Nothing good about it

Nothing good about it

by -

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.

Katherine Scott

Vineyard Haven


  1. “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”?

    Read the propane story. You should substitute your STOP AND SHOP for Amerigas, and the Shell gas station.

    “A good corporate citizen should fit in with the scale of its surroundings, not unilaterally change the scale”? Fed Ex doesn’t use smaller trucks nor does UPS and our roads are scaled smaller than off island.

    “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”? You call them a big box store in one sentence then compare them to a teenager? I’m lost in your logic and your parenting skills shouldn’t be compared to any one else’s on the island. Stop speaking for all 23 neighbors. They all got notice of public hearings and it’s a two way street. They can reach out and speak their minds I am sure they don’t need or want you doing it for them.

  2. A first step towards reducing traffic would be fewer boat trips and smaller boats at the SSA. When that fully-loaded behemoth called the island home empties out at VH during the summer, the traffic on Beach and State Roads and Main Streets grinds to a halt. I say expand Stop and Shop and run fewer, smaller boats.

    People off-island consider Stop and Shop expensive. When you compare it to Cronigs, they are a bargain.

    1. If you start reducing the size of the boats you probably increase the cost and/or lower the number of vehicles and people coming over. Some may wish that, but it could have a detrimental effect on many businesses and the ability of people to rent their homes. If the rental market slips, so do property values and then tax revenues.
      I’m not saying what you’re suggesting is bad, but it would potentially bring about issues.
      We could also build a bridge or tunnel as that would allow for much more even traffic flow. Wouldn’t that be fun?

    1. I think she’s against it, I can’t tell, she uses really large words for me.

      Just think of the positive she could contribute to this dialogue if it wasn’t such a negative rant against large corporations. I bet her enthusiasm would benefit the community in positive ways with great ideas for all to think about and make constructive changes. I tune out on rants and bash corporate america speak.

  3. Isn’t Stop & Shop proposing additional parking in their plan? I thought the first level was going to be a parking garage?

    Grocery stores are considered anchor type stores. They attract shoppers and all of the surrounding businesses generally benefit from this effect. They also provide a necessary service for residents in the area. The same can’t really be said for the tourist-trap shops that are shuttered at least six months a year and sell overpriced souvenirs/T-Shirts/Junk food when they’re open.

    I also can’t believe anyone would say that part of the street would be made uglier than it already is. I’m not sure what views the new design is going to block.

    The traffic problem at five-corners has almost nothing to do with any of the stores in that area. It’s all about the ferry. If the ferry dock had been placed along Beach Road things would be much better. Yes, it would probably still require someone directing traffic, or ::gasp:: a traffic light, but cars would be able to exit in two different directions without being piled up on Water St. If that docks can’t be moved then traffic on Water Street and at Five Coners is going to be a problem as long as ferries are arriving here full of cars. Of course, if we keep allowing abandoned buildings, litter-filled vacant lots and run-down commercial shops around the Island that traffic may become less and less of an issue.

    By the way, we did check the prices. On average Stop & Shop is between 20% – 30% cheaper than Cronig’s on similar items (Reliable is generally competitive) and the prices at the Vineyard Stop & Shops is almost always the exact same as charged by Stop & Shops on the Cape. The sale prices are exactly the same. It is the only supermarket on the Island (with the possible exception of Reliable) where a family can shop and maintain any semblance of a budget. How important is that? Well, about 35% of the students at our Island schools are on the Free and Reduced Lunch program.

    Let’s work with Stop & Shop to create a nice store that services the year-round people that live on the Island as well as our seasonal visitors. They’ve obviously shown a willingness to work with the MVC and have made a lot of changes. Let’s not just try and delay and stop a project because we’re afraid of change of any sorts because the alternative is what we’re seeing all over the Island…rundown/abandoned properties.

  4. I would love to have more Stop and Shops on the island with their good prices, cleanliness and good range of products. Ms. Scott apparently believes they do not have to go through a litany of regulations and permits and licenses before they are allowed to operate and that they are not onerous. Does Ms. Scott ever drive around the island and see what a dump it really is, where people are allowed to put out their trash and sign it with a FREE card. Does she see abandoned cars and boats and junk in back and front yards. Does she see the mess that the boat builder visits upon us or the skunks and raccoons who scan the garbage outside of local stores downtown at 4am in the morning. Does she know that building costs more per square foot on MV than it does in Falmouth for all manner of reasons? Does she think Sand S shareholders are all millionaires or normal people trying to get a return on their investment. Does she not know that biggest traffic jammer(can one say that?) is the Steam ship Authority who docks at that area? Does she ever visit Nantucket and see how everything is neat and clean and tidy and they enforce zoning laws. Has she stood outside of the Post Office and the sidewalk to Cumberland and witnessed the filth. Give me 10 Sand S stores with their citizenship in exchange for 10 morose tattooed indigents with leashed pit bulls and no jobs who ply our children with drugs.

    1. Perhaps Ms. Scott also forgets that the SSA promissed on stacks of Bibles (and Korans, if handy) that when the new slip was built about 30 years ago, that it was ONLY for emergency purposes and not to routinely dock two loaded ferries at a time. If traffic and overcrowding in Vineyard Haven are the issues for Ms. Scott, I suggest she focus on reducing those at the source. To tweak the key line of Field of Dreams, “If you don’t bring them, they can’t come.”

  5. Gee Katherine for someone who seems to know a lot you don’t seem to make a lot of sense. The answer to every question you pose is that S&S should spend more. They are simply a grocery store, it’s not their job to fix all that wrong with the (mv) world. I don’t live at 5 corners but hope that those that do are not of the same mind as to believe one business should be held accountable to fix everything. In short, working together requires an open mind on both sides.