This is a copy of a letter to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
We are led to believe that we either have to live with the existing shabby Stop & Shop store, or accept a new building which most Vineyarders feel is inappropriate for that site. There is, however, a practical solution which would reduce or eliminate most of the problems associated with the existing application. It need not be “either-or.”
If Stop & Shop is serious about wanting to be a “good neighbor” and is really interested in being sensitive to Island values, they would withdraw their application and come back with an incremental expansion and improvement of their existing building.
Giordano’s Restaurant did just this in the late 80s, and, more recently, so did Cronig’s Markets with their Vineyard Haven store. No one can argue with the logic of this approach — it has proven to be a successful business strategy for centuries. Both of the above are old Island businesses, and they are still thriving. Also, they remained open to serve the public’s needs during the upgrade process — something which the existing Stop & Shop proposal will not do.
An incremental expansion/upgrade would enable the developer to sidestep many of the FEMA triggers, while doing a more sensitive job of fitting in a far superior store with the Island’s needs and values. Then, if they would scale down their footprint some, and confine new building to the upper part of their properties, most of the envisioned problems could be dealt with in an ordinary and practical manner. It might take three or four years, with individual applications for each phase, to complete the process this way. However, it would eliminate a lot of problems, and get both Stop & Shop and the community superior results at much less cost to all.
Like I said above, this is not a new concept, and it works. The only things standing in the way of doing it this way are corporate vanity and greed. Big companies like to throw their weight around and do things in a big way. And, despite the glowing language in their “mission statements,” the “bottom line” is everything to corporate executives.
Just the same, I firmly believe that Stop & Shop, as well as the Island’s business community, would benefit from a tasteful upgrade and expansion of the store in this way. I feel that it would be a “win-win” solution we could all support and be proud of.
Facing staunch opposition and uncertainty at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Stop & Shop withdrew from the permitting process.
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.”
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.
The Martha’s Vineyard Commission held its eighth and final public hearing Thursday night before a packed audience. A decision is expected in June.
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.
As the Martha’s Vineyard Commission prepares to hold its eighth and possibly final public hearing, opponents have launched an online petition drive.
The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) will pick up where it left off when it meets on Thursday, May 1 to consider a Stop & Shop proposal to build a new, larger supermarket on the site of its now decrepit Vineyard Haven store.
This will be the eighth public hearing in a review process that has ground on since July. The likelihood that the MVC is approaching a vote on the proposal has energized opponents.
Last week, a group of Islanders met to organize and plan a strategy that includes letter writing and speaking in opposition to the project at the public hearing Thursday.
Lillian Robinson of Vineyard Haven created an online petition titled, “Martha’s Vineyard Commission: save the Island from overdevelopment,” on MoveOn.org/petitions, a petition hosting site created by the nonprofit political action group. Ms. Robinson plans to present the petition to the MVC. By Friday afternoon the petition had received more than 900 signatures from Island residents and people living around the country.
“The average Trader Joe’s is 10,000 sq ft. and carries about everything a community needs,” a petition signer identified as Don Keller of Vineyard Haven wrote. “Fifty thousand square feet is crazy, especially at 5 ft above sea level. And it all has to be heated and cooled, adding to our carbon footprint. I do not think we need a supersized store at that location.”
A signer identified as Paul Attanasio of Beverly Hills, California said, “Stop this expansion; it will be an eyesore in the harbor and aggravate traffic congestion. Keep Vineyard Haven small!”
A Vineyard Haven resident identified as Allen Birol said, “Martha’s Vineyard Island is not the place for Parking Garages and Supermarkets.”
Vineyard Haven resident Ben Robinson said he and his sister and a group of like-minded Islanders began the petition effort because they are concerned about the size, scale and environmental impacts of a larger store.
“This is the first online petition on the Island and it really just shows the power of being able to give people a voice to say what they really want to say,” Mr. Robinson said. “It’s caught fire, not just on the Island, but also on the Cape and all over the world.”
Mr. Robinson said he was not surprised by the number of signatures, and considers some of the comments under the signatures illuminating. “People on the Cape in places like Falmouth are warning us and I think those comments are really critical,” Mr. Robinson said. “They’re saying, what are you doing, why are you even contemplating something like this.”
