To the Editor:
Thank you, Nis Kildegaard, for shining a bright light on the underlying assumptions of the business plan of corporate giants such as Ahold-Stop & Shop in Soundings: Stop and Think, in the December 31 MV Times. It provides a welcome challenge to the tranquil assessment [Editorial: A good plan, even a generous one November 21]: “This is a good plan, even a generous plan, by a conscientious owner.” Really? Corporations exist to make money for their shareholders, generally by beating out the competition and establishing monopolies. They addle our minds bleating about their good corporate citizenship.
However good corporate citizenship may be defined in a fantasy or different world, I don’t think we have an exemplar here in the Ahold-S&S proposal for, yes, a big-box store dominating the municipal parking lot and the waterfront.
A good corporate citizen surely is one that checks with the town’s emergency services before presenting a proposal that cuts off an indispensable access way for emergency vehicles, wasting a huge amount of everyone’s time with said proposal. And even comes up with excuses as to why this is actually a good idea: to slow down the speeding traffic on Norton Lane by forcing all of the traffic to detour through the whole parking lot. Please. (Ever heard of speed bumps?)
A good corporate citizen does not cavalierly trivialize the very real traffic impacts that must inevitably follow from the successful operation of a much larger store, including vitiation of the functioning of the VTA, the most important existing solution to long-term reduction of traffic and congestion locally and Island-wide.
A good corporate citizen is not totally and unreasonably intransigent concerning the location of the one feature of its plan that has the greatest impact on the neighborhood and the municipal parking lot: the trailer bays.
A good corporate citizen is one that provides decent full-time positions and benefits and opportunities for training and advancement. Mr. Kildegaard covered that, and the increased pressure on affordable housing.
A good corporate citizen surely does not take advantage of our Island location to squeeze more per-foot profits out of this store than any other in their chain. If you think Ahold-S&S is doing shoppers a big favor with its prices, I suggest that you check out the prices in the Falmouth S&S of the very same items you purchase here — no way accounted for by freight costs.
A good corporate citizen surely is one that respects its neighbors and their quality of life. Contra a recent published assertion, quite a few people make their homes in the immediate neighborhood of the S&S: currently at least 23, including a senior citizen who cares for a handicapped adult son and runs a small antique business, but not including those who will live in the new affordable housing and in other Main Street apartments that overlook the site. (I believe some people also live residentially in the Mansion House.) The Ahold-S&S box store will bring to these residents the gift of noise and fumes from parking garage and other ventilators; fumes, noise, and inconvenience from increased traffic in the whole Five Corners vicinity and more difficult access to their own parking places; a huge trailer bay and possibly ventilators to cut off the views from above and the sky from below and divert traffic into Cromwell Lane when the trailers are maneuvering; the loss of current green islands, to make way for the trailer bays. These neighbors basically will find themselves living in the noisy back area of a big-box store. No Ahold-S&S rep that I know of has deigned to exchange a word with any of these residents.
A good corporate citizen surely is one that makes its existing premises as attractive as it possibly can before expecting to get permission to redo the whole area, including municipal property. I mean, wouldn’t you tell your teenager that before she is allowed to redecorate the house, she must clean up her room? If what is there now looks terrible, as everyone seems to agree, it’s mainly S&S’s own lookout. They have owned the store for six or seven years and they could have spruced up their other buildings and the sidewalks in front of them before the 2013 tourist season. A TV makeover crew could improve the look of the whole place 100 percent in one weekend.
A good corporate citizen should fit in with the scale of its surroundings, not unilaterally change the scale. Ahold-S&S could have held a series of focus groups and open forums to invite input from citizens, groups, and public officials to develop an appropriate proposal. Their accommodations are meaningless tweakings. Instead, it is hogging the sandbox and insisting that the whole sandbox be redesigned to add a notch to the corporate citizen’s conversion to USA big box format scorecard.
A good corporate citizen should not create conflict to achieve its goals.
To sum up the detriments attendant on Ahold-S&S’s DRI before the MVC: increased traffic at Five Corners and throughout waterfront area and Island-wide impediments to the functioning of the VTA; air and noise pollution for residents and visitors; hogging of parking needed by other Vineyard Haven businesses and the public; a questionable process; uglification of both street views and shoreline waterfront views with an outsize building; elimination of current small islands of green in the neighborhood; loss of sunlight for most of parking lot; impacts on existing business of an abutter; disruptions that reduce quality of life for the neighborhood and others both during construction and beyond.
In short, aside from wider supermarket aisles, I fail to see a single benefit of the current Ahold-S&S expansion plan to the Island, the town, and the neighborhood.