Tisbury selectmen, public review new parking lot redesign

Tisbury selectmen, public review new parking lot redesign

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A proposed redesign of the Water Street parking lot by consultants Vanasse Hangen Brustlin features more greenery and wider parking aisles and no restroom. — Illustration by Vanasse Hangen B

Six years after the latest revision, Tisbury is considering a new design of the town’s downtown parking lot, sandwiched in between the Stop and Shop and police department. More vegetation, wider lanes, and safer access for bicyclists and pedestrians are the key elements mentioned most in public discussions of the possible redo of the Water Street lot, during a meeting of the Tisbury selectmen Tuesday.

Opinions split sharply over whether to keep or remove the town’s public restrooms, an element that affects the number and arrangement of parking spaces. No decision was made and the parking configuration will be the subject of further meetings and public hearings.

Selectman chairman Jeff Kristal refereed the spirited debate. About 25 people attended. At the start, Mr. Kristal said he would limit the discussion to one hour and the speakers’ comments to two minutes each.

Possible redesign of the town owned parking lot surfaced during discussions about the Stop & Shop company’s proposal to expand its Vineyard Haven store, now mired in Martha’s Vineyard Commission review.

Stop & Shop wants to consolidate three abutting properties and build a new two-story market that would include a new parking spaces for 41 vehicles in an enclosed area on the ground level.

Although the town parking lot is not included in the MVC application, Stop & Shop has agreed to include its redesign and foot the bill as part of the project. The parking lot, reconfigured in 2007 based on a drawing by planning board co-chairman Henry Stephenson, has been the subject of criticism for the tight turning radiuses and confusing traffic patterns.

Last October, the selectmen established a nine-member town parking lot planning and design committee that includes town administrator Jay Grande, Vineyard Transit Authority administrator Angie Grant, Mr. Stephenson, finance and advisory committee member Mary Ellen Larsen, Stop & Shop representative Randy Hart, and four at large members, Alan Bresnicki, Robert Fuller, Polly Brown, and Hyung Lee. Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Mark London also participates as an observer.

In a recap of the committee’s efforts, Mr. Grande said Tuesday’s discussion was the culmination of a months long process intended to remedy deficiencies in the existing parking lot’s layout and to come up with a plan and design to address them.

Tisbury planning board co-chairman Henry Stephenson, center, takes a look at a Water Street parking lot illustration with Brian Byrne. Parking lot committee member Hyung Lee is in the background.
Tisbury planning board co-chairman Henry Stephenson, center, takes a look at a Water Street parking lot illustration with Brian Byrne. Parking lot committee member Hyung Lee is in the background.

Mr. Stephenson and Mr. London summarized concepts that had found general agreement among the committee. They presented three graphic illustrations, one by Mr. London, one by Mr. Stevenson, and one created by Stop & Shop traffic consultants Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB) at no charge to the town.

Mr. Grande told the selectmen that of the three concepts, he thought VHB’s best represents the committee’s design objectives. All three concepts include three aisles of parking, more vegetation and trees between aisles, and a shared use path on the west side of the parking lot. Parking spaces would be straight in, rather than angled as they are now, and space within the parking aisles increased.

The current lot has 63 parking spaces. The VHB plan has 68 parking spaces. Mr. London said his plan is “about 65 spaces.” Mr. Stevenson’s plan shows 64 spaces.

Mr. London said one of the lot’s critical elements is the construction of 10-foot shared use paths for bicyclists and pedestrians on the north and west sides of the lot, in keeping with a master plan agreed on by the town.

Opinions were mixed regarding Mr. Grande’s endorsement of the VHB design.

Mr. Lee, a committee member and architect, said he thought Mr. London’s and Mr. Stephenson’s concepts were more in keeping with the committee’s consensus, which was to create a design with a public path and public space.

Ms. Grant said she wanted the exit from the lot nearest the store to be decreased from two car widths to one, to eliminate having two cars turning left or right from the lot, which sometimes blocks traffic headed to Five Corners.

“I don’t feel the VTA’s needs were overly accommodated in this process,” she said.

Harold Chapdelaine, chairman of the Tisbury historical commission, said the real thought behind the design should be how to support Main Street businesses and make the connection from the wharf up to Main Street.

“Because at the end of day, do we not want commerce that walks off that boat to spend its dollar on Main Street, Vineyard Haven, hopefully before it spends it, no offense intended, in Oak Bluffs or Edgartown?” he asked. “So we have to be visionaries as we work through this process and make sure we’re not one-dimensional and just addressing the needs associated with Stop & Shop.”

A possible layout plan by Vanasse Hangen Brustlin shows how the parking spaces would be configured.
A possible layout plan by Vanasse Hangen Brustlin shows how the parking spaces would be configured.

Not much comfort

Mr. Grande said although the committee agreed on many of the design objectives, members were most divided on what to do with the comfort station area.

Stop & Shop has offered to include public restrooms that would be accessible from the building’s exterior off the parking lot and the VHB design does not include the comfort station.

