Protect the character of Martha’s Vineyard

Protect the character of Martha’s Vineyard

by -

To the Editor:

This letter concerns the plan before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) for the redevelopment and expansion of the Vineyard Haven Stop & Shop.

First, there is no question that a new store is very desirable. However, there are serious issues with that location.

I would like to first address MVC precedent.

In 1987, Ed Redstone, then the owner of the Martha’s Vineyard National Bank, made a large offer of money to the town of Tisbury to win the town’s support for a project then before the commission as a DRI. His bank and supermarket proposal was for the land at the corner of Holmes Hole Road and State Road in Tisbury. The commission granted the application with the condition that the offer from Mr. Redstone had to be accepted by a vote of the citizens of Tisbury.

Please make it a condition, if the application is approved, that the townspeople of Tisbury must accept the mitigation offer of $1.2 million recently approved (pending town counsel review) as a memorandum of agreement by the three-member Tisbury board of selectmen, or any other mitigation offer they may make. It is written in your own rules that, “The project must be approved by the MVC before a town board may issue a required permit or take any action.”

Since then, the MVC has denied applications for a bank and day care project in the same Holmes Hole Road location (by Dukes County Savings Bank,) and a gas station at the corner of High Point Lane and State Road due to traffic concerns in the “failed State Road corridor.” The MVC did approve Elio Sylva’s plan for a food market at the corner of High Point Lane and State Road, because its size and scale fit in with the neighborhood and your own standards.

The MVC must hold Ahold/Stop & Shop to the same standards. They have continuously avoided the facts of the project, which are that this is a 41′ high, 100′ by 200′ , 40,000+ square foot big box store between the Five Corners intersection and the Steamship Authority ferry terminal. It faces the front edge of the historic village and harbor of Vineyard Haven. The Five Corners intersection is so failed, that when the town tried posting a traffic officer there years ago they soon gave up, and took an every man for himself attitude.

It is the MVC’s duty to carefully evaluate this plan, to assure that the character of Martha’s Vineyard be preserved. In this plan, we see a building that will tower over its’ neighbors and cast a long shadow over Vineyard Haven village and Main Street. There is the real potential of serious negative economic impact on businesses in downtown Vineyard Haven. We have not seen the plans for the interior of the building. Think about the uses of supermarkets you see off-Island. Just because it is not shown on the plan does not mean it won’t happen, now or in the future.

What will be done when we have further burdened the surrounding roads with more cars coming to the village of Vineyard Haven and stressing our already overburdened municipal parking lot? There is a 4.5-foot setback on their frontage on Water Street, barely enough room for a sidewalk. There are no setbacks on the side and rear; all outdoor activities will impinge on public property. There are no pedestrian walkways, no parking lot attendant to gather the carts, no storage on their property for carts, no room for them to unload trucks, etc., except on publicly owned land. It would be far better to require that these and any other activities be contained on their own property as far as possible.

As for the harbor, the sheer volume of this building will be what greets us and our visitors upon arrival, and will be the last thing we see as the ferries and visiting boats sail out of the harbor. The drastic change to the character of our village and waterfront is not worth the price we’ll pay for allowing this big box store to be built.

There is precedent, and there is support, for the members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to deny Stop & Shop/Ahold’s application. Vineyard Haven will have to absorb the collateral damage that no amount of money will repair. Ahold has made it clear, by proposing to build to the maximum width, depth, and height, that their concern is for their bottom line.  Ahold should shrink this building to fit in with its neighborhood, or find another location, perhaps at the Airport Business Park.

Marie Laursen



  1. Could you define, in words, “character”? Some people still insist the roundabout doesn’t work, too.

    1. Island Character may be defined as getting income from rental property without allowing for the infrastructure or businesses to support the added population.

    2. Character is a reflection of traditional values in our seaside village of Vineyard Haven. It is a lovely harbor, a refuge in a storm, the year round port of entry and departure for us and our millions of guests. Character is the gently sloping hill with roof lines stacked like steps towards the water. Character is no one of those roof lines dominating the rest. Shall I continue?
      The roundabout has nothing to do with this proposal, I wish people would stop distracting the discussion with comments about how great it is. No one that I know of is saying it doesn’t work, unless you count observations of those who are almost run down by people speeding through it, or huge fuel trucks driving over the curb of it.

      1. Character includes adapting to how life changes. The population of the island changed, both by its natural appeal and by the nature of the humans living here, the need or desire to make money. Maybe to a degree the latter can be reversed. But to make the island less attractive or more difficult to visit will adversely affect the residents.

        That leaves adapting. The roundabout is relevant because some said one would not fit island character. The choice was cars queued (island character?), traffic lights and turn lanes (island character?), no traffic control and likely accidents (island character?), or a roundabout that reduces lines of cars and frustration of drivers, is low maintenance, and hasn’t the stigma of big city traffic control. I think the roundabout was adapting in line with island character.

        The Stop & Shop design. Vineyard Haven is the main port of entry. The location reduces big trucks driving all over because it’s across the street from the terminal. I believe the practice for both stores is to arrive early to avoid traffic and guarantee a clear parking lot for maneuvering. For the Vineyard Haven store, at long last the truck will be parked out of sight for unloading and will clear Cromwell Lane for both cars and pedestrians.

