As the Martha’s Vineyard Commission prepares to hold its eighth and possibly final public hearing, opponents have launched an online petition drive.
The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) will pick up where it left off when it meets on Thursday, May 1 to consider a Stop & Shop proposal to build a new, larger supermarket on the site of its now decrepit Vineyard Haven store.
This will be the eighth public hearing in a review process that has ground on since July. The likelihood that the MVC is approaching a vote on the proposal has energized opponents.
Last week, a group of Islanders met to organize and plan a strategy that includes letter writing and speaking in opposition to the project at the public hearing Thursday.
Lillian Robinson of Vineyard Haven created an online petition titled, “Martha’s Vineyard Commission: save the Island from overdevelopment,” on MoveOn.org/petitions, a petition hosting site created by the nonprofit political action group. Ms. Robinson plans to present the petition to the MVC. By Friday afternoon the petition had received more than 900 signatures from Island residents and people living around the country.
“The average Trader Joe’s is 10,000 sq ft. and carries about everything a community needs,” a petition signer identified as Don Keller of Vineyard Haven wrote. “Fifty thousand square feet is crazy, especially at 5 ft above sea level. And it all has to be heated and cooled, adding to our carbon footprint. I do not think we need a supersized store at that location.”
A signer identified as Paul Attanasio of Beverly Hills, California said, “Stop this expansion; it will be an eyesore in the harbor and aggravate traffic congestion. Keep Vineyard Haven small!”
A Vineyard Haven resident identified as Allen Birol said, “Martha’s Vineyard Island is not the place for Parking Garages and Supermarkets.”
Vineyard Haven resident Ben Robinson said he and his sister and a group of like-minded Islanders began the petition effort because they are concerned about the size, scale and environmental impacts of a larger store.
“This is the first online petition on the Island and it really just shows the power of being able to give people a voice to say what they really want to say,” Mr. Robinson said. “It’s caught fire, not just on the Island, but also on the Cape and all over the world.”
Mr. Robinson said he was not surprised by the number of signatures, and considers some of the comments under the signatures illuminating. “People on the Cape in places like Falmouth are warning us and I think those comments are really critical,” Mr. Robinson said. “They’re saying, what are you doing, why are you even contemplating something like this.”
Mr. Robinson said he expects the petition to reach over 2,000 signatures by May 1. “I’m not that surprised about how many people have said this project is crazy, because we think it is crazy,” he said. “I think a renovation of the store is perfectly fine, but it has to be within the scale of the downtown.”
The petition states several reasons why the MVC should vote to deny Stop & Shops application. These include inappropriate scale and character, traffic impacts, economic impacts, environmental and quality-of-life impacts.
The resumption of the hearing process follows a hearing on March 20. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 6 pm in the Tisbury Senior Center and will be the eighth in the series since the MVC began its review in July.
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 where trucks would unload.
Stop & Shop has agreed to fund traffic control officers at the Five Corners intersection, and continue to work with Tisbury on the design of the town-owned municipal lot adjacent to the store.
In an essay published February 19 (The benefits of a new Stop & Shop)
Geoghan Coogan of the Edmond G. Coogan Law Office in Vineyard Haven, who represents Stop & Shop, described the benefits of the project.
“Stop & Shop has proposed to replace its current tired and inadequate Water Street store with a beautiful new store that, beyond all measure, will meet the needs of the community, benefit the town of Tisbury, revitalize the center of Vineyard Haven, and in the process encourage future investment in a downtown area that sorely needs reinvestment as the gateway to the Vineyard,” Mr. Coogan, a former Tisbury selectman said.
Outlining the facts of the project, Mr. Coogan said the footprint of the new building is just 6,500 square feet larger than the existing footprint of the buildings currently on site and the height is dictated by new regulations.
“Yes, the building is higher, as will all renovated buildings be along Water Street, given new state regulations for the flood plain,” Mr. Coogan said. “Taller buildings along Water Street are unavoidable, a minimum of eight feet taller. The proposed Stop & Shop building height at 33 feet, in fact, is lower than the proposed new Island Housing Trust building next door and below the current zoning requirements.”
Mr. Coogan said, “Stop & Shop is smartly utilizing the space beneath the building created to comply with the proposed floodplain elevation to provide 42 parking spaces beneath the structure. The proposed plan relocates the truck deliveries from the Norton Lane side of the store to a completely enclosed receiving area to the rear of the building.”
Mr. Coogan said the project would also create new jobs and new opportunities to revitalize the area. “The downside of not moving forward with this project is business as usual in Vineyard Haven, and that is not in the best interest of anyone — the town of Tisbury, its residents, and Stop & Shop,” he said.