Tags Posts tagged with "MVC"


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The Martha’s Vineyard Commission budget will shrink by 2.4 percent in the next fiscal year, as increases in employee benefits are offset by cuts in legal fees.

The Martha's Vineyard Commission building in Oak Bluffs. — Martha's Vineyard Times file pho

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) is set to vote this month on a $1,420,940 operating budget for the 2016 fiscal year (FY) that begins on July 1, 2015. This proposed FY 2016 budget reflects a 2.4 percent decrease of $34,538 over FY15.

The modest decrease will be welcome news to taxpayers who have watched the MVC budget grow annually. The current fiscal year budget reflected a nearly 10 percent increase over the FY14 budget, which also included a 10 percent increase over the previous year.

The decrease will be reflected in the MVC assessment most taxpayers will encounter at annual town meetings this spring. Once approved by the commission, towns are legally obligated to pay the assessment.  Edgartown, the Island’s largest town in terms of real estate value, and the largest contributor to the MVC budget, will see the largest decrease, approximately $10,800. Only one town, Aquinnah, will pay more next year, $42,207 up from $40,840, based upon a formula tied to assessors’ changes in real estate valuations during the past year.

By law, the MVC must present a budget in January. The process began in October, and according to the MVC’s budget timeline, a vote by the full commission is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 22.

Expenses drop

The overall drop in MVC budget expenses was triggered in large part by decreases in two line items: legal expenses and the general reserve fund. The FY16 budget reflects a decrease of $50,000 for legal expenses next year, from $120,000 to $70,000.

MVC decisions can sometimes lead to litigation with property owners. In a phone interview with The Times, MVC Chairman Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs explained that legal fees for two lawsuits were responsible for budget shortfalls in 2012 and 2013. Last year, after both lawsuits had worked their way through a multi-year appeals process, a decision was made to use the general reserve to pay for accumulated additional legal expenses in order to bring the budget and reserve back into balance.

Mr. Hancock said that in prior years, the MVC maintained the legal budget at $60,000 in order to avoid increases to the towns. As the MVC’s legal counsel believes that there are not currently matters requiring significant additional work, the MVC finance committee adjusted the legal fees budget number to $70,000.

“We are happy that this will allow us to move money into two other accounts, for planned maintenance on our building and a much-needed new copy machine,” Mr. Hancock said.

The second line item with a significant impact on expenses is the general reserve fund, which the commission maintains “to cover urgent, unforeseen expenses during the course of the year.”

In FY15, the MVC placed $75,000 in the reserve fund, which the commission had depleted in FY 2012 and FY 2013, Mr. Hancock said, due to expenses that included legal fees and state-mandated contributions to the Dukes County Contributory Retirement system. The MVC has earmarked no contribution to the general reserve fund in the FY16 budget.

Salaries rise

Salaries and employee benefits that include the cost of funding retirement benefits will lay claim to the largest share of expenses, approximately 82 percent of the MVC budget. Personnel costs total $1,175,564 next year, an increase of $60,831, or 5.5 percent.

Salaries for the MVC’s 10 full-time employees, which include a senior planner, a senior transportation planner, a water resource planner, a coastal planner, a developments of regional impact planner, GIS coordinator and affordable housing/economic development planner will account for $810,575, an increase of $39,309. In addition, there is $159,740 in health and disability insurance and $139,795 in pension costs.

The commission’s headcount of 10 staff members is the same as it had 10 years ago, according to budget notes. Current staff salaries range from $51,536 to $91,735. MVC Executive Director Mark London, who will retire this summer, earns $130,891.

Salary increases in the coming fiscal year will include a cost of living adjustment (COLA) and a merit-increase component, according to the MVC salary policy. The COLA is determined by averaging increases for employees in all six Island towns from the previous year’s data.

Assessments decline slightly

The bulk of MVC income comes from Dukes County taxpayers through town assessments based on property tax valuation. All seven towns in Dukes County, which includes Gosnold, share the cost of planning, according to their relative property valuation.

FY16 assessments for Island towns and Gosnold are projected to decrease by a total of $34,808, from $1,047,748 to $1,012,940, which is a decline of just over 3 percent from the current fiscal year.

Based on the most recent draft, Edgartown will once again pay the lion’s share, $373,250 in FY16, compared with $384,043 in FY15. Chilmark will pay $173,808 compared with $176,600. Oak Bluffs will contribute $141,868, down from $149,526. Tisbury falls just short of Oak Bluffs at $141,039 compared with $148,604 this year. West Tisbury will pay $132,716 down from last year’s $138,520. Gosnold will contribute $8,053.  According to the draft budget, Aquinnah is the only town to pay more for FY 2016: $42,207 compared with $40,840 in FY15.

In addition to income derived from county taxpayers, grants, contracts, and gifts are projected to generate an additional $358,000, the same as last year. Interest and other income are projected to generate another $50,000.

“Given the reduction in the Massachusetts state income tax, it is even more difficult than usual to project where we will end up next year with grants for planning projects funded by the state,” Mr. Hancock said.

MVC planning agenda

Mr. Hancock noted that in addition to regulatory and permitting responsibilities, the MVC is a planning agency. “This means that the MVC staff is also occupied with ongoing data collection and planning in several areas of expertise in order to assist state agencies, town boards, and volunteer action committees across the Island,” Mr. Hancock said.

Some of the planning projects the MVC is working on now include completing a predisaster planning activity that focuses on how Martha’s Vineyard should respond to a significant hurricane or other impacts of potential climate change, he said. Other projects with priority include fertilizer regulations designed to protect groundwater, efforts related to water quality in coastal ponds, and further consideration of affordable housing.

Mr. Hancock said, “It is a tough dance to communicate about our goals and capabilities. Not everyone is aware of what the MVC does until there is a DRI that is important to them. So often, they simply don’t notice our projects. And sometimes, when they want to know why we aren’t involved and they think we should be, it is difficult to explain that what concerns them is simply not within our legislative or regional planning charter.”

