The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) held its first public hearing on the proposed expansion and renovation of the Stop & Shop market, in tandem with an overhaul of the abutting Rockland Trust Bank, formerly Edgartown National Bank, on North Main Street in Edgartown, on Thursday night.
Somewhat appropriately, the discussion about modernizing of the aging, cramped store was held in the spacious, state-of-the-art meeting room in the Edgartown Public Library, instead of the aging, cramped MVC meeting room.
Commissioners and about 30 attendees were presented with plans to expand the current 25,259-square-foot market by 16,000 square feet — a 70 percent increase — and to demolish the 607-square-foot bank and replace it with a new 1,000-square-foot building, with two drive-through lanes.
“We’re not building a big box store,” attorney Geoghan Coogan, representing Stop & Shop/WJG Realty Co., said. “We have two goals, to bring an updated grocery store to Edgartown and the Island, and to fit it on the site we have. I’m sure we’re going to hear comments to move this out to the airport. We heard that in Tisbury, and we’re going to hear that now. I can’t say it enough, a downtown grocery store is an anchor to your business community. It should not be relocated. That store downtown is absolutely vital to the town of Edgartown.”
The store, originally an A & P, was built at the location in 1965.
Greg O’Brien, local outreach coordinator with Stoney Brook Group, presented commissioners with a thick stack of papers containing 700 signatures of people who were in favor of the renovated store and new bank.
New shopping experience
Store expansion plans include adding a new entrance at the western end of the store, expanding parking from 139 to 168 spaces, installing new landscaping, and doubling stormwater infiltration capacity on a system that was built in 1989, and often clogs. Currently, heavy rains create a pond at the entrance to the store. 3.7 acres of wooded area on the western end of the parcel will be cleared for additional parking and stormwater management. A new loading dock will also be added on that side of the building.
The exterior will primarily be cedar shingles with white trim.
Even with the 70 percent expansion, the new building will use 20 percent less energy than the current one, by replacing the old HVAC, installing LED lighting, capturing heat from refrigeration for heat and hot water, and improving insulation, architect Chuck Sullivan said.
The Stop & Shop Pharmacy, currently located at the Triangle, will be moved into the new building, and a florist will also be added.
“This is going to be a complete remodel of the current store. You will have an entirely new shopping experience,” project manager Lisa Davis said. “The aisles will be expanded, produce, natural foods, deli, meat, and seafood sections will all be expanded.”
The expanded sections will also include more locally sourced foods.
Ms. Davis said even with the expansion, the remodeled store would be considerably smaller than the average size of off-Island stores.
Addressing questions about employment, Ms. Davis said there are 75 year-round employees, about 30 of whom are full-time. The store adds 75 to 100 jobs in the summer, many of them on J-1 visas. The expanded store will employ about 10 more people. Ms. Davis said Stop & Shop pays between $800,000 and $1 million per year on summer employee housing.
If all goes smoothly with the remainder of the permitting process, construction will begin in the fall of 2018. The store will remain open during renovation.
Commissioner Doug Sederholm of West Tisbury asked how the store could stay open during remodeling. David Taglianetti, civil engineer on the project, said the new addition would not be disruptive, and that sections of the current store would be consolidated while work was being done, a strategy he said worked well in the remodel of the Nantucket Stop & Shop.
“So it’ll feel like the Vineyard Haven Stop & Shop,” Mr. Sederholm said.
Stop and stop
Like the Vineyard Haven Stop & Shop at Five Corners, the Edgartown store is located at one of the most severe traffic chokepoints on the Island — where Beach Road and Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road merge to become Upper Main Street.
Traffic flow was the major concern expressed by the Edgartown planning board when it referred the project to the MVC in January, and was discussed at length Thursday night. Traffic studies indicate there will a 48 percent increase in traffic in peak summer hours, when traffic is “already horrific,” as described by Mr. Sederholm. His concerns were echoed by several commissioners. “I’m not saying it’s all on Stop & Shop; this is a long-term problem,” he said.
Randy Hart, traffic engineer, said the increase would be “incremental” for the most part. To help traffic flow better through the area, he proposed closing the Rockland Bank driveway and aligning the entrance directly across from Pinehurst Road, which would “reduce conflict points,” and require cars to wait on Pinehurst rather than backing up traffic on Upper Main Street. Commissioner Kathy Newman of Aquinnah expressed concern that traffic might become more backed up on Pinehurst Road with the change. She also suggested traffic could be mitigated if Stop & Shop encouraged customers to use Peapod, the Stop & Shop service that delivers for a fee.
Commissioner Ernest Thomas of West Tisbury questioned how much the realignment of the exit would actually mitigate the logjam.
To help encourage use of public transportation, a new Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) enclosure will be built, at Stop & Shop expense, at the bus stop in front of the bank. The VTA stop on the opposite side of the street will be moved toward downtown to alleviate congestion at the Pinehurst/Upper Main Street intersection.
Ms. Davis said she and Mr. O’Brien have knocked on “as many neighbor’s doors as we could,” to address concerns of abutting property owners.
A handful of abutters were on hand. Noise from delivery trucks, compressors, and the HVAC systems were repeated concerns.
Mr. Taglianetti said 8-foot sound-deadening fences will enclose compressors and HVAC on the roof. Additionally, the modern equipment is more energy-efficient and also runs more quietly. A 12-foot fence is proposed to help deaden sounds from the loading dock.
Mr. Taglianetti said sound studies done in January showed the increase in noise level should be minimal, about 10 decibels at most.
Jacqueline Scott of Edgartown was not mollified: “We live right behind the loading dock, and we currently have problems with noise and lights. I can’t imagine another 10 decibels.” She expressed concern about the additional number of daily deliveries needed to keep the larger store stocked. She requested the commissioners consider limiting delivery hours.
Another abutter questioned the validity of the noise study, since it was done on weekdays in January.
“I’ve been a consultant for Stop & Shop for 25 years; they care about neighbors. We pledge we’ll continue to work with you,” Mr. O’Brien said.
The sharpest criticism of the evening came from Trip Barnes, commissioner from Tisbury, who was incredulous that a basement was not planned for the store, or had even been considered. Mr. Barnes said before the A & P was built, an underground garage was at the location. “There’s 13,000 feet that could be underground. A basement makes a helluva lot of sense,” he said. “I did Cronig’s store, and everybody was laughing at how big the cellar was. It turned out to be the best thing in the world because they got all that square footage out of it. Trucks came in, they put them on an elevator, they went downstairs, all the noise and banging around at night was kept inside.”
Leonard Jason, commissioner from Edgartown, was critical of the choice of crabapple trees along the border between the parking lot and Upper Main Street. “A portion of the master plan is about bringing back elms, and you give us crabapple trees?” he said.
Commissioner James Joyce of Edgartown said the property is valued at $13 million, and for Stop & Shop to be paying only $13,000 in taxes “doesn’t seem right.”
Commissioners said there was a dearth of information about the bank, which needed to be rectified before the next hearing.
The public hearing will be continued on Thursday, Oct. 19.