The us and them boundary apparent in bowling alley debate


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.”