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.