Stop & Shop hearing number seven concludes

Stop & Shop hearing number seven concludes

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Commissioners Erik Hammarlund of West Tisbury (left), Joan Malkin of Chilmark and John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs put the Stop & Shop representatives through the paces.

Following a two month hiatus in the public hearing process, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) picked up Thursday where it left off in January in its review of a Stop & Shop proposal to build a new, larger supermarket on the site of its decrepit Vineyard Haven store. In a grueling four hour meeting, the commissioners reviewed the latest set of proposals in detail, one by one. Stop & Shop representatives responded to their comments and the public joined in.

Many of those proposals were unchanged since the MVC concluded the last public hearing on January 23. Stop & Shop had asked that the hearing process be put on hold until Tisbury reached a decision on the design of the municipal parking lot that is adjacent to the market site.

The MVC hearing, held in the Tisbury Senior Center was the seventh installment in the eight month long public review that began in July 2013.

Kathy Newman-Linda-Sibley.jpg

Commissioners Kathy Newman (left) of Aquinnah and Linda Sibley of West Tisbury reviewed the company’s latest offers. — Photo by Michelle Gross

Over the span of more than two hours Thursday, the commissioners reviewed, tailored and tinkered with 12 offers from Stop & Shop. These included a wastewater management plan, open space and landscaping design, traffic and transportation, including truck deliveries and employee parking, a construction management plan, and defining, once and for all, what constitutes a grocery store.

The commissioners declined to review at length several offers that remain contingent on town approval. These include the relocation of a house at 15 Cromwell Lane that the town considers historic, a still to be determined payment for police traffic control at the Five Corners intersection, as well as affordable housing for Stop & Shop employees, and the design of the municipal lot.

The hearing began at 6:30 pm. By the time it ended at 10:15 pm, extended by chairman Brian Smith an extra 15 minutes in order to allow for additional public comment, the commissioners had agreed to hold the eighth and, they said, likely final public hearing, on April 17.

Stop & Shop proposes to consolidate three abutting properties and remove the existing buildings, including its existing store, in order to construct a new two-story, 30,500-square-foot market. The plans also include a parking lot for 41 vehicles in an enclosed area on the ground level beneath the market.

The nitty gritty

The commissioners bore into the details of each offer.

“I just want to make sure, when you say external sign illumination, you mean lights, shining on a sign, or do you mean an illuminated sign?”  West Tisbury commissioner Erik Hammarlund, a lawyer, asked Stop & Shop reps.

Appearing deflated and weary in the wake of their seventh public hearing, Stop & Shop representatives (left to right) Deborah Farr, Tisbury lawyer Geoghan Coogan, traffic consultant Randy Hart, and architect Chuck Sullivan answered questions about the project.

Appearing deflated and weary in the wake of their seventh public hearing, Stop & Shop representatives (left to right) Deborah Farr, Tisbury lawyer Geoghan Coogan, traffic consultant Randy Hart, and architect Chuck Sullivan answered questions about the project. — Photo by Michelle Gross

As they made their way down the list, Mr. Hammarlund continued to ask Stop & Shop for further clarification and specifics.

“What does shall be controlled by mean?” Mr. Hammarlund asked in reference to an offer to have the store manager control night lighting and noise from trucks backing up.

Mr. Hammarlund, who has expressed concern that Stop & Shop might compete with local businesses by selling a variety of products, also looked for a definition of what it means to be a grocery store.

“I’ve been saying since day one, the concept of saying, ‘we’re going to expand as a grocery store,’” Mr. Hammarlund said. If you want to be a grocery store, sell groceries. I go to Stop & Shop all the time, I buy all sorts of things.”

Exasperated, commissioner Doug Sederholm interjected. “He said it 20 times. He has said it 20 times, that it’s going to be a grocery store,” Mr. Sederholm, a lawyer who represents Chilmark, said.

Geoghan Coogan, a former Tisbury selectman representing Stop & Shop explained to commissioners that if the store sells anything other than groceries, it would compromise their application.

“If there’s a cafe proposed, or a pharmacy proposed, I believe that would be a change of use,” Mr. Coogan said.

Traffic and transportation generated considerable discussion among the commissioners.

