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bowling alley

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The person who strikes it right scores a fun-filled evening.

The planned bowling alley in Oak Bluffs needs a name. — Courtesy Sam Dunn

What’s in a name? For the person who suggests the winning moniker for a new bowling alley to be constructed in Oak Bluffs, it could be worth dinner and a free evening of bowling for four people.

Developer and architect Sam Dunn is building a 13,500-square-foot bowling alley/entertainment center on Uncas Avenue, at the edge of the town’s business district. He and his partners, landowner Barry Reeves and real estate advisor Bob Sawyer, decided they would ask Islanders for some feedback and suggestions before they make a final decision on the bowling center’s name.

The idea was to let the community be involved in deciding this,” Mr. Dunn said. “We’re hoping it will generate some interest.”

To vote, use the link, https://apps.facebook.com/my-polls/lvwkmk or visit the Facebook page, “Bowling Center on Martha’s Vineyard,” and click on “vote for name.”

The name choices include MV Bowl, Vineyard Bowl, Bowl MV, OB Bowl, and Cottage City Bowl. If none of those strike anyone’s fancy, there is a box marked “other” where people can type in their own suggestions.

Based on the poll, Mr. Dunn said that he, Mr. Reeves, and Mr. Sawyer will pick a winner from the first group of names, and also select one from those suggested by the community.

The two final selections will be put to a final vote, again on Facebook. If the winning name is suggested by someone in the community, that person and three guests will be treated to dinner and an evening of bowling at the new center.

My personal favorite so far is OB Bowl,” Mr. Dunn said. “I think it has great alliteration and would lend itself to a really cool logo.”

But people have been coming up to me and making some fun suggestions, though, that we never thought of,” he added.

The bowling alley/entertainment center will house 10 bowling lanes, a bar, a restaurant, two golf simulators, a game room, an event room and two apartments that will qualify as affordable housing. The new facility will replace a long-vacant laundromat, demolished in May. Perhaps that will inspire a few contest participants to work the word “suds” into their entries.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved the bowling alley project in March, with conditions regarding sound and light mitigation, landscaping, and limited use of the function room. The Oak Bluffs selectmen approved Mr. Dunn’s liquor license application on March 25.

At the selectmen’s June 9 meeting, a group of abutters of the Uncas Avenue property asked that all construction be halted until September 15. As a compromise, the selectmen voted to allow construction to continue from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday through Thursday, during the summer months.

Mr. Dunn previously told The Times that his goal is to have the bowling alley open by the holidays.

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Construction will be limited to four days a week until September 1.

Construction on the future bowling alley in Oak Bluffs is under way. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The negotiating skills of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen were put to the test at their regular meeting on Tuesday night, as they tried to reach a compromise between developer Sam Dunn and a group of abutters of the Uncas Avenue property where Mr. Dunn is building a 13,500-square-foot bowling alley/entertainment center which will replace a long-vacant and recently demolished laundromat.

In a letter to Oak Bluffs building inspector James Dunn dated May 28, Edgartown attorney Ellen Kaplan, who represents several abutters, asked thatall construction on the bowling alley be halted until September 15, in accordance with a town bylaw that was approved by the selectmen on July 23, 2013.

According to Ms. Kaplan’s letter, the bylaw “was enacted to prohibit construction or renovation of B-1 and B-2  zoned properties in the downtown areas of Oak Bluffs” during the summer, defined as June 1 to September 15.

Following a lengthy and at times heated discussion, selectmen voted 4-1 to allow construction to continue from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday through Thursday.

Communication breakdown

Initially there was confusion among the board about the geographic and legal scope of the July 23, 2013 vote, which chairman Greg Coogan quickly cleared up. “This was a policy, not a bylaw,” he said, holding up a copy of the minutes from the July 23 meeting. “When we voted, Kathy [selectman Kathy Burton] asked that we change from B-1 and B-2 to downtown, and that vote was unanimous. The original intent was not to block the sidewalks.”

Selectman Gail Barmakian said she had no recollection of the vote, and she maintained that the building moratorium should apply to all of B-1 and B-2 zoned property.
“We voted on July 23  after we discussed it at length as we do with every policy,” Ms. Burton said. “I think several of us believed we were voting for Circuit Ave., Kennebec and Circuit Ave Extension. I don’t understand why it was left in [the printed policy] after we voted on it.”

James Dunn apparently never received the amendment that changed the building moratorium from B-1 and B-2 to the “downtown district.”