Mr. Robinson said he expects the petition to reach over 2,000 signatures by May 1. “I’m not that surprised about how many people have said this project is crazy, because we think it is crazy,” he said. “I think a renovation of the store is perfectly fine, but it has to be within the scale of the downtown.”
The petition states several reasons why the MVC should vote to deny Stop & Shops application. These include inappropriate scale and character, traffic impacts, economic impacts, environmental and quality-of-life impacts.
The resumption of the hearing process follows a hearing on March 20. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 6 pm in the Tisbury Senior Center and will be the eighth in the series since the MVC began its review in July.
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.
Stop & Shop has agreed to fund traffic control officers at the Five Corners intersection, and continue to work with Tisbury on the design of the town-owned municipal lot adjacent to the store.
Geoghan Coogan of the Edmond G. Coogan Law Office in Vineyard Haven, who represents Stop & Shop, described the benefits of the project.
“Stop & Shop has proposed to replace its current tired and inadequate Water Street store with a beautiful new store that, beyond all measure, will meet the needs of the community, benefit the town of Tisbury, revitalize the center of Vineyard Haven, and in the process encourage future investment in a downtown area that sorely needs reinvestment as the gateway to the Vineyard,” Mr. Coogan, a former Tisbury selectman said.
Outlining the facts of the project, Mr. Coogan said the footprint of the new building is just 6,500 square feet larger than the existing footprint of the buildings currently on site and the height is dictated by new regulations.
“Yes, the building is higher, as will all renovated buildings be along Water Street, given new state regulations for the flood plain,” Mr. Coogan said. “Taller buildings along Water Street are unavoidable, a minimum of eight feet taller. The proposed Stop & Shop building height at 33 feet, in fact, is lower than the proposed new Island Housing Trust building next door and below the current zoning requirements.”
Mr. Coogan said, “Stop & Shop is smartly utilizing the space beneath the building created to comply with the proposed floodplain elevation to provide 42 parking spaces beneath the structure. The proposed plan relocates the truck deliveries from the Norton Lane side of the store to a completely enclosed receiving area to the rear of the building.”
Mr. Coogan said the project would also create new jobs and new opportunities to revitalize the area. “The downside of not moving forward with this project is business as usual in Vineyard Haven, and that is not in the best interest of anyone — the town of Tisbury, its residents, and Stop & Shop,” he said.
I am the co-chairman of the Tisbury planning board and a member of the Municipal Parking Lot Committee, but this is a submission of my own. It includes references to planning board and parking lot committee policies, which I have attempted to represent accurately. Any errors or misstatements are my responsibility.
I would like to support the proposed expansion of the Stop & Shop store on Water Street, but there are a few outstanding issues that I think need to be resolved before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission gives its approval. These focus on three broad categories:
• The plans for the building
• The plans for the municipal parking lot
• Traffic, transit and circulation
Other concerns, such as the fate of the historic Prouty House, contributions for affordable housing, LEEDS certification and renewable energy commitments, or other items that do not explicitly impact the building design, land use or traffic and transit impacts are not included here.
1. Building plans, and the size of the building. Many of us have advocated for a smaller building, one that would fit more easily into the surrounding context. This is still an unresolved issue, repeated at every public hearing, for which there has been very little give on the part of Stop & Shop.
The primary issue of size, in my view, centers less on the numerical square footage of the floor area (+/- 30,000 sq. ft.) and more on the fact that the building is maxed-out to the limits of the property in every dimension — width, depth and height — leaving little or no room to modify its shape or provide adequate space for safe pedestrian walkways and amenities such as landscaping, trees, benches, cart corrals, signage, bike racks and other street furniture.
Relatively small changes to the frontages along Norton and Cromwell, which are now pushed to the limit, could make a big difference. For example, shortening the length of the building by just 10 feet (from 240 feet to 230 feet) would allow for a 10-foot widening of Cromwell Lane; a significant improvement, creating a safer pedestrian way and space for landscaping. This would reduce the parking in the garage by no more than three cars and the overall square footage of the building by about 1,000 sq ft. (out of 30,000). Since Cromwell is the link to the Island’s Shared Use Path system, this would be an important island-wide improvement that the MVC should require.