Mr. Smith said he would like to see more of a commitment between Stop & Shop and the town to resolve the overall traffic issues in Vineyard Haven.

High School varsity hockey team members (left to right) Alexander Vukota, Tyson Araujo and Brian Fraser turned out to support the Stop & Shop proposal.

High School varsity hockey team members (left to right) Alexander Vukota, Tyson Araujo and Brian Fraser turned out to support the Stop & Shop proposal. — Photo by Michelle Gross

“That’s really what we need to do,” Mr. Smith said. “We don’t need to not develop Vineyard Haven, we need to fix the problems. And that may be part of your effort to get your store up and going.”

Commissioner John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs wanted to ensure that the exterior signs for the supermarket will be compatible with Vineyard sign aesthetics.

“Who is designing or determining that? Is it the town? Mass DOT?” Mr. Breckenridge asked. “Mass DOT wants to have big, huge, overpowering signage. I think it’s critical that the signs, while very useful, very purposeful, need to be done to help with the flow of traffic, but they have to be done in a semblance of scale.”

Tisbury commissioner Ned Orleans asked Stop & Shop to set a deadline for the relocation of the Cromwell Lane house. “Why don’t they find a place for it to go before they start building,” Mr. Orleans said. “That will keep everybody honest.”

The offers and discussion did little to mollify Mr. Orleans, who made it clear throughout the hearing that he was unhappy with the entire project.

“It seems to me that the main entry point to Martha’s Vineyard through the Steamship Authority should be greeted by something that represents Martha’s Vineyard, not something that represents a grocery chain store from Cape Cod,” Mr. Orleans said. “If we wanted to be on Cape Cod, we would go to Cape Cod, but there’s nothing in the proposal up to this point that really represents, in the location that we’re talking about, anything about Martha’s Vineyard and the character of Martha’s Vineyard and the culture of Martha’s Vineyard.”

In a follow up conversation with The Times Friday morning, Mr. Orleans, asked what design he would prefer, said he did not know, but he does know he does not want to see a larger store. He summed up his position. “I am opposed to Stop & Shop at that location,” Mr. Orleans said.

Public chimed in

Once the commissioners had finished with the Stop & Shop, it was time for public officials and the public at large. Planning board co-chairman Henry Stephenson was first.

Mr. Stephenson, who served on the parking lot redesign committee and drew up the conceptual design, said he wanted to ensure that the elements incorporated in the design were not “negotiated away,” including the shared use path, the entrance on Cromwell Lane and the frontage on water street.

“It’s very hard, because you don’t want to take pieces of the design apart and just select one part over the other,” Mr, Stephenson said. “We want to maintain a coherent design, so I’m concerned that the intent of that parking lot design holds together.”

Vineyard Transit Authority administrator Angela Grant was tepid in her comments. “I will say that I have met with the applicant, and I feel we had a productive conversation, and I feel like we’ve made some progress. Was it enough progress, I don’t think so,” Ms. Grant said.

Vineyard Transit Authority administrator Angela Grant asked the MVC to wring more support for public transportation out of Stop & Shop.

Vineyard Transit Authority administrator Angela Grant asked the MVC to wring more support for public transportation out of Stop & Shop. — Photo by Michelle Gross

Ms. Grant said she wanted Stop & Shop to subsidize more services. “I really feel strongly that an affordable delivery service be conditioned as a part of this project,” Ms. Grant said. “The key element, if this is the location for this project, we need to eliminate trips to that region, and the way to do that is to offer something that’s not there now.”

Ms. Grant said that the VTA received revenue based on their performance. “If our ridership goes up, our funding goes up, if our ridership goes down, our funding goes down, it’s a direct correlation,” Ms. Grant said. “And so I would really hate to feel that we’re losing choice riders based on our performance because they’re sitting in traffic.”

Tisbury selectman John Snyder was optimistic that progress had been made.

“We have been as a board working closely with, and sometimes against, the Stop & Shop representatives,” Mr. Snyder said. “We are I think, very close to an agreement, but of course there’s a lot in the details that are still being nailed down, and I really can’t comment on a lot of that.”

Harold Chapdelaine, chairman of the Tisbury historical commission, acknowledged the difficulty of finding a spot to move the Cromwell Lane house, but he said it needed to be part of the deal.

