm and the adjacent former Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant, as well as the 15 Cromwell Lane building.

The town of Tisbury referred the project to the MVC for review as a development of regional impact (DRI). On July 11, MVC staff member and DRI coordinator Paul Foley gave an overview of the project. He was followed by members of the Stop & Shop team.

Randy Hart, director of transportation planning and engineering for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB), presented the MVC with a traffic study he completed on behalf of the Stop & Shop.

Mr. Hart said the study included a total of eight intersections and looked at two specific peak hour periods, the weekday evening peak hour and the Saturday midday peak hour. “That’s the time when traffic is associated with the site, coupled with traffic already on the roads, is at its most critical level,” he said.

“We anticipate the project will generate an additional 144 trips to the area over a 60-minute period,” Mr. Hart said.

Mr. Hart said he performed a fairly technical traffic study, known as an “intersectional operational analysis,” based on a grading system A through F.

“As you can imagine, the Five Corners falls well within the F range,” Mr. Hart said.

Tisbury lawyer and former selectman Geoghan Coogan, a local representative for the Stop & Shop project, spoke to the benefits. “This project before you, no doubt about it, is bigger than what’s there right now,” Mr. Coogan said.

“When you come off the boat right now, you walk as fast as you can by it. Because it’s run down, it’s an eyesore and it’s nothing that’s inviting to the town of Tisbury.”

“We do understand it’s a big building,” Mr. Coogan continued. “We do understand it’s going to have an impact on Five Corners, but we also think there are many positive impacts. This is a store that Tisbury needs. We’re following what the Island plan is asking for.”

MVC focused on traffic

Douglas Sederholm of Chilmark was one of several commissioners with questions about traffic at the Five Corners. “I think that most of the people in this room know through anecdotal experience that there are times when traffic is backed up from Five Corners to over the bridge,” he said. “And backed up from Five Corners to the Black Dog Bakery. And you’re saying that you’re only going to add about five percent to that?”

“Actually the five percent I’m referring to is right at the Five Corners intersection,” Mr. Hart replied.

“How does it affect those backups to Cronig’s and to the drawbridge?” Mr. Sederholm asked.

“Exactly how it’s affected, I couldn’t tell you,” Mr. Hart said. “Is it going to increase volume by a vehicle or two? Yeah, it will, there’s no question about it. But I don’t think it’s substantially more than that, given the level of change that we’re anticipating.”

Public chimes in

Tisbury planning board co-chairman Tony Peak spoke on behalf of the board.

“The planning board has reviewed the current plans and proposals of the applicant, and we have a number of reservations and concerns,” he said. “We feel that these plans have been developed without sufficient consideration of the context of the surrounding area. The planning board has been consistent in this proposal and statements of principle with regard to an integrated approach to the circulation of all modes of traffic through and around the town parking lot, and with the utility of this very limited resource for the entire downtown business district.”

Vineyard Haven resident and Williams Street historic district commission board member Judy Federowicz said, “There’s something we really need to think about in terms of protecting the quality of the town. These kinds of mom and pops get absorbed by these box stores. Now, I know it’s not a Walmart here, but do we need that large of a grocery store? We do need a grocery store, but do we need one of this volume? I really don’t know that we do.”

Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority director Angie Grant said, “I think we need to have some more dialogue about the flow and the impact on the existing transit system. There need to be more details on the transportation demand management plan that they presented as well.”

The commissioners heard from several people who said a replacement for the well worn building is needed.

Mary McCormick read a letter on behalf of Martha’s Vineyard Museum executive director David Nathans. “I’m writing to express my support for Stop & Shop as a responsible corporate citizen,” Mr. Nathans said. “The company is a caring Island partner and deeply involved in community issues. Their proposal for a new store in Vineyard Haven will serve the community well, and I urge you to give careful consideration to this project. It is needed in Vineyard Haven and will help revitalize the area. My hope is that the project is approved in time for the new store to open next summer.”

“I feel that a new Stop & Shop would cater to everybody’s needs, as far as the workers and the people that shop there,” said Oak Bluffs resident Jennifer Turf. “Everybody’s saying that the new building is an eyesore, that it’s really big, but as soon as you get off the ferry everything in that part of town looks run down. I think it’s a great project.”