Search begins

With the retirement of Mark London coming at the end of August this year, members of the MVC have also begun the search process for a new executive director. Search considerations include salary and relocation expense, as well as whether there should be overlap of the new candidate with Mr. London so as to provide for a smooth transition.  When asked about search priorities, Mr. Hancock said, “As a volunteer board, we rely on the executive director for planning experience, handling and balancing staff assignments, development of the budget, and providing his or her own vision for the MVC.  We are committing significant time and energy to this appointment.”

The appointed and elected Vineyard voting members of the commission are: Clarence (“Trip”) Barnes of Tisbury, Josh Goldstein of Tisbury, Harold Chapdelaine of Tisbury, Ernest Thomas of West Tisbury, Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, Douglas Sederholm of West Tisbury, Christina Brown of Edgartown, James Joyce of Edgartown, Chairman Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs, John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs, Abe Seiman of Oak Bluffs, Katherine Newman of Aquinnah, James Vercruysse of Aquinnah,  Leonard Jason (Dukes County), Joan Malkin of Chilmark, and Rob Doyle of Chilmark. The governor’s appointee is Karl McLauren.

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Denied once, the church has returned to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission with a scaled-back plan.

An artist's rendering of the new church design. — Illustration courtesy of Cape Bu

Public testimony grew heated at a Martha’s Vineyard Commission public hearing on Thursday, July 10, to review the latest proposal by the Alliance Community Church, formerly known as Assembleia de Deus Nova Vida (Assembly of God), to expand its church. The MVC reviewed the project as a development of regional impact (DRI).

Church supporters were under the impression that the commission would make a decision that night. They became upset when hearing chairman Linda Sibley of West Tisbury said that the hearing would be continued to August 7, because of time constraints posed by another hearing that evening.

Edward Redd, a seasonal Oak Bluffs resident, said he had flown to Martha’s Vineyard from Atlanta that day to attend the hearing. “I don’t understand it — I’m upset there’s not going to be a vote tonight,” he said.

The Reverend Walter Thompson, also a seasonal Oak Bluffs resident, said he also had flown in especially for the hearing from New York, where he is the pastor of a church.

The size and use of the church, located in a residential Oak Bluffs neighborhood on Ryan’s Way off the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, have been the subject of an ongoing debate between neighbors and church representatives ever since the MVC first approved plans for a 150-seat chapel on the second floor of the existing building and a 28-child day care center on the bottom floor.

The day care center has since moved, and building plans have been dormant. In December 2013, ending a review process that lasted almost one year, the MVC denied a church proposal to expand its building and church activities as a modification of its previously approved DRI.

The commission voted 4-3 against the proposal based largely on the impact an expansion would have on the residential neighborhood.

In April, church representatives submitted a new DRI application now under review. The revised plan includes a 3,920-square-foot addition, reduced from 4,500 square feet in the previous proposal, and a 22-foot high gable roof rather than a 24-foot high shed roof. The first floor would house the church sanctuary and the second floor an apartment for a caretaker and family.

The site plan has been changed so that the building and parking are set further back from Ryan’s Way. A proposed road that would have gone all the way around the building was removed. The new plans call for access to be off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and not from Ryan’s Way.

The church also submitted a six-page list with 51 offers as conditions for the DRI’s approval. Among them, church leaders said the building will be equipped with composting toilets, church services limited to three per week, no formal or informal activities will be held on the property before 7 am or after 9 pm, with no outdoor socializing allowed after 9 pm.

Church members had met in the basement of the existing building until the town of Oak Bluffs issued a cease and desist order. For the past few years, the church has been operating and holding services at the Federated Church in Edgartown.

What do you want

Attorney Rosemarie Haigazian accompanied Pastor Valci Carvalho and spoke on the church’s behalf. “We’ve done everything we can possibly think of to address the concerns that have been raised by the commission and have been raised by the neighbors and other town boards,” she said. “We’re doing the very best we can to show our good faith in our efforts. There have been some very difficult buffers put in front of us, and we have dealt with them.”

The church’s previously approved DRI stipulated that the sanctuary would operate on the church’s second floor, and that a community room would not be used for services. Ms. Haigazian said that since Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s daycare no longer operates in the building, and that a community room created on the first floor has been used temporarily as a gathering place, but not as a sanctuary. Commissioner Erik Hammarlund of West Tisbury questioned whether that made the church in non-compliance with the previously approved DRI.

Ms. Haigazian said the room is part of the already existing building, and that while some church services have taken place there, it hasn’t caused any problem. “There is a functional building which has been utilized, and has been approved to be utilized,” she added.

Finding no Oak Bluffs public officials or representatives from town boards that wanted to speak, hearing chairman Linda Sibley opened the hearing to public testimony. She said that she would end the session in 30 minutes and would continue it. There was some discussion among the MVC members about who would be present for the continued hearing in August.

Ms. Sibley then called for comments from anyone who might not be able to attend next month.

Mr. Redd said he had been coming to the MVC hearings on the church for a year, and would not be able to come back in August. He launched into an angry diatribe about the MVC process and what he characterized as mistreatment of the Brazilian community by the commission.

“They’re basically done everything you’ve asked them to do,” Mr. Redd said. “They’ve redesigned the building, they’re spending money they don’t have, and I want to know when it’s going to stop. What I see represented on this commission is not a commission of people that I have come to love on the Island.

“I don’t understand it. You would never put another church through this kind of nonsense. You’re talking about having a meeting on August 7 and you’re not going to have enough people, and your deadline is September?” he continued, his voice rising as he asked, “What do you want the church to do? What do you want them to do?”

Ending with the remark that he was upset there would be no vote that night, Mr. Redd left the building.

Lorinda Kasoff of Brooklyn, who owns a home in Oak Bluffs, said she doesn’t understand why the church needs to be so large. “I think the building is too large for the site, and it will overwhelm the neighborhood.”

Kris Chvatal, an abutter on Ryan’s Way with a longstanding history of opposition to the church’s expansion, questioned whether the square footage given for the addition was accurate.

Edgartown resident Courtney Brady said she lives across the street from the Federated Church and has attended some of the Alliance Community Church services there. “I have found them to be completely acceptable as far as noise and busyness, traffic, whatever problems,” she said. “I was happy to have them as neighbors.”