Members of the high school hockey team, varsity captain Tyson Araujo, along with his teammates Brian Fraser and Alexander Vukota, turned out to support the company proposal.

“Stop & Shop supports us, they’ve been very generous with our program and have made our experience, our four year experience in our hockey program very memorable,” Mr. Araujo said. “Not only with our program, but with the whole community, they are very supportive, and we urge you to approve them.”

Erika Berg, a resident of Oak Bluffs, said it’s time to accept change.

“I think we should just accept the change, realize that as educated adults, Stop & Shop as a corporation is better at ensuring the quality of the building and continue to show compromise and compliance,” Ms. Berg said. “Let’s just end this and approve it, let’s just do it. I think everyone’s afraid of change and that’s what this whole thing is. It’s going to better the situation all around.”

Ms. Berg’s sentiments were supported by Vineyard Haven resident Jennifer Griffiths.

“I strongly endorse the store in Tisbury,” Ms. Griffiths said. “I’m really anxious to see it built as proposed. I think that the downtown area is in desperate need of self revitalization.”

Vineyard Haven resident Nevin Sayre readdressed size. “I would like to commend Stop & Shop and the MVC for getting to a place where some compromise has been made; it’s a step in the right direction,” Mr. Sayre said. “But I think it’s the scale, size matters. And when it’s this big and it has this much impact and the traffic, on construction, on parking, on carbon footprint, on all these things, why do we approve something so massive? I don’t think we need to do that. I think the scale needs to fit with our little village.”

Comments

  1. The Cromwell House may be deemed ” Historic” but it is a rat trap. Get rid of it and make it a non issue… May it rest in peace…

    1. I read this comment so went over to look at it. It is not inhabited, and there is work that is or was done and there is some debris inside. But it looks to me like it has great bones, wonderful spaces. Anyone who could renovate this would be very happy with it. It needs to be brought up to modern insulation standards, and it needs some work but basically it is very much worth saving in my humble opinion.

      1. Who is going to do that? Building anything on this island is very expensive and painfully slow.

        1. What you say is true in many, but not all cases. It is more true here than off island, but it can be pretty much the same off island as here. On the other hand, if you know what you are doing and pay attention, the job can be done for a fraction of what some contractors charge. You’ll have to just trust that this is the case.

          1. I’m sure the MVC would consider this a project having a minimal regional impact and speed it through the approval process.

  2. It’s gone on long enough. It is amazing how many seen entitled to have a vote here – there has to be a limit to this “oversight” Stop & Shop has been more than accommodating. They have been a good neighbor and vital part of the islands economy. Let them get to it!

  3. If I were Stop and Shop and this didn’t get approved in the next two weeks. I would withdraw my application and say I am closing down. Then the Selectmen and the MVC would come running and screaming “” we didn’t mean it, please come back”

      1. They have kept their Supermarket and the properties that they purchase
        looking bad for many years, now they want to black mail us to get the
        permit?

        1. What’s the blackmail? They’re attempting to fix up their property…that’s far better than the rest of the buildings in that area. Are you suggesting they’re threatening to leave if they can’t fix up their building, add parking and allow for more reasonable priced food shopping in that area?

      2. The average Walmart superstore is 197,000 square feet. Imagine a building extending from Water Street back to Cromwell Lane and from Beach Street all the way to Union Street. THAT’S the size of a big box store.

        Some mainland Stop & Shops have an in-store pharmacy or bank. There simply isn’t room here, these businesses require workspace with fixed counters and walls. Maybe Citizens Bank would have an ATM in an after-hours lobby. Stop & Shop has a pharmacy in the Edgartown triangle, Leslie’s Pharmacy shouldn’t local competition.

        As for that historical detriment to property values on Cromwell Lane,
        I suggest dropping it in the front yard of the MVC building in Oak Bluffs.

        1. The average walmart is 104,000 sqft.

          A big box a store is not measured in size. It represents a homogenous layout to maximize space available. It’s a corporate model that usually reflects an even larger area that supports parking. We have all seen this on the mainland.

          Stop & Shop continues to say they need to build that model in Vineyard Haven or they can’t make any money. Since when should we change our Town so a multi national corporation can pad their bottom line?