“There’s a lot of confusion,” Sam Dunn said, adding that he’d received verbal assurances from town officials this spring that the building moratorium restriction would not apply to the Uncas Ave. location. “It would be great if we had a set of rules.”
In a letter to the selectmen dated June 10, James Dunn wrote, “the policy is very clear; and states; ‘to include all B-1 and B-2 zoned properties,’ applicable to ‘any and all construction, reconstruction, installation, demolition, maintenance, or repair of a building, to include painting.’”

In his letter, Mr. Dunn said he’d met with Sam Dunn three times over the past month hoping to reach a compromise that was “impartial and reasonable to all.”  He suggested three options: stop all work as of June 30and resume on September 15; stop all work on July 14and resume on September 15; or stop all work on July 14 and resume the first week in September. Sam Dunn rejected all three proposals, according to the building inspector.

“A two-month delay has a significant impact,” Sam Dunn told the selectmen. “A steel building has been ordered, deposits have been made. I see nothing in this policy that is intended to protect abutters from noise. It’s about business. I believe we behaved honorably.”

John Folino, the general contractor on the project, also supervised the construction of MVTV building on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, which has a similar steel frame design. He said noise was never an issue.

“We had compliments, not complaints,” he said. “The loudest noise was the demolition, which is done.” Mr. Folino said that the prefabricated steel structure doesn’t require the sawing and hammering of a wood framed building, and that there would be no exterior work once it was erected. He also said the site will be fenced off and that safety and security will be maintained “religiously.”

“I know John, he’s a good builder,” James Dunn said. “I do think abutters deserve a certain amount of summer.”

Mr. Dunn reiterated his preference to stick with the B-1, B-2 moratorium that was on the books, regardless of the July 2013 amendment by the board.

Abutters appeal

Abutters to the Uncas Ave. location were again out in numbers to voice their objections. Noise and safety complaints were repeatedly stated.

“I’ve owned my property for 19 years. My life has changed forever,” abutter David Harte said. “This is five feet from my property. I’ve had my foundation shake, I’ve had my hedge taken down. This has not been easy. Give us a break and let us have our last summer.”

Ms. Kaplan said she had visited the site that day. “A large piece of equipment was moving earth and it was noisy,” she said.
Several abutters and attendees said that the fence surrounding the project was encroaching on the street, making it difficult for two cars to pass on an already narrow thoroughfare.
During the proceedings, Mr. Santoro repeatedly suggested a shortened work week as a compromise — restricting work to Monday through Thursday, and restricting hours from eight am until four pm. After a lengthy and sometimes heated discussion, the selectmen voted to endorse Mr. Santoro’s suggestion, 4-1, with selectman Gail Barmakian voting against.
In addition to time restrictions, the selectmen required Sam Dunn to keep the fences and all personal vehicles and construction vehicles within the property line. Holidays were also added to the work moratorium.

“I have had building on all sides of me for years, so I empathize” Mr. Coogan said. “But to stop a project cold is not fair to other areas in town.”
In response to an email from the Times on Wednesday, James Dunn weighed in on the decision. “I don’t feel the compromise is in keeping with the policy. As it stands, this continues the construction throughout the summer and basically giving eight Fridays of relief from what will be typical construction site activities.”

“It’s not ideal, but we’ll honor the decision of the selectmen,” Sam Dunn said in a phone call with the Times.”We’re going to work as hard as we can to be open by the holidays.”
Ms. Kaplan did not return a call from the Times.

Inkwell woes continue

In other business, citizen anger about the dredge spoils on Inkwell beach also raised the temperature in the room. Although many people, including the selectmen, thought the problem had been solved after the highway department supervised removal of the much maligned beach nourishment on May 23, a piqued group of attendees told the board that there was still a great deal of odiforous black material on Inkwell and State beach.
“I think Richie [highway department supervisor Richard Combra] took as much as he could,” parks commissioner Amy Billings said. “We can’t take any more off right now. It was a mistake and we’re trying to fix it.”

The dredge spoils that have been removed were placed at the town cemetery until a permanent location can be found. The suggestion that the remaining material could be raked and worked into existing sand only served to further chafe the attendees. Selectman Santoro said the selectmen were told that the problem had been fixed.

“You should go there, take your shoes off and walk around,” Oak Bluffs resident Greg Herman said to the selectmen. “Then decide if you think the problem is fixed.”

It subsequently became apparent that none of the selectmen had been to the beach since the highway department took action. “We’ll check into it tomorrow,” Mr. Coogan said.

