The idea of a new Stop & Shop with more space for variety, wider aisles, and a better parking configuration is exciting. The excitement vanishes when you realize the proposal is a renovation and expansion in the same place in Edgartown where the current store is located, with very little mention of what Stop & Shop would do to help alleviate the traffic situation.
We don’t need to belabor the drawbacks to that location. We’ve all sat in enough seasonal traffic jams at the Triangle to know that customers going in and out of Stop & Shop are among the main culprits when it comes to the bottleneck of traffic. Adding a 48 percent increase to that traffic during peak times, something that wasn’t clearly explained during the first hearing, is something that needs to be addressed. and so far, Stop & Shop and their traffic engineers haven’t done that to any satisfaction.
We think Stop & Shop understands that this isn’t the ideal site either. Otherwise, their attorney, Geoghan Coogan, wouldn’t have started his recent presentation to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission by dousing talk of putting a store out near the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.
“We have two goals,” Mr. Coogan told the commissioners, “to bring an updated grocery store to Edgartown and the Island, and to fit it on the site we have.” To the comments expected about moving the store to the airport, where traffic congestion is not as much of a problem, he said, “A downtown grocery store is an anchor to your business community. It should not be relocated. The store downtown is absolutely vital to the town of Edgartown.”
While we agree that a supermarket is typically a draw, in this case it may be a deterrent to some people.
We’re sure there are Vineyard residents and visitors who eschew a trip to Edgartown because they don’t want to get caught in the crosshairs of Beach Road and Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road combining into Upper Main Street.
We were astonished to find little time spent on the issue of infrastructure. Stop & Shop is building a new bus stop for VTA bus passengers, but that’s like putting a drop of salt in the ocean. The people who use buses to go to Stop & Shop will still use them, and have better accommodations, but it’s not going to lure other people to use public transit to go grocery shopping. Moving the bus stop across the street from the store and changing the flow of traffic in and out of the adjacent bank is a plus, but it’s not enough to give a green light to this project.
It’s all well and good to encourage the use of the Peapod delivery service, but how long is that going to last? Commissioners need to look at this project as if public transportation and delivery services won’t be used, and push the company to offer other ways to mitigate the traffic issues.
Commissioner Trip Barnes asked a good question about whether a basement had been considered for the store — it had not. It seems like a reasonable way to expand the store’s square footage while easing some of the concerns about frequent deliveries to the store and the noise associated with them. It might even have an impact on how often Stop & Shop tractor-trailers have to take up space on the ferries to and from Martha’s Vineyard. That’s forward thinking we didn’t see much of at the first commission meeting on this project.
Commissioners seemed to miss the point of what’s on the minds of their constituents. And, no, it’s not why Stop & Shop is planting crabapple trees when elm trees are the tree of choice in Edgartown.
Perhaps instead of bucking the public outcry to locate a store near the airport, Stop & Shop should actually spend some time exploring that possibility. Maybe it really isn’t feasible; maybe there are drawbacks that the public isn’t aware of that can’t be overcome.
But the airport commission has talked about wanting to expand its business park, the Island could use an expanded discount supermarket with room to grow.
Isn’t that at least worth a consideration? Isn’t the commission’s role to help start that conversation? What are we missing?
It would be wise for the commission and Stop & Shop to address the elephant in the room, because right now it’s blocking traffic.