Apart from the unresolved issue of the building size, the latest design has been greatly improved. While still bulky, it now looks more like an ensemble of three or four individual structures rather than one continuous mass, and the detailing more closely matches the character of downtown Vineyard Haven. The Water Street sidewalk has been widened, providing space for trees, landscaping and displays. A second-floor balcony enlivens the street and provides a view of the harbor.
Still, there is just a two-foot setback along Norton Lane adjacent to the parking lot, leaving very little room for a wider sidewalk, foundation plantings or other amenities. The building dimensions — 110 by 240 feet – are closer to the size of a city block than an individual building lot. This is a scale more associated with a supermarket than a grocery store.
When the Island Plan called for the inclusion of a “grocery store” in a village center, it was a call for a smaller building and one less dependent on automobiles. While we all have cars and use them excessively, Vineyard Haven is a village with many residents living well within walking and biking distance of the Stop & Shop. But existing traffic congestion along Water Street, exacerbated by the auto centered character of the store, tends to drive bikes and pedestrians away. The commission needs to assure that the store provides a safe, pleasant, pedestrian access that encourages shoppers to walk and bike to the store, both for the improvement of the design of the building and as part of a strategy for reducing traffic and parking demand.
Stop & Shop Restrooms
Now that there is a consensus that the Comfort Station should stay in its current location, the two small stalls that the Stop & Shop included at their west entrance are no longer needed. The space saved by their removal might be better used as a landscaped waiting area with a bench and a perhaps a bike rack. This would be especially helpful to shoppers who are waiting for a ride or for the handicap van.
2. Municipal Parking Lot. The Stop & Shop project relies extensively on the adjacent municipal lot. Building plans call for the use of the lot for both customer access as well as truck deliveries. Moreover, their proposed 43-space garage is far short of the number of cars that their facility is expected to attract. Consequently, the renovation and redesign of the lot will have a significant bearing on the overall look and functionality of the Stop & Shop itself, as well as the visual impact it will have on what is described as the “Gateway to the Island”
Municipal Lot Concept Plan
The Parking Lot Committee, formed last October, produced a concept plan and a series of design objectives to guide the renovation of the lot. A fundamental consideration affecting the lot redesign was the recognition that it is, or should be, a major public space in downtown Vineyard Haven, accommodating pedestrians and bicyclists in addition to cars, and providing attractive spaces and services for visitors and residents alike. Last month the committee submitted its recommendations to the selectmen and they have accepted them. They include the following:
• Develop a minimum 10-foot wide Shared Use Path (Multi-use path) along the north and west sides of the lot linking the ferry to Cromwell lane and to the Island-wide Shared Use Path network.
• Retain and renovate the existing public Comfort Station. Orient new entrances toward Main Street
• Develop a public gathering area along the upper (west) side of the lot linking the various public ways that intersect there – Cromwell Lane, Norton Lane, Capawok path, Union Street Mall, and the Shared Use Path.
• Augment the public spaces along the Water Street frontage. Include street trees, benches, signage and landscaping.
• Include a wide sidewalk along the southern (Stop & Shop) boundary of the lot.
• Incorporate landscaping and shade trees throughout the lot.
• Install a stormwater management system within the lot. Include bio-retention basins and other low-impact design options.
• Remove the utility poles and bury the wires.
• Maintain the current level of parking.
• Maintain the Norton Lane to Water Street exit.
• Provide space for police parking and emergency access to Cromwell Lane.
Many of these points, particularly the Shared Use Path, expanded bike and pedestrian ways and improvements to the appearance of the Island’s major port of entry, are important Island-wide features. The MVC needs to ensure that they will be implemented.
3. Traffic and congestion. It is understandable that this issue would dominate much of the public discussions. The store is directly across from our ferry terminal and shares Water Street as its only exit. Traffic volumes and congestion are already a problem in this area. A larger store is certainly not going to help, but these concerns are not projections about what might happen if the Stop & Shop moves in; they are problems that we have had for decades and have not been addressed.