          Build an appropriately sized and designed store or go elsewhere. This should be an easy choice for the island, and even entertaining this kind of development in a downtown village says something about how easy we can lose what we have here.

          1. I’m surprised you haven’t argued the new design would block the “scenic” view of the back side of Main Street buildings.

            This is a redesign, not a development. It is their property and the use is not changing, it was a supermarket, it will still be a supermarket. Just as it has since the Water Street store was built by A&P in 1952. Remember A&P? A supermarket chain.

            The interior floor plan of the redesign is the largest possible for the property, yet it’s still on the small end of square footage for traditional supermarkets. Anything smaller and prices go up. Think about why a gallon of milk costs more in a convenience store. This isn’t development, it’s taking what currently exists and fixing it to better serve the island.

            Adding parking is a good thing, and Stop & Shop is doing this on their property. But elsewhere you’ve accused Stop & Shop of taking over the town parking lot. No one hunting for a parking place in Vineyard Haven cares near what store they’re found a spot to park.

            The exterior design is meant to work well with Main Street buildings. I keep reading a goal of Tisbury is to connect the Main Street shopping with the harbor. This is a good start; when people look down that little byway, they’ll see more stores rather than an alley. And this design is definitely better looking than the other State Road supermarket, a building certainly better suited to the airport environs.

            But redefine town centers to be seasonal tourist traps, selling cheap goods during the summer and ghost towns the off season. Encourage Water Street and Beach Road to remain as they are: ugly. That’s island character.

          2. When Stop &Shop hires a developer to consolidate three distinct pieces of property, with only one that currently contains a grocery store that is a development.

            When they need the Town to permanently change their public land to meet their needs as well as provide their construction staging area, that is a development.

            It’s not only the “chain store” that’s is at issue. It is the size, in this location.

            An in-town grocery store providing essentials is a good thing. But let’s not confuse this with what they are proposing, which is akin to a strip mall store which is heavily dependent on a drive and park model.

            And as industry standards state, a store that size needs over 140 parking spaces solely to satisfy its needs. This is evident in summer congestion at parking lots much bigger at both Cronigs and the Edgartown Stop & Shop. Both are well over 150 spaces.

            So you are right about one thing, good luck hunting for that parking space.

          3. You would have a valid argument if the other lots were open, not already commercial, or attractive and liveable … and the Cromwell house hasn’t been either for years.

            You deny that the current and redesign of Stop & Shop are the same thing: a grocery store, just that the new floor plan will offer a better and more complete selection of ALL the essentials expected of a grocery store.

            You keep pushing for a double standards, you want to set requirements for one business and one business only. Stop & Shop is adding parking on its dime, something no other business in Vineyard Haven even considers.

            Stop & Shop is moving their loading bays so they no longer parallel Norton Street, something that interferes with drivers coming down from Main Street, not to mention making the way less safe for pedestrians. Apparently to you, less encroachment on roads and the town parking lot means more encroachment.

            You miss that Stop & Shop has the best customers in Vineyard Haven. They park, purchase, and leave. Not like window shoppers on Main Street who park, wander stores for an hour, and buy nothing. That’s right, you want to drive the most dependable business out of Vineyard Haven.

            You deny the trip mall aspect of Main Street. The only ways to fix this are to improve the shopping opportunities in Vineyard Haven or bulldoze Main Street. You want to keep the strip mall aspect by keeping parking at a minimum, good stores away, and the stores on Water Street ugly.

            Unbelievable.

          4. Stop & Shop is also the only store in downtown Vineyard Haven that will let a customer with a young child use its bathrooms.

          5. There are 150 parking spots at the Egartown S&S? Are you including the Clarion’s lot or the one by the Pharmacy?

        2. Walmart is now building food stores only in some areas. They’ve taken over some buildings from other failed grocery chains.

          1. And Walmart is not known for paying a liveable wage, this an FYI for those who “complain” Stop & Shop will not do enough to solve economic problems on the Vineyard.

    1. I agree the store is in bad shape,close it down send everyone home and let
      it match the rest of the town,maybe a big art gallery .

    2. That will never happen. Two stores on Nantucket and two here, Id say they like the islands. I wish they would have included the t shirt shop I always went to, the chinese take out and midnight farm in their plans.