Reverend Thompson said members of the Alliance Community Church have not only been involved in the Island community, but have also traveled to New York to be part of his church community. “I want to encourage the commission to consider the wide arm that this church has been involved in, in meeting the needs of the community,” he said. “I’m here to support it.”

Ms. Sibley asked the commissioners to submit questions about the project in writing to her and continued the hearing to August 7.

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Nomination papers are due July 29 to run for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

The Martha's Vineyard Commission building in Oak Bluffs. — Martha's Vineyard Times file pho

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), the Island’s powerful regional permitting body, exerts a strong influence on the Island economy and infrastructure. It does this by shaping and permitting, or denying, projects referred to the commission as developments of regional impact (DRIs), and in the creation of districts of critical planning concern (DCPCs), which towns can adopt to provide an overlay of regulatory control on top of local zoning bylaws.

Although the November election may be far from the thoughts of Martha’s Vineyard voters in the heat of July, the makeup of the MVC will be partially determined in the next few weeks.

Candidates for nine open seats on the 17-member body have until 5 pm on Tuesday, July 29, to file nomination papers with 10 signatures from registered voters with local boards of registrars to appear on the November ballot. As of last week, a survey of Island town clerks revealed that no new candidates and only two incumbents had pulled papers to run in the fall election, Christina Brown of Edgartown and Jim Vercruysse of Aquinnah.

Other MVC incumbents include Clarence “Trip” Barnes and Josh Goldstein of Tisbury, John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs, Madeline Fisher of Edgartown, and Erik Hammarlund and Linda Sibley of West Tisbury. Doug Sederholm, formerly of Chilmark, will be seeking election from his new home town of West Tisbury.

Several of the incumbents have been commissioners for multiple terms. Ms. Sibley, elected in 1992, is the longest serving member. Ms. Brown has served since 1997, Mr. Sederholm since 2003, and Mr. Breckenridge since 2004.

Mr. Hammarlund was elected in 2011, and Mr. Barnes, Ms. Fisher, and Mr. Goldstein in 2013. Mr. Vercruysse was appointed in January by the Aquinnah Planning Board to fill a vacancy after former commissioner Camille Rose moved off Island.

Representing economic interests

MVC decision making and planning exerts a strong influence over key sectors of the economy. However, few of the commissioners are actively involved in the building trades, one of the linchpins of the Island economy, and tourist-related jobs, which represent 37 percent of employment on the Island, according to the MVC.

The younger generation of Islanders has only two representative. Among the incumbents, only Mr. Goldstein, 35, and Mr. Hammarlund, 43, are under the age of 50.

The Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce’s counts almost 1,000 members. Discussion about representation on the commission has not come up in board meetings, executive director Nancy Gardella told The Times in a phone call Monday.

“But I certainly don’t think there is anyone that doesn’t understand and admire the people who do opt to run for the commission and the enormous time commitment they are willing to give to our community,” Ms. Gardella said.

With that in mind, she said she can understand why a small business owner, for example, especially one with young children, would be reluctant to run.

“In casual conversations I’ve had with members of the commission, it has always been my impression they would encourage and welcome a broader representation of the Island community to step forward,” Ms. Gardella said. “But we all get it, when we see Islanders working so hard in the few precious months of summer, often 16 to 20 hours a day, that they can’t squeeze another moment out.”

Variety of backgrounds

Of the current commissioners, Mr. Goldstein is the only one involved in the hospitality industry. He works in the management of his family’s business, the Mansion House Inn in Vineyard Haven.

Several commissioners are actively involved in Island businesses. Ms. Sibley owns and operates a retail store, Vineyard Electronics, on State Road. Mr. Barnes owns and operates Barnes Moving and Storage Company, also on State Road. Brian Smith, the West Tisbury selectmen’s appointee since 2010, has managed several businesses since moving to Martha’s Vineyard in 1995.

MVC chairman Fred Hancock, the Oak Bluffs selectmen’s appointee since 2010, is self-employed as a technical director for corporate meetings. Ms. Fisher is an art gallery owner, painter, and licensed real estate broker.

Mr. Sederholm and Mr. Hammarlund are both lawyers in private practice. Mr. Sederholm practices law in partnership with attorney Howard Miller in Edgartown. Mr. Hammarlund runs a law office in Vineyard Haven.

Leonard Jason, the Dukes County Commission’s MVC appointee and a longtime municipal employee, is the building inspector for Edgartown and Chilmark.

Mr. Vercruysse is a cabinet shop foreman and employee owner at South Mountain Company, an employee-owned architecture, building, and renewable energy firm in West Tisbury. Commissioner Jim Joyce, appointed by the Edgartown selectmen in 2010, has both business and building trade experience. He is the owner/broker of Carroll and Vincent Real Estate and a State-licensed construction supervisor.

W. Karl McLaurin, Governor Deval Patrick’s MVC appointee since 2013, is the marketing director for the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. He is familiar with Martha’s Vineyard as a longtime seasonal visitor in Oak Bluffs.

Several of the current commissioners are retired. Ms. Brown is a former assistant to the Edgartown Planning Board. Mr. Breckenridge worked in the foodservice industry.

Among the Island town selectmen’s appointees, Joan Malkin of Chilmark is is a retired attorney. Katherine Newman of Aquinnah is a retired psychologist. Ned Orleans of Tisbury worked in the department store retail industry for 25 years, and then went into public education administration in the Fairfax [Virginia] County Public Schools.

Veteran and newcomer perspectives

Although new to the commission this year, Mr. Vercruysse is actually a veteran commissioner who was tapped by the Aquinnah selectmen and planning board to return after a hiatus of several years. He said he decided to step down from the commission after serving as chairman in 2002, when the MVC went through a contentious review process and rejected a golf club development plan for the southern woodlands in Oak Bluffs.

“I was really burned out after that,” Mr. Vercruysse said. However, on his return to the commission this year, he added, “I realized how much I enjoyed it and missed it.”

Mr. Vercruysse, who has taken out papers for the November election, said he thinks the current commissioners are a good group.