Until recently, it was assumed by town officials that a solution to the Inkwell imbroglio would be the clean dredge spoils from Little Bridge that were scheduled to be placed on Inkwell beach in the first week of June. However, according to town administrator Robert Whritenour, Little Bridge dredging, which is 75 percent funded by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been delayed because a new FEMA project engineer has taken over, and the town has had to resubmit all documentation that had been previously approved. Mr. Whritenour said there is no timetable from FEMA, but the town is sitting on bids for the $321,000 project and will act quickly when FEMA signs off, again.

Selectmen voted unanimously to enter into a 20-year contract with Cape and Vineyard electric cooperative (CVEC) to purchase excess capacity from solar projects on the Cape and Islands. According to town administrator Robert Whritenour, the contract will save the town 20 percent on half of the municipal load, essentially saving the town $20,000 a year.
Selectmen also unanimously voted to approve a one-year lease for Angels Helping Animals, a nonprofit dog rescue organization headed by Leslie Hurd, for the empty town animal shelter. Ms. Hurd estimated she will be making $4,200 worth of repairs, which selectmen will allow her to deduct from the rent.

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An excavator Thursday makes way for a new Oak Bluffs bowling alley. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Demolition has begun on the long abandoned former laundromat on Uncas Avenue to make way for a new bowling alley/entertainment center. The new entertainment center will house 10 bowling lanes, a bar, a restaurant, two golf simulators, a game room, an event room and two apartments that will qualify as affordable housing.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved the entertainment complex in March.

The long-abandoned laundromat on Uncas Ave awaits its demise.
The long-abandoned laundromat on Uncas Ave awaits its demise.

Developer and architect Sam Dunn estimates the construction costs will be around $2.5 million. Mr. Dunn hopes to have the excavation, concrete work and plumbing completed by mid-summer. “We have a very complicated footing and foundation situation, “ he said Thursday.

If all goes well, exterior construction of the steel modular building will begin in August. “We’re going to try our hardest to be open by the holidays,” Mr. Dunn said.


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The proposed bowling alley would be built on the site of a former laundromat on Uncas Avenue. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Monday evening, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s (MVC)  land use planning committee (LUPC) unanimously agreed to recommend, with conditions, developer Sam Dunn’s proposed bowling alley/entertainment center in Oak Bluffs.

“I think from the town perspective, this is a major improvement,” commissioner Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs said at the conclusion of the meeting.

“We have a good developer who’s taken an eyesore and made a reasonable plan,” added commissioner John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs.

LUPC chairman Linda Sibley of West Tisbury added that the bowling alley would be an attraction during the shoulder seasons, a goal of the most recent Oak Bluffs master plan.

Proposed floor plan of the bowling alley and entertainment center.
Proposed floor plan of the bowling alley and entertainment center.

The LUPC is the next to last step in the MVC approval process. At the conclusion of public hearings, the LUPC analyzes the benefits and detriments of a project and its consistency with the Island Plan, with town regulations and with town plans. Once the LUPC has finished its analysis, the committee can make a recommendation to the full commission to approve, to approve with conditions, or to deny the application. The full commission is not obliged to follow, in full or in part, the subcommittee’s recommendation

Since the public hearings began on February 6, the MVC has discussed possible conditions for approval that have included hours of operation, parking, affordable housing, additional de-nitrification, noise and light mitigation, and landscaping.

Sound mitigation has been a major issue. After the first public hearing, in response to abutter concerns, the commission asked Mr. Dunn for an independent acoustic study to more exactly determine potential sound levels that could be generated by the bowling alley.

Mr. Dunn enlisted acoustical consultants Cavanaugh Tocci Associates to provide the requested acoustical study — the same firm that developed the successful sound mitigation protocol for Dreamland after abutters had expressed similar concerns. Cavanaugh Tocci Associates responded with a sound mitigation plan for the abutting wall with a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating of 62, per the guidelines of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).  According to the ASTM, at STC 30, “loud talking is audible through a wall, at STC 50, loud sounds like musical instruments can be faintly heard and 99% of the population is not annoyed. Anything over 60 is considered “superior soundproofing, most sounds inaudible.”

Although commissioner Joan Malkin of Chilmark reiterated her reservations at Monday’s LUPC meeting, Ms. Sibley appeared to speak for the majority saying it was not a realistic goal to hear absolutely no noise.

“Mr. Dunn has made extensive offers at his expense to mitigate noise that may occur,” Mr. Breckenridge said. “He’s stepped up to the plate and gone above and beyond. [STC] 62 is excellent.” He added that the STC would be measured after construction and that Mr. Dunn may have to take additional sound mitigating measures if he didn’t meet the projected STC.

