The us and them boundary apparent in bowling alley debate

The us and them boundary apparent in bowling alley debate

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Diane Streett, a judge from Delaware and an abutter to Sam Dunn’s bowling alley project, retained Ellen Kaplan of Kaplan & Nichols of Edgartown to spearhead opposition to the development, which was approved last week by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). Ms. Streett was joined by nine other abutters in opposition.

In a letter to the MVC on March 2, Judge Streett wrote, “Primarily year-round residents have, in meetings and online, denigrated the concerns of those who oppose the bowling alley — perhaps forgetting that abutters are just like them. Their response to the democratic process is unpatriotic (seasonal residents pay taxes and are entitled to representation) and fiscally unsound (seasonal residents and tourists spend millions of dollars on the Island)…Martha’s Vineyard is a community that abutters, seasonal residents, and tourists have supported, loved, and contributed to. But many Vineyarders have turned around, mocked us, and slapped us in the face.”

Mr. Dunn has encountered strenuous opposition from a group of abutters since he made a presentation at an informal gathering on January 6.  After that meeting, Mr. Dunn flipped the building on the site plan to accommodate concerns about loud noise coming from the parking lot. In the process, he cut the number of lanes from 12 to 10.

“He did that on his own volition,” MVC chairman Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs said at the Oak Bluffs selectmen’s meeting on March 4. “We were quite surprised when he came back with that change.”

At the February 6 hearing, Mr. Dunn presented a petition, begun by a grassroots movement, with more than 300 signatures of people in favor of the bowling alley/entertainment center. When the final vote occurred on March 6, there were just under 1,000 signatures on the petition.

Mr. Dunn told the commission that virtually all of the letters of objection registered at the MVC were either visitors or seasonal residents, whereas virtually all of the signatures on the petition were year-round residents.

During the proceedings, MVC commissioners repeatedly stated that concerns of seasonal residents were equally important to the concerns of year-round residents, since both pay taxes year-round. DRI administrator Paul Foley of the MVC added in a phone call with The Times that, given that the mission of the MVC to is preserve the character of the Island in the long term, “decisions are not a popularity contest.”

Oak Bluffs selectman Gail Barmakian, speaking on her own behalf at the February 20 hearing, expressed strong support for the seasonal residents, and urged that year-round Islanders not discriminate against what she said was vital population in the Oak Bluffs community.

Opposing abutters noted that many of the people who signed the petition were not residents of Oak Bluffs. In fact, the petition had no signatures from abutters.

Not all the abutters to the project are seasonal residents, and not all have been opponents. Year-round resident Kim Nye of Oak Bluffs wrote in a letter to The Times on March 5, “As the abutter most directly impacted by the proposed bowling alley, bar, and restaurant on Uncas Avenue, I am in full support of every aspect of the project designed by Sam Dunn…For 15 years, I have been directly exposed to dilapidated and rotting buildings, where I have witnessed and reported squatting, drug running, prostitution, graffiti, garbage, dumped cars, fire hazard, etc.

“I applaud the town of Oak Bluffs for approving the project in its B-1 district. It is a wise business decision that will inject much needed energy into the year-round community. This is an opportunity for the town. Downtown Oak Bluffs is the perfect place for a venue that is a year-round business with amusement that accommodates all generations. I look forward to the bowling alley being my neighbor. It is a win-win for Oak Bluffs.”


  1. I don’t get why the same project can’t be somewhere else or truly in downtown of Oak Bluffs. It just seems sooo out of place. Why not put it in Edgartown?

    1. Where in Edgartown? It has to be in a commercial district. And before anyone says “Airport Business Park” they need to read the business park regulations.

        1. So, right across from the only general release movie theater on the Island. That wouldn’t be bad, but I don’t believe that site is big enough.

    2. Because the property that Mr. Dunn wanted was in a commercial district in Oak Bluffs. If he thought it was out of place he probably wouldn’t be making the huge investment that is planned.

  2. I would just love to see the hoopla if someone planned a shelter for drunks, drug addicts and bums. It’s good business, so someone should look into it. Get the right legal framework, and zoning is not a problem. And Deval Patrick his handing out many millions of taxpayer money to the right players.

    1. A pretty good percentage of the people you mention above are veterans you know.
      They were well intentioned healthy young men and women that came back from an unnecessary war with severe trauma from the horrors of war.
      You can callously dismiss them, and think that the government should let them starve or freeze to death on the streets in winter.
      Luckily for them, there are people who care, and the economy is doing well enough, despite the horrific cost of those wars, that we can throw them crumbs.

  3. Ms. Streett has owned her property for 20 years. I believe this property has been mostly abandoned during this time though several businesses have tried and failed in the spot. I can’t imagine an intelligent woman such as herself would not know that a commercially zoned property could be developed at any time. It would be like buying next to an airport because you didn’t witness any planes flying in while you were there and then complaining when one does fly in. The argument is weak in my opinion and based on her hope that no one would ever do anything in the spot.