“In fact, that’s why I’m motivated to run again,” he said. “It seems to me the board is very engaged and motivated. We have had tough decisions to make, but I think it’s a really good, strong board.”

Mr. Vercruysse noted that Mr. McLaurin, Governor Deval Patrick’s appointee to the MVC, regularly attends the meetings, which wasn’t the case with the governor’s appointee when he previously served on the commission.

“And we have two attorneys on it, which is very helpful, especially when we’re doing wordsmithing to get the language right on decisions,” he added.

As the youngest member currently serving on the MVC, Mr. Goldstein, 35, said it would be interesting if more people in his age bracket would run. “It would make for a better representation of the next generation of Islanders,” he said. “The people who have been on the commission for a long time have done an amazing job, but like any organization, if it doesn’t get fresh blood, it gets stagnant.”

But he pointed out that getting new people to run is not always easy on Martha’s Vineyard. “Change is good, but on the Island, people who have been in a position for years and years, if their names are on the ballot, no one will run against them,” Mr. Goldstein said.

Also, as he nears the end of his first term on the MVC, Mr. Goldstein said he has had to come to terms with the fact that his service is not always appreciated by his fellow Islanders. “For every person who says thanks, there are ten that say to me, ‘What a waste of time,’” he said. “Nonetheless, I think the commission does great work. A lot of my peers from my graduating class are here on the Island, and I’d be happy to lose to one of them. It would be nice to see some new faces.”

The MVC was established by an act of the state legislature in 1974 as a regional land use planning and regulatory agency with broad powers to oversee and permit DRIs and and to develop regional regulations for areas approved as DCPCs.

Nine MVC candidates are elected at large to two-year terms. Residents of one town may vote for candidates from other towns, but at least one commissioner must be elected from each town, and no more than two elected commissioners can be from any one town.

For example, if the candidates with the three highest vote totals are from the same town, only the two with the highest vote totals will be elected to the MVC. If a candidate with the lowest vote total overall was the only candidate from that town, he or she would be elected.

In addition to nine elected members, the Island’s boards of selectmen appoint six, the Dukes County Commission appoints one, and the governor appoints up to five, of whom four do not vote on DRIs or DCPCs.

Correction: An earlier version of this story failed to report that Erik Hammarlund is also under the age of 50. He is 43.

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At a public hearing concluded last week, green was the watchword in the commissioners’ discussion.

Illustrations of the proposed apartment building at 6 Water Street depict (at top) the view from the street, and (below) the south side of the building, which includes solar panels on the roof. — Photo courtesy of James Weisman/

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) wrapped up a public hearing in one session last Thursday night on a proposal by the Island Housing Trust (IHT) to build a six-unit affordable housing rental apartment building at 6 Water Street in Vineyard Haven. But not before the commissioners put IHT executive director Philippe Jordi, accompanied by IHT board chairman Richard Leonard, through the paces during a more than 90-minute discussion, and put off a decision by one week.

Most of the commissioners’ questions focused on the affordable housing project’s design elements, and particularly the lack of greenery on the 0.11-acre site close to Five Corners.

This dilapidated house will be replaced by a six bedroom affordable apartment building.
This dilapidated house will be replaced by a six bedroom affordable apartment building.

The MVC reviewed the affordable housing project adjacent to Stop & Shop as a development of regional impact (DRI). Approval could come tonight. On Monday, the commission’s land use planning committee voted to recommend approval with the condition that the MVC approve the final landscaping, architectural detail, and stormwater management plans before a building permit is issued.

Plans call for a two-and-a-half story, 3,600-square-foot building. There will be six 600-square-foot apartments, three handicapped accessible ground floor units and three on the second floor, each with one bedroom and one bathroom. Mr. Jordi said IHT worked closely with Tisbury’s Affordable Housing Committee, Planning Board, Historic Commission, building department, and Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to come up with the design

It is our intent to develop a project that contributes to the village of Vineyard Haven and the community’s critical need for year-round affordable rental housing,” Mr. Jordi said last Thursday night. “We ask that you close the public hearing and make your decision tonight, so that we have time for the Tisbury Zoning Board of Appeal’s public review process in advance of the state and local grant funding process this fall.”

Green versus housing

Commissioner Joan Malkin of Chilmark called attention to a bricked area on the plans that includes the development’s only parking space, to be used for deliveries, pickups and dropoffs only.

“What troubles me about this proposal, is there is no more real open green space,” Ms. Malkin said. “Is there any reason why you’re not putting a lawn or some sort of green?”

Mr. Jordi said the landscaping plans were not complete. With the building taking up 54 percent of the lot, he pointed out, “There is not a lot of lawn space to be had.”

Commissioner Clarence “Trip” Barnes of Tisbury asked about cost. Mr. Jordi said approximately $1.2 million has been budgeted for the six apartments, with an eye towards using modular construction.

That led to a question about the number of apartments from Commissioner James Joyce of Edgartown.

“It’s happening everywhere, in Edgartown, and all the towns, all of these downtown properties are being built up to the max,” Mr. Joyce said. “That’s what you’re doing here. I’m just curious why you’re doing six. Is it cheaper than four?”

Mr. Jordi said IHT originally considered five units. “If we really wanted to max it out, we could do nine,” he said.

“Do it,” Mr. Barnes said.

Mr. Jordi explained the decision to increase from five units to six involved several considerations. To start, when state officials reviewed the project as a 40-B affordable housing development, they said the units were too large for one-bedroom apartments, Mr. Jordi said.

Given the need for more housing, IHT decided an additional apartment would be a plus, and an even number of units would work better if modular construction is used. Most importantly, Mr. Jordi said, the state only considers rental housing properties or projects for funding that have five or more units.

“I guess my only other point is that if it was smaller, there would be more green space for people that are going to live there,” Mr. Joyce persisted. “They could actually maybe have a barbeque grill, have some space. The way it’s being set up, there’s no space for anything. It’s really like living in Boston. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I was just curious about the thought process.”