The LUPC also considered abutters’ concerns about drunken behavior, and their requests that the bar serve beer and wine only.

“If I were persuaded that beer and wine only would make a difference in public drunkenness, I would be for it, but I am not convinced it would,” Ms. Sibley said. Mr. Breckenridge noted the MVC was not presented with any studies that showed a beer and wine restriction reduced drunken behavior.

The proposed bowling alley/entertainment center would be located on Uncas Avenue, at the edge of, but within, the town’s business district. It would include 10 bowling lanes, a bar, a restaurant, two golf simulators, a game room, an event room, and two apartments that would qualify as affordable housing. Mr. Dunn estimates the cost of construction at $2.5 million.

The project will go before the full commission for a vote tonight.

Depending on the final MVC decision and the subsequent pace of the town approval process, Mr. Dunn said that the exterior of the steel modular structure could still be completed by the June 1 exterior construction moratorium for the B-1 district in Oak Bluffs.

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The proposed bowling alley would be built on the site of a former laundromat on Uncas Avenue. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

MV Bowl, the bowling alley/entertainment center that developer Sam Dunn proposes to build in Oak Bluffs, was the subject of a spirited public hearing before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) last Thursday.

The commission heard testimony for and against the project, which would be located on the edge of the town’s business district. Owners of abutting residential properties opposed the project, highlighting noise, traffic impact, and the rowdiness that could result from having a full bar in the proposed building. The public hearing will resume next Thursday, February 20.

Up until last week, the project was rolling through the permitting gauntlet quickly. Mr. Dunn first presented his plan to Oak Bluffs selectmen on October 22. The planning board unanimously approved the plan on January 23 and referred it to the MVC as a development of regional impact (DRI), as required by several triggers in the project, including size.

As currently designed, the 13,500-square-foot project, on Uncas Avenue in a crumbling building where a long-vacant laundromat operated, will have 10 bowling lanes, a bar, a restaurant, two golf simulators, a game room, an event room, and two apartments that would qualify as affordable housing. Mr. Dunn estimates the cost of construction at $2.5 million.

After meeting with abutters, Mr. Dunn changed the site plan to move the parking lot and reduce the building from 15,000 to 13,500 square feet, trimming the proposal from 12 lanes to 10.

Abutters object

The MVC hearing room was packed Thursday night. Most of those who spoke were abutters from the mostly seasonal neighborhood.

“This is a quiet, quaint neighborhood. We don’t need loud, rowdy people spilling into the neighborhood at night,” said Byron Barnett, owner of an abutting property on Hiawatha Avenue. “I’m not against bowling, I like to bowl. But there is no reason to have a 62-seat full liquor bar.”

Mr. Barnett suggested that the entertainment center be built by the airport where it could be larger and have more lanes. He requested that Mr. Dunn pay for a detailed police officer during closing hours, and he thanked Mr. Dunn for flipping the site plan so the parking lot would not abut his property. Mr. Barnett also noted that the MVC twice denied commercial development at the location, in 1997 and in 1982.

“Our Island friends alerted us of this project. We knew nothing about it,” said Alison Stewart, co-owner of an abutting property on Uncas Avenue. Ms. Stewart and her sister said they had come from New York and Virginia to register their opposition. She echoed Mr. Barnett’s concerns about noise and rowdy behavior and said that parking was already difficult in the area and that the project would exacerbate the problem. She also expressed concern that the project would diminish the property value of the house, which is currently in the estate of her deceased mother.

Kathryn Sullivan, an attorney for Delaware resident Diane Streett, who owns an abutting property on Hiawatha Avenue, lodged similar objections, and added that without an increase in the proposed level of lighting, criminal activity could increase.

Donald Lambert of Oak Bluffs, owner of a commercial property on upper Circuit Avenue, across the street from the Uncas Avenue location, objected to the notion of a full bar. “I’ll have 10 cars in my own lot in the morning, because people were too drunk to drive home,” he said. Mr. Lambert noted that patrons of bars on Circuit Avenue often parked in his lot at night. He suggested a compromise of beer and wine only, to mitigate the potential problem.

Developer responds

Mr. Dunn, developer of the Tisbury Marketplace and several other projects, is no stranger to the MVC process. Thursday, he addressed the objections one by one.

