To the Editor:
Regarding Stop & Shop’s proposal for an expanded supermarket and parking garage on Water Street in Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Mark London has put together a list of 27 questions that Stop & Shop needs to respond to. These questions relate to some very basic issues that surround this project, such as flood plain issues.
The S&S team has not yet produced answers to these questions. S&S’s application is incomplete. The MVC has the power to suspend hearings until the application is complete. Nevertheless, at the urging of Geoghan Coogan, Mark London scheduled a continuation of the public hearing for August 29. Subsequently, Stop & Shop asked for a postponement of the public hearing, until September or October.
I urge Stop & Shop to use this time to generate and provide the information requested by the MVC and also to explore other less invasive plans that are customized to the site, the town, and the Island.
I have little doubt that after all of the questions have been adequately responded to, as required by law, certain things will be even clearer than they already are now to those who have been following the process.
This project is way too big. Its impacts are too far reaching in terms of traffic, visual impact, air quality, noise, and effects on other businesses. Its economic impacts on the town could be negative.
The four-season economic base is inadequate for a 23,500-square-foot store that sells only groceries. S&S might expand its offering to include a lot of general merchandise that will knock the ground out from under other local businesses. If S&S and Ahold [its corporate parent]cannot make ends meet, they might find themselves obliged to shutter the store, possibly to sell it. The town may be left with an ugly white elephant on its doorstep, in addition to a messed-up parking lot, no town comfort station, a traffic configuration that creates problems for the VTA and the SSA, and congestion on Main Street, Woodlawn Avenue, William Street, and elsewhere.
Let’s reconceive this expansion at a reasonable scope. Put the trailer bay somewhere near Water Street. Leave Norton Lane open. There are a lot of creative ideas out there for an appropriate store expansion that genuinely improves the appearance of the whole area, allows traffic to circulate, and encourages foot traffic between Main Street and the waterfront. Many very nice grocery stores, such as Trader Joe’s, are 8,000 square feet.
A meeting of the MVC’s Land Use Committee, at which the Stop & Shop issues will be discussed, is scheduled for August 26, at 5 p.m. (open to the public but not for public comments).