Not the place for 10 apartments

Not the place for 10 apartments

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To the Editor:

This is a letter that I have written to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.  I would greatly appreciate your consideration in publishing it in the MV Times.  I believe this is an important subject that the public should be aware of and allowed to participate in a healthy discussion.

Recently I became aware of an application by Haven Road Realty Trust (Charles Hajjar) for a special permit to construct 10 apartments (total 20 bedrooms) as a second floor to two buildings in Post Office Square in Edgartown. My purpose in writing to you is to express my concern about this proposal.

I am an Edgartown resident with no financial interest in the project or the businesses in this area, and my home is not located next to, or near, the proposed project site.  My concerns about this project are simply based on what I feel is best for Edgartown, the Vineyard, and the residents and visitors to our special Island.

My feelings about this proposal can be summed up as right idea, wrong location. An excerpt from the proposal states that the “apartments are being created to provide year-round, stable housing.” I most certainly agree that this addresses a valid housing need of the Island.  Unfortunately, the chosen location for this project in Post Office Square is fraught with negative consequences.

The proposed location today is a high-density area adjacent to the intersection of two major Island roads. This Triangle area supports several major business complexes — Great Harbor Triangle, Mariners’ Landing, and Post Office Square.  The combined complexes offer an assortment of business establishments — U.S. Post Office, banks, and ATMs, pharmacy, hardware store, assorted food markets and restaurants, professional offices, and other providers of goods and services.

It is important to note that the nature of many of the businesses in the Post Office Square complex (i.e. Post Office, Bank/ATM, hardware store) involve high frequency customer transactions where the clientele visits the area frequently and briefly. The intention of the public is largely, I believe, to safely park, do one’s business, and leave within a short period of time. These activities would obviously be facilitated by ample parking and smooth traffic flow.

Unfortunately, the opposite condition exists today. Public demand for the goods and services in Post Office Square has grown over recent years and led to considerable congestion, parking shortages, and poor visibility of cars and pedestrians moving from all directions. Off season the situation is barely acceptable, and during the summer the condition is frequently dangerous. Adding 10 apartments to this already stressed business complex will only amplify the poor conditions that exist today.

The rental apartment proposal attempts to accommodate the additional stress on parking with a new parking lot configuration, as well as the addition of 23 parking spaces. While I am not a traffic planner, it appears that the revised parking plan has simply shoehorned the 23 additional spaces into the same parking lot footprint.  A number of these 23 additional spaces are proposed at the entrance/exit of the complex directly adjacent to the busy Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. Incidentally, this is an area of the parking lot that has been substantially covered by a mountain of plowed snow for the last three months, making parking in this section impossible to this very day.

In addition to the Triangle being at the intersection of two major roads, several crossroads also exist within this two block area that support major housing subdivisions — Dark Woods, Fair Isle, and Pennywise. Traffic backups on both the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and the Edgartown-Oak Bluffs Road heading into town are a daily occurrence during the summer months, and I also note backups during the shoulder seasons. This traffic jam continues to crawl down the B-2 district abutted by other commercial and professional businesses, including the Stop & Shop.

Beyond the inconvenience of incremental congestion created by the rental apartment proposal, we must strongly consider that we are placing public safety at increased risk. The multitude of vehicles navigating this area and negotiating the numerous entrances and exits, combined with pedestrians and bikers using the crosswalks, bike paths, and bus stops have all contributed to a complicated traffic scenario with a high risk for accidents. It is simply common sense that the more vehicles and pedestrians you force into the same square feet of roadway and parking lots will inevitably result in more accidents. If we add 10 apartments (20 bedrooms) to Post Office Square, this can conceivably translate to 40 additional tenants and their automobiles that we are putting in harm’s way.

Keep in mind that these tenants may include children who will be at risk along with the existing business employees and their patrons. Also at risk are the commuters that find it necessary to simply travel through this area to destinations beyond. While I firmly believe that the resulting scenario is unacceptable, an updated traffic study that considers seasonal peaks in demand would satisfy any doubts.

The fine town of Vineyard Haven is left with the unfortunate legacy of Five Corners, created ages ago by the combination of existing roadways and the pressures related to increased Island development and the associated traffic. Why are we trying to create a second “five corners” at the entrance to our business district in Edgartown? Do we want to create a more onerous bottleneck to our town, suffer more accidents, create more frustration — basically create an area that people will increasingly try to avoid?

Layering a 10-apartment “neighborhood” on top of half of the buildings in Post Office Square may seem insignificant to some, but it is just another contributor to the blight that we are self-creating in an already congested area. This is the very characteristic that we look to our governing bodies to prevent here on the Island. I humbly request that you and the other members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission give thoughtful consideration to the negative impact of allowing the further development requested in this proposal in a location that is obviously already overburdened.

Jeffrey White

Edgartown

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Comments

  1. I was ready to attack you letter as another “not in my back yard” attempt to block rental housing which is desperately needed on the island. But you make some solid points about the location. We all know we need more affordable housing for the folks here who make regular wages but can’t afford to spend 60% of their income on housing alone. But too often roadblocks are put up by residents and town government when a new project is proposed. We need to get serious about allowing more projects and finding appropriate neighborhoods.