“It’s not West Tisbury’s Sepiessa,” Mr Jordi said, referencing an affordable rental housing complex adjacent to the entrance to the Land Bank’s Sepiessa Point Reservation. “It’s a downtown location; it’s similar to people who live above stores on Main Street; it’s similar to rental housing that we have actually not very far from this, across from the Thrift Store.”

“In all seriousness, I don’t see why you don’t do seven or eight if you can fit them on there,” Mr. Barnes countered. “I mean, if you’re going to put people down at Five Corners, and you’re going to make this commitment, then I would stuff it. No parking, no nothing.

“I’d go after old senior citizens,” he continued, drawing laughter from the audience as he added, “The grocery store is next door, the Steamship Authority is across the street, and they can die happy.”

Hearing chairman Linda Sibley of West Tisbury chided Mr. Barnes that the IHT asked the MVC to act on the project expeditiously in order to seek funding, and that he was asking them to redesign it. She then opened the hearing to comments from town officials and boards.

Pigeon holed

Although Tisbury building and zoning inspector Ken Barwick, who referred the project to the MVC, and Tisbury selectman Melinda Loberg were in the audience, neither responded. Dan Seidman, an IHT board member, asked to comment in his capacity as a Tisbury planning board member.

“We’ve looked at this project, and we believe it’s a good project in a good location,” Mr. Seidman said. “The emphasis today is on smart growth; you want to put density where density is.

“As far as if someone could have a barbeque,” he added, “we do have a deck, and there will be some green areas.”

David Vigneault, executive director of the Dukes Housing Regional Housing Authority, the agency that will manage the property, added to the discussion on greenery from a practical standpoint.

I think more hardscape there is better, because I’ll tell you what, we’re going to be sweeping and cleaning, and I’d rather the guys not be trying to mow some eight-inch strip, so much as move potted plants or trees, or what have you in there,” he said.

Doug Ruskin of West Tisbury, who has worked in private and public affordable housing organizations for the last eight years, said he was surprised that the project went to a public hearing before the MVC. “I think everybody knows the vast need for housing on the Island and how ideal this site is,” he said.

Tisbury residents Ben Robinson and Hyung Lee criticised the building’s design. Mr. Robinson said the building’s interior design is “half-cooked.” Mr. Lee called the apartments “pigeon holes.” Mr. Jordi said the interior plans have not been finalized, and that IHT was only seeking the MVC’s approval of the conceptual design of the building’s exterior at this time.

Some greenness

Ms. Loberg waited until the end of the public testimony to offer her remarks. Selectman Loberg said she was speaking as a “private citizen.” Although her fellow selectmen, Tristan Israel and Jon Snyder, had voted on July 1 to send a letter in support of the IHT project, Ms. Loberg, newly elected in May, said she abstained because she didn’t know much about it. Since then, she said she tried to familiarize herself with it.

What I’m hearing from a lot of people is we’re trying to squeeze a ten-pound bag into a four-pound bag,” Ms. Loberg said. “I heard the same things being said as were said about Stop & Shop.”

Ms. Loberg questioned whether the project’s smart growth aspect should be shifted to mixed use, rather than residential. I wonder if it would be possible or even desirable to consider a mixed use here, put another floor on, and have multiple apartments and use the ground floor area for commercial use,” Ms. Loberg said.

Mr. Seidman took exception. “On the ten-pound, four-pound thing, if you look at downtown Vineyard Haven, this is an appropriate size building for the lots that are all along Main Street,” he said. “Look at any of those; they’re all tightly packed, with very little space in-between, and very little green.”

In final remarks from commissioners, Kathy Newman of Aquinnah went back to the building’s design. “Is there any way it can look less boxy?” she asked.

Get a bigger lot,” commissioner Doug Sederholm of Edgartown responded.

Mr. Jordi said that IHT had a design competition, and that the designs were driven by whether the building would have parking or not. We were looking not to create something new to downtown Vineyard Haven, but to have something that fit into the existing landscape,” he said.

Ms. Newman suggested adding some design elements to alter the boxy look.

It could add to some greenness if you had a tiny little outdoor space where you could put some green stuff,” she said.

Kathy, when we’re debating this we can decide how much leeway we want to give them,” Ms. Sibley said. “I happen to think the generic box is, in fact, traditional Tisbury architecture, so I don’t even agree with you. So then how would we decide what to tell them?”

Ms. Sibley closed the public hearing at about 10:25 pm.

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Facing staunch opposition and uncertainty at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Stop & Shop withdrew from the permitting process.

The most recent rendering of the new two-story, 30,500-square-foot supermarket Stop & Shop proposed to build. — Photo illustration courtesy of MVC

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.”

Mixed views

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.

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The Martha’s Vineyard Commission held its eighth and final public hearing Thursday night before a packed audience. A decision is expected in June.

Marie Laursen, a vocal opponent of the Stop & Shop proposal, expressed her views on the subject to the Martha's Vineyard Commission Thursday night. — Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) concluded the public portion of its review of the Stop & Shop expansion project Thursday night before a roomful of opponents and supporters in the Tisbury senior center.

The MVC agreed to keep the public record open until May 8 for written comment. A decision is expected when the commission meets on June 5.

There was little new in the arguments for and against the project, which has ground through the MVC regulatory process as a development of regional impact (DRI) since July. But there was a new twist — opposition to the plan by two of the three Tisbury selectmen, Tristan Israel and Jon Snyder.

Stop & Shop proposes 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. The plans also include a parking lot for 41 vehicles in an enclosed area on the ground level beneath the market where trucks would unload.

Tisbury planning board member Tony Peak told commissioners his board had unanimously concluded that it could not support the size of the proposed market.

“At this time, the board has come to the conclusion that the project is too big and relied too much on public space and town resources to satisfy the basic elements of DRI requirements,” Mr. Peak said.

He urged the MVC to deny the Stop & Shop proposal. “The inability of the applicant to modify this plan requires us to look at this proposal, not as a template which may be adjusted to fit within the unique circumstances of this location, but as an absolute, which is incompatible with and inappropriate for the heart of a small New England village.”

Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel said he would like to see a smaller store.