The planning board has repeatedly called for a more detailed analysis of the movement in and around the downtown area, one that incorporates all modes of travel – pedestrians, bikes, buses, cars, trucks, taxis, and ferries. Issues such as parking policies, design of intersections and roadways, potential use of new technologies, costs and many other issues need to be addressed. This is a complex undertaking that will take time and money and Stop & Shop should contribute to it. I would hope it becomes an immediate priority. But there are specific issues surrounding this proposal that cannot wait for a larger study to be done, one that may not be finished until long after the store is built. They need to be addressed now.
Alternatives to Cars – Buses, Bikes, Taxis and Pedestrians
Current discussions about the impact of the Stop & Shop on the neighborhood have focused almost exclusively on cars and the congestion at Five Corners. But traffic and parking issues cannot be addressed adequately without a serious effort to provide attractive alternatives to the cars.
Water Street Congestion , the VTA and Union Street
Of particular concern here is the reliability of the VTA bus service. The VTA system is time-sensitive, depending on a coordinated schedule throughout the Island to allow for timely transfers between routes. A small increase in delays for buses caused by congestion on Water Street and Five Corners throws the schedule out of sync and risks a large deterioration of service Island-wide.
Right now, Water Street is effectively a dead-end cul-de-sac terminating at Five Corners. Union Street provides the only practical option for a secondary exit from this neighborhood. Cromwell Lane is seriously limited and placing extra traffic personnel at Five Corners would be of marginal, if any, value. But to use Union as an exit, traffic flow would have to be redirected toward Main Street. There is a very reasonable concern that the pulse of traffic caused by debarking ferry vehicles would clog the intersection at Union and Main and overwhelm the nearby local streets.
Below is a scheme that the MVC might consider. It would minimize these impacts by dividing the flow of traffic on Water Street into two parts:
1. All vehicles exiting the ferry, trucks and cars included, would still be directed toward Five Corners.
2. The roughly equal number of other cars in the area – Vineyard Haven shoppers, pick-up and drop-off vehicles and taxis, would have the option to use Union Street if they so desired.
This arrangement would reduce the traffic impact at Five Corners and relieve conflicts between ferry traffic and the VTA bus system, while also minimizing the traffic impact at Main Street and the adjacent neighborhoods.
The MVC should look carefully into this and other options for the use of Union Street before issuing an approval for this project. There may be other ways to manage the flow of traffic on Union Street in addition to the one above but, in any case, we cannot rely on extra traffic personnel to solve this problem.
• Municipal Lot/Bike & Pedestrian Ways. The proposed new plan for the municipal lot places a high priority on better bike and pedestrian ways linked directly and safely to the ferry. If fully implemented, this plan would provide safe alternatives to vehicular movement in the area. As mentioned before, reducing the building footprint of the Stop & Shop would also allow for more public space around the structure, greatly improving pedestrian safety there.
• Shuttle Service
This is a service that could be initiated by the town and supported by the Stop & Shop as a supplement to the Steamship Authority’s Park & Ride bus. There are a number of lots in the surrounding area, both public and private, including the Catholic Church, Hebrew Center, Tisbury School and the Senior Center providing a total of approximately 200 spaces that could be included in the shuttle route. These lots could function as a satellite network of parking areas that would accommodate a significant number of cars outside of downtown.
• Delivery Service
The Stop & Shop had once proposed including a “Pea Pod” grocery delivery service, a feature they provide in many of their stores, but cancelled the plan. They should reconsider that decision and include the service, or one like it, since it would help reduce the number of cars that need to access the area.
Each one of these options — bus, bike, pedestrian, shuttle, and deliveries — reduces the need for cars and should be included. At the end of the day, this is the only long-term strategy that promises to effectively deal with the problem of traffic congestion in this neighborhood.
First, go down to the Tisbury Stop & Shop and look at the height pole set up for us all to see. This took them over three months to erect after numerous promises. Now imagine that height extending from Water Street to Cromwell Lane. Then from the parking lot along Water Street to the south side of the Chinese restaurant building. The perspective from up close or from the SSA is dauntingly overwhelming.
Second, the farce about the memorandum the Tisbury selectmen signed is that Ahold and S&S New England profits every year in the hundreds of millions. What is $1.165 million spread out over ten years compared to the hundreds of millions in profit they are making? It’s $116,500 a year. In that sum, where are the real items of town necessities addressed.