    3. With just a 3-4 day supply of food on the shelves and in the cases of the supermarkets on MV that’s a scary thought. Imagine a major league storm during high season with no Stop and Shops.

  4. Wow…the new Stop & Shop wouldn’t represent Martha’s Vineyard? I guess the goal is to have every building look like the others on the street or most in the five corners vicinity.. Abandoned, dilapidated safety hazards must be the “character of Martha’s Vineyard.” some are seeking.
    Perhaps we should force Stop & Shop to T-Shirts in the front of their store and then really expensive T-Shirts in the back…would that better meet with the character some are looking for?
    Note to the writer…I believe you would want to change Mr. Nevin to Mr. Sayre in the last paragraph if his name is Nevin Sayre as stated at the beginning of the graf.

    1. 20 years from now when business in downtown is shutting down because people can’t get downtown and park, is when we going to see that a big supermarket downtown was a bad idea
      and we’ll blame the MVC for that

      1. More likely 10 years from now when there’s no anchor (grocery) store and all of the shops are seasonal tourist traps and the downtown becomes an off-season ghost town like Edgartown people will complain that they’re paying 50% more for food at other grocers or fighting for parking around Reliable in OB.

        1. There is not one store on the island that costs 50% more for food, although there are stores that you can actually get food at year round because you can actually get parking there year round.

    1. Except “all” that traffic would now be traveling up State Road and attempting to make a left Edv/VH road…causing more of a problem at that intersection on their way to the airport.

      1. Are you saying the first thing everyone does when they get off the boat is go to Stop and Shop? Or are you saying there would be problems at the roundabout that works perfectly? Or are you saying it would be worse for traffic to head to the airport, as opposed to heading towards the worst traffic spot on the island?

        1. I’m saying the airport is far from the perfect location, that it would cause more miles to be driven, be inconvenient for many and cause problems at a different congested intersection. It’s also not going to happen.

          1. Oh my God! We’d have to drive more miles! Like it’s not inconvenient now at the absolute worst possible location. Even if the airport wouldn’t happen (where it of course wouldn’t cause any congestion at all) where it is right now is the absolute worst possible place. You basically couldn’t find a single worst location on the island.

          2. That’s sarcasm that an airport supermarket wouldn’t cause congestion, correct? Because I thought it was funny.

          3. As opposed to the traffic problems now? Maybe if you’re the world’s worst driver. If VTA buses can get in and out easily (they can) then average cars shouldn’t have that much of a problem. They’d have to get rid of the vision clogging sign, widen the entrance, create a slower area, and ….all problems solved forever in the best possible way.

          4. There would be enough added traffic around the airport to require additional lanes and signage, whether the entrance is on Edgartown or Barnes Road.

            Also, the intersection of Barnes and Edgartown roads would be impacted enough to require a roundabout or traffic light.

          5. Yes yes. I know the idea of building some sort of road is horrific these days on this island, but I tell you it can be done. Every single road you drive on here was built at one time. It can be done. It’s not against the laws of physics. However according to the laws of physics matter occupies space and matter cannot occupy the same space, but apparently S+S will have you believe there is infinite space where they are if they juuuusssttt crowd the most crowded spot on the island just a litttllllee more.

          6. Build new roads? Manage for changes in traffic? You haven’t been paying attention to happenings on the Vineyard at all. Discussion over.

          7. A new road would not be against the laws of physics, just against the island character. The connecter road? The fight against the roundabout? If the island were willing to fix five corners and the intersection of Edgartown and State roads, it would already be done. Or are islanders inert objects?

          8. Islanders are inert objects when they sit in traffic all day because of bad planning like this, and because of unwise resistance to things that are obviously worth it, and would obviously work, such as the connector road, and the roundabout.

          9. If Stop & Shop gives up on the redesign or quits the island, traffic at five corners and the intersection of Edgartown and State roads won’t fix itself. No rosy prediction of a quality business with staying power on Water Street, who would want to? And Vineyard Haven will continue its slide into being a dump.