“I would like them to come back with a smaller, more tasteful plan and spend some time in the community and listen to all the sensibilities on all sides of the issue and then come back,” he said. “So I guess I’m urging you to deny this project.”

Tisbury selectman John Snyder said he spoke not as a representative of the town, but from his own personal perspective. “I find this design simply too large,” he said. “It bothers me that there is so much assumed to come from the town and I would also urge that we would go for a redesign, a smaller store, and not approve it as it is.”

West Tisbury resident Carol Gannon Salguero, one of the few voices of support Thursday, said she is a proponent of the new store, size and all.

“I want to speak very strongly in favor of the new Stop & Shop and I don’t object at all to the new design,” she said. “I hope that the commission approves the project and I hope that we can get on with getting a new Stop & Shop.”

Geoghan Coogan of the Edmond G. Coogan Law Office in Vineyard Haven, who represents Stop & Shop, for the final time described the benefits of the project, which he said includes the revitalization of Vineyard Haven.

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Architect Charles Orlando presented structural plans for Edgartown lofts at a MVC public hearing Thursday night. — Michelle Gross

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) held its first public hearing on the Edgartown lofts project Thursday before a room full of mostly neighborhood critics, who cited concerns about increased parking problems, traffic, and late night noise.

Boston based developer and seasonal Oak Bluffs resident Charles Hajjar proposes to build one three-bedroom apartment, eight two-bedroom apartments, and one one-bedroom apartment, a total of 20 bedrooms in the loft space of the Post Office Square complex, which now houses the Edgartown Post Office and several businesses.

The plan includes a reconfigured parking lot that would add 15 parking spots. The complex is located in the town’s BII business district and abuts the Dark Woods neighborhood and the Edgartown Park & Ride lot.

The MVC has scheduled a second public hearing on April 17.

Year-round rentals

The apartments are intended to be “reasonably priced” year-round rentals, Sean Murphy, an Edgartown lawyer representing Mr. Hajjar, told the commissioners Thursday night.

“What he does is apartment rentals,” Mr. Murphy told commissioners. “He doesn’t do high-end luxury housing, he doesn’t do condos, he just does apartments. The reason he chose this location, while it certainly has drawbacks, because of traffic and parking, is because of the smart growth principles that everybody stresses out here.”

Project engineer George Sourati of Vineyard Haven based Sourati Engineering Group, discussed the redesign of the Post Office Square parking lot.

“It’s a great improvement over the existing conditions,” Mr. Sourati said. “We’re getting 15 spaces, it’s a much safer parking lot. It works.”

Architect Charles Orlando presented commissioners with draft elevations and hand-drawn designs of the lofts and the lot.

The height of the structure will remain the same, and the apartments will be separated by “dormers” or wall separators, Mr. Orlando said. The proposal also includes planting 10 14-foot trees to mask two new exterior sets of stairs.

“The units are quite nice. They range from 900 to 1,400 square feet; they’re quite large,” Mr. Orlando said. “There’s going to be more insulation and more sound proofing between the retail space below and the housing units above.”

There are a total of 16 business units in the Post Office Square complex. Edgartown Meat & Fish and Granite Hardware operate in two of the buildings.

MVC, planning board views

Throughout the presentation, commissioners asked few questions.

Commissioner John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs asked if there would be a space for children to play.

“We don’t anticipate children,” Mr. Murphy said. He said the complex isn’t family oriented. “We do not anticipate families. We anticipate younger couples. There’s not outdoor space here; it’s not really family oriented.”

Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs asked about subletting restrictions on the year-round rentals.

Mr. Murphy said management would be onsite regularly. “If you rent from him (Mr. Hajjar) that’s it, there no subletting, you’re the tenant.”

Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, MVC hearing chairman, questioned how much space existed between the complex and Dark Woods Road.

Trip Barnes of Tisbury asked if the apartments might later become condos and be sold. The answer was no.

The Edgartown planning board has strongly endorsed the project.  In a letter to the MVC dated June 24, 2013, the planning board asked the MVC to waive a mandatory traffic study, stating that an earlier study was sufficient and that town boards were more than capable of reviewing the project and attaching conditions.

The planning board has come under fire from opponents of the project, a fact that planning board chairman Robert Sparks noted in his comments.

“We are elected public officials, we give our time, our expertise at no compensation, and two of the letters in your packet are from people complaining about the board and call us at best unprofessional and at worst probably criminal and that we make decisions on the planning board based upon a sliding scale of chumminess with people that come before our board,” Mr. Sparks said. “Just so everybody knows, none of us has ever met Mr. Hajjar before he applied. We do our job, based on what we think is best and what is in the best interest of the town, and we thank you for going over this. We have lot to say about traffic, but I just wanted the board to hear that, because frankly, I find it outrageous. So far this year we’ve been called Nazis, communists, murderers, and now we’re corrupt public officials.”

Edgartown planning board member Michael McCourt noted that Post Office Square business owners support the project.

“I do have some questions on the parking situation. That is a concern of all of us, especially when we live in Edgartown,” Mr. McCourt said. “In hindsight, if this plan has been approved by the businesses in the triangle, they know their businesses better than I, and if they feel this parking plan is good, then I’m all for it.”

Lofty objections

Several abutters spoke about the existing congestion at The Triangle, where traffic from Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven merge to enter downtown Edgartown, as well as the regulation of the public lot.

Fred Roven, whose real estate office is located on the north side of Mariners Way, said parking was among his biggest concerns.

“I’m concerned about a number of things, but one has to do with the nature of the parking in the current area,” Mr. Roven said. “Most of it is short term parking.”

Kevin Ryan of Edgartown had many concerns. “I have such a long list, I’ll try and keep it to the five things I’m most concerned about,” Mr. Ryan said. “I’m here just because none of this project makes sense to me as somebody that lives in, drives through, and utilizes these areas in Edgartown.”

Mr. Ryan’s concerns centered around the parking lot.

“It is short term parking already,” Mr. Ryan said. “I really have an issue with the idea that we only need to add 14 spaces. It’s unrealistic, and I think it’s crazy to think that that’s going to solve the problem.”