“I keep hearing this project referred to as a ruse for sports bar,” Mr. Dunn said. “Why would we build one million dollars worth of bowling as a ruse? We assume there will be leagues, teams formed by businesses and friends, birthday parties, office parties and the like. High school kids can bring a date and not break the bank. Sure we’ll have a bar, and you’ll be able to watch a game, it’s an amenity. We’ve agreed to have last call one and a half hours earlier than law permits. If this place was a bar scene, it would be suicide to our business plan. People who get drunk and rowdy will have to go elsewhere.”

Mr. Dunn held up a petition he said contained the signatures of more than 500 Island residents who are in favor of the project.

“This was a total grassroots effort,” Mr. Dunn said. “It took on a life of its own.”  

Mr. Dunn noted that of the objection letters on file with the MVC, more than half were from visitors, not property owners.  

“Every commercial district ends somewhere,” Mr. Dunn said. “It seems to me that people who buy next to commercial property, especially one in this condition, must know it’s very likely something’s going to happen.”

Mr. Dunn also asked the MVC to consider his track record on the Island, particularly the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society theater in the Tisbury Market Place.

Christine Todd, executive director of the Oak Bluffs Association (OBA), said that Mr. Dunn had the unanimous support of the OBA.

“We feel it will bring something the town has needed for a long time,” Ms. Todd said. “This condition exists wherever commercial ends and residential begins.

MVC sets up the pins

MVC chairman Linda Sibley of West Tisbury said that Mr. Dunn needed to more specific about the number of events that would be hosted in the function room. Mr. Dunn had indicated it would average two a week, but Ms. Sibley said the definition would allow him to have an event every night in the summer.  Mr. Dunn agreed to come back with a more specific estimate.

With regard to the noise concerns, the MVC wants an independent consultant to evaluate the findings of Mr. Dunn’s sound engineer. One commissioner suggested that Mr. Dunn investigate bowling pins that are made of materials that reduce noise.

Commissioner Joan Malkin of Chilmark said that she had read a newspaper article sent to the MVC from an opponent that described noise and smoke from a hardwood grill in a bowling alley in New York City. Ms. Malkin said the article “gave her pause.”

Members from the MVC said they would plan a site visit at night to evaluate the lighting.

Based on staff reports, Ms. Sibley said a more detailed traffic study that incorporporated seasonal fluctuations would be needed and that a parking estimate would be needed also, for those times when the complex is filled to legal maximum capacity.

In a conversation with The Times on Friday, Feb. 7, describing the MVC’s request for more information, Mr. Dunn said, “I guess it depends if you want to evaluate a project up for a 100-year storm or evaluate it for normal conditions.”

Pro and con

A review by The Times of the written record submitted as of Thursday revealed that Mr. Dunn has generated support among year-round residents. The vast majority of 34 letters objecting to the project and on file with the MVC are from seasonal residents. The majority in favor, 59 of 60, are from Island residents.

Many opponents cite the unsuitability of the site and its potential to alter the quiet neighborhood.

Yoshino White, in an email dated Feb. 5, said, “This building is completely out of character for the proposed community and should be placed in a more appropriate location on the Island. Why not downtown in Oak Bluffs, why not Vineyard Haven or even Edgartown?”

Amy Wilkinson said she had spent summers in Oak Bluffs since 1967 and her parents purchased a home on Nashawena Park in 1969. “I am extremely concerned that if the bowling center/bar is built,” she said, “we will have problems with disorderly conduct by patrons when leaving the bar, which will inevitably include loud noise when we are trying to sleep.”

Several opponents highlighted the area’s connection to the Island’s African-American history. “It would devalue Highland Park which is part of the African American Historic Trail,” said Sara Farr.

Visitors to the Island also chimed in. In a letter dated Feb. 1, Robert B. Young of Wilmington, Delaware, a self-described “tourist and lover of Martha’s Vineyard,” said, “I hope you will really reject this proposal in favor of perhaps some other enterprise that would be less disruptive to the quaint, small-town atmosphere that makes Martha’s Vineyard so enticing as a vacation destination.”

Many of the emails in favor cited their support for a year-round family venue and Mr. Dunn’s track record. “We feel this would be a great benefit to the Island,” said June and Andrew Flake of Vineyard Haven.

“It will provide a healthy activity choice for the young people of our community and will help to keep seniors active and engaged with others,” said Stephanie Burke, vice president of the Boys and Girls Club.

Abutter Kim Nye of Oak Bluffs saw no problem. “It will be great to see the derelict properties across the street be replaced with a continued business district and something the Island will love,” she said.

Fred Mascolo of Edgartown added his take on the MVC process. “Please stop with the social engineering. You are a land use planning agency … Please do not debate it for six months so the people run out of money, and just approve it because how bad is bowling?”