Facing staunch opposition and uncertainty at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Stop & Shop withdrew from the permitting process.
Updated 2:20 pm, Wednesday
Stop & Shop last Thursday shelved plans to replace its decrepit Vineyard Haven supermarket. In a request emailed to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) on May 8, Stop & Shop withdrew its application 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 with parking for 41 vehicles in an enclosed area on the ground level under the market.
Stop & Shop leaders made the decision to check out of the permitting process following more than 10 months of review by the Island’s powerful regional permitting body as a development of regional impact (DRI). At the last in a series of MVC public hearings on May 1, two of the three Tisbury selectmen and the town planning board spoke unanimously in opposition to the size of the project.
The MVC was expected to vote on the application when it met next on June 5.
Stop & Shop said it remains committed to an alternative to its current store. In an email to the MVC announcing Stop & Shop’s request to withdraw its application, Geoghan E. Coogan, the Vineyard Haven lawyer who has represented the company throughout the process, said, “It is our sincere hope to move forward with a project in the future.”
The announcement came in the form of the following statement issued by Joe Kelly, President of Stop & Shop New England.
“For the past eighteen months, Stop & Shop has worked diligently to design, analyze and present to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission a definitive plan for the redevelopment of the Tisbury Stop & Shop store. This process has involved many hours of research, planning, engineering and architectural design, by local professionals, corporate professionals, and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission members, its staff and hired peer consultants. This is the very purpose of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and we applaud the efforts of all those involved.
“Following the close of the public hearing on May 1, 2014, Stop & Shop has decided to request a withdrawal of the current proposal from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to digest all of the comments, questions and concerns related to the project. Stop & Shop is a vested partner of this community, and will remain committed to evaluating alternatives to bring back life, vitality and character to the gateway of Martha’s Vineyard and to be the true anchor for the downtown area of the Town of Tisbury.
“We want to thank our loyal customers and many supporters, and recognize this decision may disappoint those who want and deserve a far better store.”
Tisbury planning board chairman Tony Peak said the board’s primary objection to the submitted plan was the size of the setbacks and the footprint. “The planning board asked the commission to deny the proposal,” he said. “I am pleased and I think the planning board is pleased that they withdrew.”
Mr. Peak said he expects Stop & Shop to return with a modified proposal. “I don’t think it is impossible for them to have something that would work there,” he said.
Mr. Peak said a building reduced in size and moved back from the property lines to allow for more of a feeling of openness would be a start.
He said sea level rise and insurance regulations require that buildings be at a certain height.
“I think if the footprint could be modified so the building would be back from the edges of the property, and softened in general by open spaces and lower spaces,” he said. “It could probably work quite well.”
April Levandowski, co-owner of Leroux, which specializes in home goods, said that she would like to see the improvements to the town that a new store would bring.
“I am extremely disappointed by the pull-out,” she said. “I can understand people’s concerns for preservation and conservation, but at the expense of progress? I just don’t understand it. I can also understand the concerns about competition. A bigger Stop & Shop will no doubt sell some of the same things that we and other businesses in town sell, but we can learn to live with it.”
Ms. Levandowski said she didn’t think that the larger store would bring much of an increase in traffic and that the additional parking would be good for the town.
Carole Salguero of West Tisbury said she hopes the withdrawal was simply a tactical maneuver. “I am disappointed that the project won’t go through. I think the design took into consideration the requirement for parking, the requirement to comply with floodplain regulations, and used a local architect sensitive to the Island aesthetic,” she said.
“My sense is that there are many people, like me, who found that the renovation project was just fine. I think there are more people in the community who would like to see Stop & Shop rebuild to help make the harbor the jewel of Vineyard Haven rather than the most dilapidated area in town. It doesn’t mean making it look like Edgartown, for crumb’s sake, but just making it look nice.”
Ben Robinson of Vineyard Haven actively opposed the Stop & Shop plan and helped launch a petition drive against it.
“I think it is a wise decision on their part to withdraw,” he said. “They put a lot of effort into trying to push their plan through and I think they realized that their plan might not be the best solution. A denial from the MVC would have been worse for them. I wish they made this decision a lot sooner when people told them what they were planning was inappropriate for the location.”
Mr. Robinson said that one of his concerns was the way the Stop & Shop plan would encumber the parking lot. “That’s a town lot. It is not a road. The plan would have taken away the town’s ability to use that land for something else other than a parking lot.” he said. “People would have to cross the town property to use the proposed new parking and to use the store’s loading bays.”
Mr. Robinson said the Island can only support so much. “That plan was going to take way too much of the dwindling pie of what can be developed in Vineyard Haven and the impact on Five Corners was too great,” he said.