Mr. Ryan also recommended that snow removal be a requirement in the lot.

“Snow removal should be a requirement,” Mr. Ryan said. “The owner should have to be responsible for having the snow removed from the site going forward.”

Abutter Dianne Smith also expressed concern about the lot. “My concern, aside from the issue of enforcement, is that there is no way to really enforce parking, traffic, or anything else in this lot with regard to public officials, because this is a private lot,” Ms. Smith said. “And currently it’s not being very well taken care of by the current owner, who’s had it for a year.”

Jeff White, also an abutter, said the loft project is the right idea, but in the wrong location.

“I don’t think it’s the right place,” Mr. White said. “This area in Post Office Square is just too dense. The density of this area and the resulting congestion has already, in my opinion, exceeded acceptable levels.”

Mr. White implored commissioners to flesh the project out as thoroughly as possible. “We have the opportunity through this Martha’s Vineyard Commission DRI  process to control what happens, and I hope, and I encourage, the commission to look at all this data very carefully so that the best can be done for the most people.”

Fred Fournier, a landscape architect who is also an abutter to the project, said, “Its our neighborhood, and we’re concerned about it, and that’s why we’re here to discuss it.”

Mark Saccone, a direct abutter, took a diplomatic approach. “It’s impossible for me to say anything without sounding petty,” Mr. Saccone said. “This ends life as I know it for my house, it does. But if we’re very sure that the whole town is going to benefit from this, if we’re very, very certain, far be it for me to come off like some parochial jerk. I’m not that kind of person. But, I just want you to know that somebody does live back there, and I’ve been sitting here thinking, how do I go home and tell my wife that by her garden is going to be a sewer grinder pump station not five feet away?”

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission  (MVC) voted unanimously Thursday, March 27, to approve the designation of an Island-wide special fertilizer district of critical planning concern (DCPC).

Voters in each Island town will be asked to adopt DCPC fertilizer regulations at town meetings beginning next week in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and West Tisbury. If adopted, the fertilizer control district will be the first of its kind on the Island.

The move to establish local fertilizer controls on the Vineyard is the result of legislation enacted by Massachusetts’ lawmakers in August, 2012, to standardize fertilizer regulation across the state to protect water quality and meet federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

In an earlier conversation with The Times, MVC senior planner William Veno said that the state regulation is designed primarily to restrict the use of phosphorus based fertilizers to prevent runoff into rivers and other water bodies. Phosphorus is a major freshwater pollutant. The use of nitrogen, a major pollutant of saltwater estuaries, while not addressed in the state law, is included in the Island regulations.

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Commissioners Erik Hammarlund of West Tisbury (left), Joan Malkin of Chilmark and John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs put the Stop & Shop representatives through the paces. — Photo by Michelle Gross

Following a two month hiatus in the public hearing process, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) picked up Thursday where it left off in January in its review of a Stop & Shop proposal to build a new, larger supermarket on the site of its decrepit Vineyard Haven store. In a grueling four hour meeting, the commissioners reviewed the latest set of proposals in detail, one by one. Stop & Shop representatives responded to their comments and the public joined in.

Many of those proposals were unchanged since the MVC concluded the last public hearing on January 23. Stop & Shop had asked that the hearing process be put on hold until Tisbury reached a decision on the design of the municipal parking lot that is adjacent to the market site.

The MVC hearing, held in the Tisbury Senior Center was the seventh installment in the eight month long public review that began in July 2013.

Kathy Newman-Linda-Sibley.jpg
Commissioners Kathy Newman (left) of Aquinnah and Linda Sibley of West Tisbury reviewed the company’s latest offers.

Over the span of more than two hours Thursday, the commissioners reviewed, tailored and tinkered with 12 offers from Stop & Shop. These included a wastewater management plan, open space and landscaping design, traffic and transportation, including truck deliveries and employee parking, a construction management plan, and defining, once and for all, what constitutes a grocery store.

The commissioners declined to review at length several offers that remain contingent on town approval. These include the relocation of a house at 15 Cromwell Lane that the town considers historic, a still to be determined payment for police traffic control at the Five Corners intersection, as well as affordable housing for Stop & Shop employees, and the design of the municipal lot.

The hearing began at 6:30 pm. By the time it ended at 10:15 pm, extended by chairman Brian Smith an extra 15 minutes in order to allow for additional public comment, the commissioners had agreed to hold the eighth and, they said, likely final public hearing, on April 17.

Stop & Shop proposes 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. The plans also include a parking lot for 41 vehicles in an enclosed area on the ground level beneath the market.

The nitty gritty

The commissioners bore into the details of each offer.

“I just want to make sure, when you say external sign illumination, you mean lights, shining on a sign, or do you mean an illuminated sign?”  West Tisbury commissioner Erik Hammarlund, a lawyer, asked Stop & Shop reps.

Appearing deflated and weary in the wake of their seventh public hearing, Stop & Shop representatives (left to right) Deborah Farr, Tisbury lawyer Geoghan Coogan, traffic consultant Randy Hart, and architect Chuck Sullivan answered questions about the project.
Appearing deflated and weary in the wake of their seventh public hearing, Stop & Shop representatives (left to right) Deborah Farr, Tisbury lawyer Geoghan Coogan, traffic consultant Randy Hart, and architect Chuck Sullivan answered questions about the project.

As they made their way down the list, Mr. Hammarlund continued to ask Stop & Shop for further clarification and specifics.

“What does shall be controlled by mean?” Mr. Hammarlund asked in reference to an offer to have the store manager control night lighting and noise from trucks backing up.

Mr. Hammarlund, who has expressed concern that Stop & Shop might compete with local businesses by selling a variety of products, also looked for a definition of what it means to be a grocery store.

“I’ve been saying since day one, the concept of saying, ‘we’re going to expand as a grocery store,’” Mr. Hammarlund said. If you want to be a grocery store, sell groceries. I go to Stop & Shop all the time, I buy all sorts of things.”

Exasperated, commissioner Doug Sederholm interjected. “He said it 20 times. He has said it 20 times, that it’s going to be a grocery store,” Mr. Sederholm, a lawyer who represents Chilmark, said.

