Stop & Shop addresses building size, at latest appearance before MVC

Intended to reduce the visual impact of the Vineyard Haven based Stop & Shop, architect Chuck Sullivan has reduced the second floor sales area by 250 square feet, as well as moved the facade 15 feet back on the Water Street side. — Illustration courtesy of MVC

Size and design were the big issues at the Tisbury Senior Center Thursday night, as Stop & Shop supermarket representatives pressed the case for their Vineyard Haven market expansion before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC).

The supermarket’s latest proposal would reduce the planned new building by 1,350 square feet and shift the market’s facade 15 feet back from the edge of Water Street. The changes, market representatives said, are intended to reduce the visual impact of the building.

“This is what we got,” Geoghan Coogan, the Tisbury attorney and former selectman representing Stop & Shop, said in his opening statement to commissioners. “When we left the hearing last time, commissioner (Doug) Sederholm’s comments really rang true to us. We needed to come back to you with a project that was what we could deliver. And that’s what we’ve done here.”

Supermarket officials want to consolidate three abutting properties and remove the existing buildings to make room for a new, two-story, 30,500-square-foot market, nearly doubling the size of the current store. The building would also include a 41-space parking lot in an enclosed 16,500-square-foot garage on the ground level and a loading area, fronting on the town parking lot.

In previous editions of the MVC hearing on the project, Stop & Shop has drawn sharp criticism from commissioners, town officials, and members of the general public about the overall size of the building.

Architect Chuck Sullivan presented the latest changes in design, including a slightly modified sales floor. Mr. Coogan said the building plans have been reduced by 15 percent since the supermarket company made its first presentation to the MVC, in March. He added that the building cannot get smaller than what his clients were presenting Thursday evening.

“Going any smaller than this doesn’t make any sense to Stop & Shop,” Mr. Coogan said. “And that’s not to say we’re not still open to design features. We listened and we broke up the building to make it look like separate buildings, and the general scope of the building, this is where we’re at, and we need to move forward with you. We understood that, we took that loud and clear, and that’s what we’re back here doing.”

MVC commissioner Lenny Jason raised some issues that hadn’t been addressed in the store’s latest proposal.

“We haven’t heard anything about the traffic, we haven’t heard anything about how many people are going to be unemployed while this is being built, we haven’t heard anything about the impact on the Steamship Authority and traffic. Nothing about the staging area or how its going to impact the rest of the Tisbury business?” Mr. Jason asked a clearly frustrated panel of commission members. As the public hearing process continues later this month, Stop & Shop said issues including traffic and transportation will be addressed.

Public chimes in

Tisbury planning board member Dan Seidman kicked off the public comments by applauding Stop & Shop’s efforts.

“To expect a grocery store to look like something other than a grocery store, I mean, you only have so much flexibility,” Mr. Seidman said. “I’m pretty sure you won’t find a grocery store that looks like the front of that [one] anywhere around the country.”

Henry Stephenson, co-chairman of the Tisbury planning board, posed some size-related questions to commissioners.

“My question would be, is this the proper model for a building meant to fit in a small historic village? Mr. Stephenson asked.

After reading some excerpts from Tisbury historic commission chairman Harold Chapdelaine, Vineyard Haven resident and Tisbury historic commission board member Judy Federowicz expressed her own concerns about the project.

“I think there’s a consensus in this room, none of us think the aesthetics look good,” Ms. Federowicz said. “It will look like a field house when you walk into the harbor.”

Mansion House co-owner Susan Goldstein said she is in favor of the new store.

“I think Stop & Shop has done a really good job,” Ms. Goldstein said. “Would I like it to be smaller, sure. But I don’t have the numbers to see if a smaller building would be financially viable. I hope they don’t walk away.”

Tisbury selectman Jeff Kristal said he’d like to see some action taken by the MVC. “I hope you don’t just continue to kick this can down the road,” Mr. Kristal said. “This is gorgeous, this is an investment into our community, and I hope that this discussion doesn’t keep on going.”

Thursday’s hearing is the fourth installment for Stop & Shop, leaving many commission members frustrated.

“I think, personally, we haven’t even gotten to the elephant in the room, which is traffic,” commissioner Linda Sibley said.

The elephant will be addressed when the public hearing convenes on Thursday, November 21, at the Tisbury Senior Center. Meanwhile, the Land Use Planning Committee (LUPC) will consider traffic related issues on Tuesday November 12.