Mr. Stephenson removed the comfort station from the lot in his drawing, with the idea that public restrooms would be relocated in the former ambulance bay of the police station. Currently, it has has a small restroom upstairs off the lobby. Mr. London did not include the comfort station in his drawing, but said space for a seating area at the west end of the lot could accommodate one in the future, if needed.

“A public comfort station is crucial to the town,” Tisbury resident Dawn Bellante said. “It should not be in a private building.”

“We ought to offer amenities somewhere, as a tourist town,” selectman Tristan Israel agreed. “I want to see the public restrooms; that’s something I feel strongly about.”

Selectman Jon Snyder took exception. “We have public restrooms at the Steamship Authority, public restrooms in the police department now, and we have public restrooms being offered in Stop & Shop. I don’t know that we need another structure.”

Assuring all present that they were mindful of history’s lessons, Mr. Kristal said, “I want to assure you that we want a plan that doesn’t perpetuate the planning mistakes that were implemented in the past.”

In concluding the discussion at 8 pm, Mr. Kristal said he thought the committee was very close to reaching a consensus on all of the issues. The selectmen voted to approve his recommendation that the parking lot committee gather for two more meetings.


  1. Im glad that effort was made to think about bicyclists, but where is the bike rack? Pretty please with a cherry on top, can it be a well thought out spot?!? Not just put somewhere as an afterthought( eg: where it is now, or between rows of cars, or where the snowplow will cover it in winter) Thank You

    1. If there is enough snow for plows to cover the bike rack, how can you ride a bike to begin with?

      1. If the bike paths are plowed we can make it through. Edgartown has been great in getting the paths plowed soon after the roads. I appreciate it. Bike paths are what Vineyard Haven lacks, maybe someday they will put them in.Get money from the state like the roundabout, it would be well worth it.

      2. Just cause its snowing(or raining or whatever) doesn’t mean I don’t need to eat. Also, the snow piles can last for weeks. I just dress accordingly and let some air out of my tires to create a bigger contact area. Besides that, its just like driving in snow: Lights on & go REALLY slow on corners. Really only in danger of falling if I catch a rut. Then on the way home, the groceries act like sand bags in the back of a pickup, weighing down the rear wheel.

      3. The bicycle storage IN PUBLIC PARKING LOT was proposed right at the current Public Restroom area, away from the Water Street traffic,, when the whole area becomes “widened Pedestrian Paradise/middle ground that connects Water Front and Main Street visibly”

        But, Mr. Grande had disbanded the parking lot committee, on Jan 15, and, presented VHB’s weird 4-aisle style parking lot, right before MVC public hearing on Jan 22, that will slash the suggested public space.

        NO Public Interest or Safety are intended in VHB’s layout.

        Their drawing(VHB) clearly shows they are not considerate of the public space in Restroom area (insisted removing it!) and no Pedestrian Path along Menemsha Blue side(north side of the lot) currently.

        Their intention I read is to draw L-shape trespassing route(Water street entrance-police station-by removing the restroom-to put the truck in their loading bay-to shape the tree islands to make the rest of the public parking lot, looking like Stop & Shop’s private lot, just like many of you wrongly perceived)

        —In this way they don’t have to pay a lot to lease the parking lot spaces, or buy the lot somewhere for several millions. And, the town officials appear to give this public space away for Stop & Shop’s profit-making.

        —I think the Town residents should make the profit, instead. But, the town officials are taking side with Stop & Shop openly.

        The public restroom, Mr. Grande says, has to be removed because it is an eyesore. (for Stop & Shop).

        For What reason? The public asked during the meeting. NO justifiable answers, but silence!

        —I really wonder whether he forgot he is hired as a town administrator, not a Stop & Shop’s negotiator, against the public interest. His timing of the arrival last year and Stop & Shop’s contact to Town Selectmen are strangely coincidental, if you follow the meetings and news articles.

        And none of this was depicted in MV Times articles all along. Go figures.

    2. no, Bicyclists were not discussed at Parking Lot Committee conclusively. But, the way it goes, it might be addressed as part of SUP (Shared Use Path) But not all the members of the committee are familiar with the importance of it, or it is something some think lightly of, at the moment.

      —I personally think on the pedestrian path Bicycles should be WALKED at all times, Because different speeds make the other movements quite unsafe.

      Stop & Shop ridiculously put the Bicycle storage rack, inside their garage building, not to give any setback outdoor space for such public space for their shoppers. Why criticising them now?

      In their plans, the bicyclists will have to either enter the garage with the competing cars, against one-way car flow, to get to the bike storage area(the location will be parallel of Water street inside the garage) or through the double swing doors to get to the same inside-the-garage spot.,

      And, the rack itself will be blocking the general pedestrian shoppers and disabled wheel chair access into the garage or vice versa.

      Including the elevator hall with the main staircase, that will only allow two carts to be allowed, and lots of hazard to walk down on the staircase with two-handfull of shopping bags.

      It will be also very cramped and overcrowded with the narrow checkout corridors..

      Go to MVC website to find the plans. MVS Slide show, (Nov 7th, page 40, page 53) to check where the shoppers’ entrances are located, and where the loading bay for the speeding truck will be into the deep along Norton Lane, far away from Water Street.