  5. This has become an Alice in Wonderland farce, with the Queen defining and redefining “what is and what is not”, according to her whims and her own “sense of reality”. S&S has already reduced t
    heir store by approximately 30% for no solid reason other than someone on the MVC had a “different design” in mind, but couldn’t articulate what that design is. Almost all would agree that the present S&S is an eyesore. The new design is a tremendous improvement and is more in keeping with the character of the Island. Also, S&S actually adds parking spaces to the town by providing their own parking spaces (43) and thus getting many of the S&S shoppers out of the town’s parking lot. When has any Island business before been asked to solve the town’s traffic congestion at five corners. S&S is only a small part of that problem. Let’s be honest, the location of the the SS Authority, feeding onto a narrow artery, is a factor that no one seems willing to address. The relocated Post Office is another factor, and, of course, there is the Cumberland Farm crowd. Why the town and the MVC feel it is appropriate to dump the five corner mess on S&S’s lap and say, “Solve this for us before we approve your application”, is the height of absurdity. Bu then again, this is Alice’s Wonderland that we”re living in. If I were S&S, after this latest visit to the Island of Wonderland, and listening to the absurd questions posed, I’d be looking for the rabbit hole and my exit out and just leave everyone to their crumpets and tea.

  6. The bad news.

    Sea level rise is predicted to be 1
    meter by the year 2100

    The good news.

    It is not a straight line graph, but
    accelerating curve.

    By the year 2025 then it may be from 10
    to 20 centimeters ( 4 to 8 inches approx.), and by the year 2050 it
    could be in the range of from 25 to 40 centimeters (10 to 16 inches
    approx.).

    This indicates we have time, and we
    have choices to make.

    The year 2025 is not that far away. 11
    years. Will it rise that 4 to 8 inches in that amount of time? If it
    does what will it do to Vineyard Haven – Edgartown – the Vineyard
    in general? One thing is for sure. If it does, stocks in very high
    waterproof boots will surge. Along with the water.

    Take action now to insulate to a higher
    standard, require new buildings to meet strict green standards, etc.
    etc. This is not being done.

    http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/sea_level_ipcc_ar4.png

    1. What will be entertaining is when repeated high tides make stores on Water and Beach streets unusable.

  7. Enough already. Can we please get this project moving? Does anyone really think the current Stop & Shop building isn’t a dilapidated eye sore? Not to mention the adjacent Caleb Prouty house? In any other place besides the Vineyard this would be a tear down. What all the naysayers and mindless bureaucrats on the MVC don’t realize is traffic related to the proposed new Stop & Shop is a zero sum gain. At the end of the day islanders as well as tourist still need to purchase groceries. Why don’t all the opponents stop obfuscating the facts and state what they really mean. We don’t mind traffic as long as it is in Edgartown and not Vineyard Haven. Doesn’t it make more sense for everyone on the island to have the benefit of a new modern Stop & Shop as opposed to the 1950′s version we currently have? Martha’s Vineyard can’t remain stuck in a time warp. I appreciate the need keep the McDonald’s and Starbucks of the world off the island. However, groceries are a daily necessity. And while I support purchasing groceries and produce from island business not everyone wants to pay the 30% premium to shop at Cronig’s or other options.

  8. Enough already. Can we please get this project moving? Does anyone really think the current Stop & Shop building isn’t a dilapidated eye sore? Not to mention the adjacent Caleb Prouty house? In any other place besides the Vineyard this would be a tear down. What all the naysayers and mindless bureaucrats on the MVC don’t realize is traffic related to the proposed new Stop & Shop is a zero sum gain. At the end of the day islanders as well as tourist still need to purchase groceries. Why don’t all the opponents stop obfuscating the facts and state what they really mean. We don’t mind traffic as long as it is in Edgartown and not Vineyard Haven. Doesn’t it make more sense for everyone on the island to have the benefit of a new modern Stop & Shop as opposed to the 1950′s version we currently have? Martha’s Vineyard can’t remain stuck in a time warp. I appreciate the need keep the McDonald’s and Starbucks of the world off the island. However, groceries are a daily necessity. And while I support purchasing groceries and produce from island business not everyone wants to pay the 30% premium to shop at Cronig’s or other options.

  9. It shocks me that the MVC thinks the Stop & Shop is responsible for the congestion at 5 Corners. When every one knows the congestion happens every time a ferry comes in! So if essential services cause the congestion, then let’s just get over it!