  4. No, summer people, nice as you may be, you are not just like us. We work here and we’re here in the winter. This is not a theme park where we come to recharge and amuse ourselves. It’s home. I’ve missed Spinnaker Lanes ever since it closed. It brought together people of all ages, men and women from all walks of island life. Sam Dunn’s bowling alley isn’t just win-win for Oak Bluffs. It’s win-win for year-round Martha’s Vineyard.

    1. I have been a tourist (fisherman), seasonal resident (well, derby resident) and now live here full time with my family. I can tell you that what I have always loved about the Vineyard was that it was a real place, with a real community of people living here. There are plenty of “Disney-like” places to visit that survive solely to fill resorts, sell T-Shirts or pricey Lightship Baskets (oops!). By continuing to keep the Vineyard a year-round community we make this place special in a way that no one or company can really create.

      We shouldn’t have animosity towards the tourists and seasonal residents though, because they’re the reason we have low property taxes, great schools, libraries, and for homeowners property values that might some day make for a reasonable retirement. I know, it’s no fun here in August when the closest open parking spot is on Nomans Land Island and the Stop & Shop looks like a WalMart on Black Friday, but that’s part of living here and make us appreciate October all the more.

      We need to strike a balance that’s based on welcoming people to our home and keeping our home in a way that is welcoming.

      Now, who’s going to pick up the first 7 – 10 split at the new lanes?

      1. A bit of advice for Judge Streett. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Get yourself a pair of bowling shoes (the rentals are really quite disgusting) and practice your game.

        It would be pure poetry if Judge Streett nailed the first 7-10 split.

      2. Ken, we do need to strike a balance, so let me mention that the seasonal economy is also the reason we have an “affordability gap” that won’t quit, between what island jobs pay and what island housing costs. Plenty of onetime Vineyard working people can’t take advantage of those lovely (relatively) low property taxes, great schools, etc., because they’ve left in search of housing they can afford and jobs that pay enough to raise a family on. The rising property values that make your retirement possible also make it impossible for island-born-and-raised young people to buy or rent houses — and they’re the future bedrock of this community. August traffic is so *not* the most serious problem facing Martha’s Vineyard. I wish it were.

        1. Susanna, you’re absolutely right August traffic is by no means the most serious problem here. I don’t believe that I ever made an assertion that it was.

          There are a number of reasons property values have skyrocketed here over the past 30+ years and while demand is certainly the driving force, a few of the other reasons are: (I’m not nearly smart enough to list all of them and have probably missed some of greater importance)
          Zoning laws (large lots and low density mandates),
          The land bank (every real estate transaction on this island contributes to their being less available land for sale),
          Longtime residents, or their heirs, selling off all or part of their land.
          Please don’t think I’m labeling any of those as a negative act or work of evil, I’m not…just the opposite is true.

          I would also suggest that there are many, many places where young people can’t find employment which allows them to buy or rent housing where they were raised. Many young people grow up with the assumption that when they reach adulthood they will start at the same standard of living as their parents. The reality is that’s only the case if the parents ensure it.

          The bedrock of a community are the people that work hard and strive to be there. Those are also often the people that will appreciate what they have worked for and where they live.

          I’d be interested in your thoughts on how we can sustain a year-round community here. One that values the Island and their fellow residents. To me, the best hope of that is to keep working to keep Martha’s Vineyard as a place where people want to live and raise their families and then hopefully contribute to the rest of the community. Maybe we, as full-time residents, can also strive to take even better care of each other

          1. Short version? I’m not sure a year-round community can be sustained here. Three of community’s most important ingredients are threatened. (1) Need. The interdependence on which community is based on need, survival, self-interest, whatever you want to call it. Once everybody can afford to buy whatever they need, this gets weaker. (2) Shared experience. These experiences include growing up and going to school together, working the same jobs, and moving twice a year. (3) Continuity. That’s why it matters that so many young people are leaving to raise families elsewhere, at the same time that oldtimers are dying off and the number of incomers who see the Vineyard as some kind of refuge from the “real world” is increasing. For the long version, see my blog “From the Seasonally Occupied Territories.” I’ve been trying to understand what’s going on here for a long time.

          2. Susanna, First, I don’t think the problems you speak are solely a problem of seasonally occupied area. For instance, I grew up in Princeton, NJ. hardly an Island (geographically, at least), and by no means a seasonal destination. However, when I moved out of my parents home I had no way of finding a job and/or living space that I could afford in the town. I think any place that people find desirable for any of a variety of reasons face similar issues.

            I will check out your blog and save the rest of my comments for that site (if it’s possible) rather than put the other readers here into a coma.

    2. Bravo Ms Susanna!
      We of the year round population should have a little of the island life ( as it used to be ) without some self important board, association or anointed overseers to protect us from ourselves, especially when we are carousing around those bowling balls and god forbid a bottle of beer!!!!