        The roof line. Do a web search for a harbor view of the town, try for one with both the terminal and police station in view; they’re both two story buildings yet still difficult to spot. The height of the new Stop & Shop will be comparable. The designers made the effort to break up the slab aspect of both the roof and sides with dormers and architectural details. I think it will blend in nicely.

        And the bonus, it will have a proper selection of goods.

        1. “a proper selection of goods.” really. Do you know that there are no plans to incorporate locally produced food? There will, however, be many more choices of their chosen processed foods. These are not necessarily good choices. Do you read labels, or care about the locals? Do you look forward to more varieties of chips and soda? 27 different brands of processed, high fructose corn syrup laden bread? eggs from chicken farms? produce trucked and flown from great distances? btw, it was stated at the February public hearing that there will only be four full time employees, all managers. Profits go off island. Sounds like a big box store with lots of part time help, some of whom will be needing housing assistance because they pay minimum wage.
          Where do you get the idea that I don’t want a store there? I would love to see a new grocery store, with proper setbacks, properly scaled, not a 40 ft. high, over 100′ by 200′, 48,000 sf super size supermarket that contributes to overwhelming the infrastructure, already nearly failed, and overstresses the Town of Tisbury’s municipal parking lot. Of course the parent company, Ahold USA division, worth about 42 billion, is not going to give up their golden goose, and I don’t expect them to.
          Character has nothing to do with “adapting to life changes.” If you call a structure of this size character building, wait til you see it. Their drawings make it look cute and quaint. Go look at the pole on the roof and see how high it will be. It’s very, very out of “character.”

          1. I never knew what exactly the roundabout naysayers were against either. It was all kind of mushed in, mixing traffic concerns, character, landscaping, personal attacks, money and who’s making some, misinformation, fear, etc– very similar to the objections to the S&S. No one could agree what there was to actually be against. The reality is that the roundabout is an enormous improvement to what was there, just as the new S&S will be an enormous improvement to the ugly mess of what is there now. If you don’t like it, don’t shop there.

          2. The roundabout is fine, works for me. I guess you don’t mind the 1.2+ million price tag to fix something that wasn’t broken. It’s working fine, unless you are the one being mowed down by people speeding through it, or the huge fuel trucks coming from the airport that can’t get around it without going over the curb.
            Most importantly, this is not about the roundabout, it is about a large expansion of a structure in the worst possible place. Go to and search for the stop and shop petition. read what it says. Go down to the store and look at the pole on the roof. that is the height it will be. there should be a painted line on the ground to show the over 100′ by 200′ footprint.
            there is no fear here, speaking of which. just a lot of people who can’t imagine what we are really getting. don’t be fooled by their pretty drawing, which is way out of perspective.
            and I will shop where I choose, which is just about everywhere on the island.

  2. This is satire, right?

    Quote: “a building that will tower over its’ neighbors and cast a long shadow over
    Vineyard Haven village and Main Street.” Given that the new entrance won’t be higher than the roadway between Main and Water streets, this is unlikely. The exception being the car rental place. Almost every building along Main and Water streets is two stories.

    Quote: “It faces the front edge of the historic village…” Has Main Street become a back alley?

    Quote: “… the real potential of serious negative economic impact on businesses in downtown Vineyard Haven.” Stop & Shop is one of the dependable businesses in Vineyard Haven, others including the ferry terminal, the gas stations, and the pharmacy.

    Time to reconsider Senator Kennedy’s plan that many feared would have turned the island into a pseudo-federal park with hardly any change ever allowed?

    1. I will not reply to people like you who feel free to deliver liberal doses of negative criticism anonymously. Just who are you, and who are you afraid of? What right do you have to blast me anonymously? Why don’t you ever have anything positive to say?

  3. You’re kidding me, right? The sky is falling should be the title of your insane comments that have ALL been dispelled in the lengthy hearings.

    You compare apples to oranges. The B1 which is where Stop and Shop is located now and wants to be allows for buildings to be built to the property line. The projects you so mention, elio’s property, gas station etc are in the B2. A big difference in zoning requirements.

    The sky is not falling, the Stop and Shop will not be the only thing people see when getting off the ferry. They’ll see their loving families first. Stop being so melodramatic.

    1. although you do not deserve an answer to yet another anonymous, angry response, I will say you certainly lack imagination, you are a coward, you offer no solutions, and don’t comment on my letters any more. we will not stand by while a a super size supermarket breezes through in the worst possible location of all of Martha’s Vineyard. wake up.

  4. I keep seeing only one or two people are writing a cynical and negative comment that leads to a very unhealthy argument almost on almost all articles on MV TImes.

    Obviously, very cynical on-line feedback comments are not either showing the civility of the discussion from both sides, or showing the level of the in-depth knowledge. Don’t put the words that the writer didn’t type in.

    Do you all know how big the building will be? in area, volume and height? And, list the problems and their “solutions”?

    If you can right them all down in the next comments, I will believe you are following the subject properly. However ridiculing the person is not tolerable to other readers. It only makes you look really immature.

    Filter your words and be civil.