Morning Glory would expand
Morning Glory Farm, the Athearn family's popular farm and store on Edgartown-West Tisbury Road in Edgartown, plans a renovation and expansion project that will nearly double the retail space, expand the commercial kitchen, add parking, and move the entrance to the farm stand.
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) is currently reviewing the proposed expansion as a development of regional impact (DRI). The project was the subject of public hearing on December 17, and will be the main topic next Monday when the commission's land use planning committee meets. Deliberation and a vote are scheduled for January 7.
The process has been complicated by the position of farm owner Jim Athearn, who is both a MVC commissioner and the applicant. Mr. Athearn has not attended or participated in any of the proceedings involving the Morning Glory Farm application. His wife, Deborah, and son, Simon, have represented the business as the farm seeks a permit.
Mr. Athearn was not always pleased with what he called an "arduous" process. "I don't like paying the fee and having specialists prepare plans that I usually do on graph paper," he said.
The expansion project would demolish parts of the existing farm stand and add a 2,390-square-foot building for retail produce and food sales.
"The main reason is we don't have enough space for retail," Ms. Ahearn said. "We can't even display all the items we're pulling out of the fields. It's not really going to change a whole lot, except for a little more elbow room."
A large greenhouse near the farm stand will be moved, and replaced with a much smaller greenhouse much closer to the farm stand. The new greenhouse will be designed as a retail space, where customers can browse and select products.
Letters and public testimony for the project were overwhelmingly favorable, according to MVC staffers. Commissioners have closely examined the issues of traffic and nitrogen loading from farming activities of the fresh water aquifer and the Edgartown Great Pond watershed during the permitting process.
The nitrogen issue is very complex. The expansion of the building, the kitchen, and the future addition of staff is expected to increase the amount of nitrogen released by the farm. It sits in the Edgartown Great Pond watershed. The pond already suffers from an excess of nitrogen, according to a state study.
Morning Glory Farm is already releasing more nitrogen than MVC guidelines suggest. But the policy was designed for residential and commercial property, not agriculture enterprises. On some of its crops, the farm already employs organic growing techniques, which release significantly less nitrogen than synthetic fertilizers.
MVC water resource planner Bill Wilcox has presented a proposal under which the farm could meet the nitrogen level policy. The proposal gives the farm credit for nitrogen reduction already practiced, and provides for converting more of their crops to organic production. But the scenario involves some mathematical gymnastics that were questioned by some commissioners.
The other issue prompting questions from several commissioners is traffic and parking. According to the staff report, the expansion is anticipated to generate 314 trips for an average weekday, and 45 trips during peak hours. That is an increase of 120 trips, and 17 peak hour trips from the current traffic level. The numbers are based on a traffic study conducted by MVC staff and standard calculations used by transportation engineers. Because of the unusual nature of the Vineyard tourist season, staffers caution that the number of trips could be much higher, or much lower, depending on the season.
The proposal calls for an additional 13 parking spaces. The parking area now has 49 spaces. Employee parking would be relocated to free up more spaces.
Commissioners were concerned about traffic waiting to turn into the farm. "Occasionally in August, when things were crazy, cars would back up to the West Tisbury Road," Ms. Athearn said. Plans call for moving the farm stand entrance approximately 160 feet further up Meshacket Road, and further away from West Tisbury Road, according to Ms. Athearn. She said she believes that, with the added parking spaces, cars will not back up waiting to get into the parking lot.