Geoghan Coogan, a former Tisbury selectman representing Stop & Shop explained to commissioners that if the store sells anything other than groceries, it would compromise their application.

“If there’s a cafe proposed, or a pharmacy proposed, I believe that would be a change of use,” Mr. Coogan said.

Traffic and transportation generated considerable discussion among the commissioners.

Mr. Smith said he would like to see more of a commitment between Stop & Shop and the town to resolve the overall traffic issues in Vineyard Haven.

High School varsity hockey team members (left to right) Alexander Vukota, Tyson Araujo and Brian Fraser turned out to support the Stop & Shop proposal.
High School varsity hockey team members (left to right) Alexander Vukota, Tyson Araujo and Brian Fraser turned out to support the Stop & Shop proposal.

“That’s really what we need to do,” Mr. Smith said. “We don’t need to not develop Vineyard Haven, we need to fix the problems. And that may be part of your effort to get your store up and going.”

Commissioner John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs wanted to ensure that the exterior signs for the supermarket will be compatible with Vineyard sign aesthetics.

“Who is designing or determining that? Is it the town? Mass DOT?” Mr. Breckenridge asked. “Mass DOT wants to have big, huge, overpowering signage. I think it’s critical that the signs, while very useful, very purposeful, need to be done to help with the flow of traffic, but they have to be done in a semblance of scale.”

Tisbury commissioner Ned Orleans asked Stop & Shop to set a deadline for the relocation of the Cromwell Lane house. “Why don’t they find a place for it to go before they start building,” Mr. Orleans said. “That will keep everybody honest.”

The offers and discussion did little to mollify Mr. Orleans, who made it clear throughout the hearing that he was unhappy with the entire project.

“It seems to me that the main entry point to Martha’s Vineyard through the Steamship Authority should be greeted by something that represents Martha’s Vineyard, not something that represents a grocery chain store from Cape Cod,” Mr. Orleans said. “If we wanted to be on Cape Cod, we would go to Cape Cod, but there’s nothing in the proposal up to this point that really represents, in the location that we’re talking about, anything about Martha’s Vineyard and the character of Martha’s Vineyard and the culture of Martha’s Vineyard.”

In a follow up conversation with The Times Friday morning, Mr. Orleans, asked what design he would prefer, said he did not know, but he does know he does not want to see a larger store. He summed up his position. “I am opposed to Stop & Shop at that location,” Mr. Orleans said.

Public chimed in

Once the commissioners had finished with the Stop & Shop, it was time for public officials and the public at large. Planning board co-chairman Henry Stephenson was first.

Mr. Stephenson, who served on the parking lot redesign committee and drew up the conceptual design, said he wanted to ensure that the elements incorporated in the design were not “negotiated away,” including the shared use path, the entrance on Cromwell Lane and the frontage on water street.

“It’s very hard, because you don’t want to take pieces of the design apart and just select one part over the other,” Mr, Stephenson said. “We want to maintain a coherent design, so I’m concerned that the intent of that parking lot design holds together.”

Vineyard Transit Authority administrator Angela Grant was tepid in her comments. “I will say that I have met with the applicant, and I feel we had a productive conversation, and I feel like we’ve made some progress. Was it enough progress, I don’t think so,” Ms. Grant said.

Vineyard Transit Authority administrator Angela Grant asked the MVC to wring more support for public transportation out of Stop & Shop.
Vineyard Transit Authority administrator Angela Grant asked the MVC to wring more support for public transportation out of Stop & Shop.

Ms. Grant said she wanted Stop & Shop to subsidize more services. “I really feel strongly that an affordable delivery service be conditioned as a part of this project,” Ms. Grant said. “The key element, if this is the location for this project, we need to eliminate trips to that region, and the way to do that is to offer something that’s not there now.”

Ms. Grant said that the VTA received revenue based on their performance. “If our ridership goes up, our funding goes up, if our ridership goes down, our funding goes down, it’s a direct correlation,” Ms. Grant said. “And so I would really hate to feel that we’re losing choice riders based on our performance because they’re sitting in traffic.”

Tisbury selectman John Snyder was optimistic that progress had been made.

“We have been as a board working closely with, and sometimes against, the Stop & Shop representatives,” Mr. Snyder said. “We are I think, very close to an agreement, but of course there’s a lot in the details that are still being nailed down, and I really can’t comment on a lot of that.”

Harold Chapdelaine, chairman of the Tisbury historical commission, acknowledged the difficulty of finding a spot to move the Cromwell Lane house, but he said it needed to be part of the deal.

Members of the high school hockey team, varsity captain Tyson Araujo, along with his teammates Brian Fraser and Alexander Vukota, turned out to support the company proposal.

“Stop & Shop supports us, they’ve been very generous with our program and have made our experience, our four year experience in our hockey program very memorable,” Mr. Araujo said. “Not only with our program, but with the whole community, they are very supportive, and we urge you to approve them.”

Erika Berg, a resident of Oak Bluffs, said it’s time to accept change.

“I think we should just accept the change, realize that as educated adults, Stop & Shop as a corporation is better at ensuring the quality of the building and continue to show compromise and compliance,” Ms. Berg said. “Let’s just end this and approve it, let’s just do it. I think everyone’s afraid of change and that’s what this whole thing is. It’s going to better the situation all around.”

Ms. Berg’s sentiments were supported by Vineyard Haven resident Jennifer Griffiths.

“I strongly endorse the store in Tisbury,” Ms. Griffiths said. “I’m really anxious to see it built as proposed. I think that the downtown area is in desperate need of self revitalization.”

Vineyard Haven resident Nevin Sayre readdressed size. “I would like to commend Stop & Shop and the MVC for getting to a place where some compromise has been made; it’s a step in the right direction,” Mr. Sayre said. “But I think it’s the scale, size matters. And when it’s this big and it has this much impact and the traffic, on construction, on parking, on carbon footprint, on all these things, why do we approve something so massive? I don’t think we need to do that. I think the scale needs to fit with our little village.”

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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.