  2. Is there a shopping cart “collection” area being designated in the parking lot? Might be worth a look. I could see the lovely grass islands becoming cart depositories. Thanks

    1. NO. The parking lot is NOT Stop & Shop’s and the cart cannot be left at the public parking lots. The town has been lazy to ticket the vendor, although their easement do not allow Stop & Shop to use the public parking lot for

      direct use for example, carts, and overstayed tractor trailors. But, Stop & Shop ignored and block the significant length of Norton Lane at the moment.

      The wrong perception of the public parking lot as it it is for Stop & Shop is basically from idling Tisbury Town office or the police station. They should really ticket Stop & Shop, instead of taking side of the,

      Think of how much revenue Tisbury is missing out all these years, And, how about the view to the water front from Norton Lane, all blocked by the plastic fence(illegal) and the parking trucks?

      Regarding the Cart storage, it is ridiculously small in the entrance hall at Water street side, you will have to fight to get on the elevator with the cart, or you will have to carry a basket and walk up to 13-15ft high 2nd floor shopping floor in 4-5ft wide staircase.

      The space will be tighter than the current shabby one.

      1. Before we serve cheese to go with your whine, do this forum the courtesy of stating whether you are a member of the MVC, one with family ties to the MVC, a competitor of Stop & Shop, or someone with some other reason for wanting Water Street to remain a dump.

  3. Close the parking lot and put a BIG TOP up for all the clowns of this town and
    the M.V.C. to play in !!!!

    1. seriously they should do exactly that. One day id like to go to a town meeting and listen in on all the bullshit ways our town reps dismantle every good idea that come its way. For the sake of the “island” BFD ! Lets get a damn grocery store already.

  4. Why Is a city planner planning a rural parking lot? Did he not plan the mess in this lot last time! If you want a nursery for trees BUILD ONE ! Don’t take up needed space for parking.

  5. I’d like to clarify that the sketch I submitted is not a representation of my opinion or that of the MVC. It is the summary of the consensus of the Water Street Parking Lot Committee (of which I am not a member) at its January 8 meeting, after which it was disbanded. Henry Stephenson’s and the VHB’s plans were produced after that. The committee has now been reconstituted to work out the remaining issues and produce a consensus plan.

  6. I want to thank the M.V.Times for printing my posts. I lived on the island for 40 yrs,
    (I came with my dad in 1958) I am now a Maine resident ,but hate to see some of
    the things going on,this is one of them.

  7. Perhaps this parking plan could be adapted for use where the old Fire Station was? And if you want to welcome pedestrian traffic up to Main Street VH, reconfigure Union Street instead of putting more pressure on the 5 Corners End – there’s too many people dashing between cars as it is.

  8. I am disappointed that this article is NOT a true description of the meeting and what the public or the selectmen said.

    The images are provided by Stop & Shop, for their own corporate interest, and they were not produced by the Parking Lot Design Committee. There were two other images that closely represented the two meetings. And, somehow, MV Times only got these two images either from the town office or Stop & Shop. But, never put the actual public input-Design Committee’s sketches.

    And, other details were not depicts to give the actual discussion or its tones. And many details were incorrect. I wonder whether MV Times is sided with Stop & Shop for some reason, not to give any space to present the other totally different sketches by the public, when they could show TWO images of the same idea.

    Very suspicious!

  9. The new strategy of the overcrowded parking lot is to ‘decentralize/discourage” drivers into the already heavily crowded area. This has been the recommended model, unlike the general perception of keeping more parking spaces, in town. Adding more car spaces only aggravates the quality of the area, in the long run, more congestions, and more chaos.

    “Pedestrian-friendly” townscape is the most successful cases for the town development and business altogether.

    The cars don’t help!

    Separately, the trees, large ons (35ft wide) should be put in 3-4 spots in a large open space(our town parking lot),

    AND, in Stop &Shop-they are removing 30% green space of the soon-to-be merged 3 lots, and they don’t intend to put any trees! That is beyond being unfair. They are aggressively against Vineyard Haven Townscape.

    Why trees? Other than Eco-system?

    Shades, they cool the asphalts, and absorb unnecessary glare and heat reflected from cars. Also they muffle the noise. Give the directions for the pedestrians under the branches.

    Hardi Shrubs? 5~6ft or less

    filter the pollution, create the visual buffer space, the current ones are beaten, I suggest them raised. And put the grass with some self-watering features(water retention perhaps)

    Permeable pavers?

    We need to consider more permeable pavers when it is not for heavy trafficking. The fresh water retention for next generation should be considered, instead of run it off to the open water.

    But, for now, the town improvement can be only limited to

    1. Public Space on West Side

    2. Pedestrian Path that will link Water Street side visitor into Main street through 1. public space.

    In a nutshell,

    The town doesn’t need any endorsement of Stop & Shop’s layout, but we can improve our town experiences/perceptions with a very simple fix-up. Without changing the layout or reconfigure it at all.

    Town office only asked the public to consider reconfiguration to let Stop & Shop take all our public parking lot.