  2. Well thought out. Considering the traffic, lack of parking in the summer and when there is snow on the ground, I’d have to say its not an appropriate place to add apartments and the parking demand that goes with it.

  3. But the location would be practical for people without cars, there would be no need to drive for living necessities. On the other hand, those having to drive to shop will add to traffic problems.

      1. Right. But downtowns are for working in, and doing a small amount of business in. It’s a place you want to try to keep traffic flowing, and not coming to a standstill.

    1. There is no way on Earth anyone on this island (or even really any developed country) is going to willingly attempt to live life without a car. These bicycle/walking dreams are not going to work. Neither will we start trying to grow 85% or our own food, live off rain water, or consume 75% less electricity. People have to start facing the realities of a population determined to consume more, not less. It may not be politically correct, but reality never is.

      1. And it’s not politically correct or realistic to require or expect that every person own a car. So if a person needs more than one job to pay for room and board but can’t afford food: that’s just tough. If a person loses their eyesight or use of the dexterity needed to drive, that’s just tough. Everyone is expected to own and drive a car. Sarcasm off.

        1. If somebody refuses to own a car that’s up to them, but then it’s not anyone else’s responsibility to try to set them up with a perfect place to live at the expense of making things more crowded for others. We already subsidize a bus system at a loss. Now I guess we have to subsidize living situations as well. Should we have subsidized bikes too? Maybe subsidized skate boards? Maybe subsidize people that are really strong that will carry your groceries for you if you need that. When you are working more than full time and can’t afford to live on Martha’s Vineyard, or Nantucket, or the Hamptons, or Beverly Hills, it may be advisable to find a more affordable place to live. Folks. If you can’t afford a car then you shouldn’t be walking around with a hundred dollar a month cell phone, or hundred dollar a month cable, or annual vacations to warm locations. It’s a car. Some teens buy them. Illegal immigrants buy them. Just about everyone buys them because just about everyone wants and needs them. Then they need to drive them and park them places.

  4. I often read about something being in the wrong place, but rarely are reasonable solutions provided.

    Nothing in this world is perfect, however that location would make it easy for people living there to get to: The Edgartown School Stop & Shop, The Post Office and a the VTA and potentially their places of employment.

    It may also be one of the few places where it is even reasonably affordable or allowed by zoning law to build that type of building.

    1. It isn’t our responsibility to provide solutions for potential problems but, it is within our power to point out the absurdity of the proposals that are brought before this forum. Ok, you’re right, if its going to be affordable housing, I’ll be able to cash my paycheck at the bank, pick up my mail next door at the post office and score a couple of grams of meth upstairs at the affordable housing apartments. Good competition for the drug dealers in Morgan Woods and closer too!

      1. Yes, because everyone that needs affordable housing is on drugs. I don’t think we have to look far to point out an absurdity.

        1. Tell us why we have a responsibility to look after each other? People make choices in their lives all the time and face consequences of those choices and its not up to us to provide a safety net except for those who are intractably poor. We should carry our wounded but shoot our stragglers and affordable housing for those who cannot afford to live in this high price place is dumb. The government has amply demonstrated over the last 45 years the folly of welfare that incentivizes dependence. Mr KenEsq please take 5 or 6 people into your home who cannot afford to live here first and then I will follow.

          1. “shoot our stragglers”
            why does that comment pass muster as acceptable in this forum ?
            I am very discouraged here that the tone has gone so far as to have people like yourself advocating shooting “stragglers”, and it seems perfectly fine with an editor that is constantly asking for civility.

          2. once again, I am not the sensor here, but I think it is pretty disgusting that your comment to “shoot our stragglers” stays up.

      2. What ? no Obama bashing ?
        you are not living up to your stereotype, but bringing meth into the conversation is a good start. But, you really missed an opportunity to mention food stamps and illegals. I would hate to see you slip off your game.. You are one of the best.

        1. Let me oblige you, then. If the Vineyard were not rife with illegals, there would not be an affordable housing shortage. Get rid of the illegals and solve the problem, and there would be no need to build anything new.

          1. wow–when I chide you about your xenophobic attitudes for implying that anyone who needs affordable housing is doing meth, I get deleted, and your absolutely totally racist comments stand.. excuse me, Doug, but you are totally on the wrong side here. The vineyard, and it’s most widely distributed newspaper should not condone racism, or xenophobia. . You say you want to have a civil discussion here, but you let this obvious vile hate speech stand, and delete criticism of it. I am very disappointed. You can do better.

          2. Europe 1939— “the problem is them”

            Martha’s vineyard 2014 “Get rid of the illegals and solve the problem”

          3. “get rid of the illegals”—– I suppose you have some sort of a “solution” in mind ?

  5. There already has been housing developed in that area. What is the occupancy rate? Are we talking subsidized housing here?