The traffic solution? A single traffic officer costs more than 30 grand a year. Two are going to be needed. Third, seriously look at the impacts that unbiased professionals have informed us, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), the selectmen, and with articles in the newspaper. These are not S&S paid contractors.
Fourth, when dealing with the selectmen, MVC officials and others, who have voices of authority, their speech is not always the full truth. Many times their voices exaggerate and/or manipulate facts. Get the information and form your own opinions, not ones that are being spoon-fed. This information is free and available online. Fifth, the S&S could have gone directly to the MVC, skipping over the town mitigation. But in doing so the S&S would have had to get approval afterwards from the town of Tisbury, to have all their entrances onto what is conceptually private property (municipal parking lot). As of today there are no easements or licenses from the town of Tisbury to the S&S allowing for this trespassing.
Here are things to inform yourselves on:
1. The incredible mass of over 48,964 sq. ft. mass.
2. The loss of downtown green space.
3. The possible loss of the historic Prouty House.
4. Traffic flows off and on season in downtown V.H. and Water Street.
5. No pedestrian safeguards alongside the proposed store.
6. The Coastal Flood Zone.
7. Monopolizing the town parking lot to the disadvantage of the Main Street retailers and we Islanders to pick up friends and family from the SA Ferry.
8.Tractor trailer trucks in and out of the town parking lot (private property).
This is a huge project and uninformed people should speak out once they have investigated the facts. I believe there is a need for a new store, but not maxed out from 16,000 sq. ft. to 48,000 sq. ft.
The Island citizens need to know that this 48,000 sq. ft. project is an off-Island style mall experience and not one that can be architecturally correct for the Island or villages of M.V.
This letter concerns the plan before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) for the redevelopment and expansion of the Vineyard Haven Stop & Shop.
First, there is no question that a new store is very desirable. However, there are serious issues with that location.
I would like to first address MVC precedent.
In 1987, Ed Redstone, then the owner of the Martha’s Vineyard National Bank, made a large offer of money to the town of Tisbury to win the town’s support for a project then before the commission as a DRI. His bank and supermarket proposal was for the land at the corner of Holmes Hole Road and State Road in Tisbury. The commission granted the application with the condition that the offer from Mr. Redstone had to be accepted by a vote of the citizens of Tisbury.
Please make it a condition, if the application is approved, that the townspeople of Tisbury must accept the mitigation offer of $1.2 million recently approved (pending town counsel review) as a memorandum of agreement by the three-member Tisbury board of selectmen, or any other mitigation offer they may make. It is written in your own rules that, “The project must be approved by the MVC before a town board may issue a required permit or take any action.”
Since then, the MVC has denied applications for a bank and day care project in the same Holmes Hole Road location (by Dukes County Savings Bank,) and a gas station at the corner of High Point Lane and State Road due to traffic concerns in the “failed State Road corridor.” The MVC did approve Elio Sylva’s plan for a food market at the corner of High Point Lane and State Road, because its size and scale fit in with the neighborhood and your own standards.
The MVC must hold Ahold/Stop & Shop to the same standards. They have continuously avoided the facts of the project, which are that this is a 41′ high, 100′ by 200′ , 40,000+ square foot big box store between the Five Corners intersection and the Steamship Authority ferry terminal. It faces the front edge of the historic village and harbor of Vineyard Haven. The Five Corners intersection is so failed, that when the town tried posting a traffic officer there years ago they soon gave up, and took an every man for himself attitude.
It is the MVC’s duty to carefully evaluate this plan, to assure that the character of Martha’s Vineyard be preserved. In this plan, we see a building that will tower over its’ neighbors and cast a long shadow over Vineyard Haven village and Main Street. There is the real potential of serious negative economic impact on businesses in downtown Vineyard Haven. We have not seen the plans for the interior of the building. Think about the uses of supermarkets you see off-Island. Just because it is not shown on the plan does not mean it won’t happen, now or in the future.
What will be done when we have further burdened the surrounding roads with more cars coming to the village of Vineyard Haven and stressing our already overburdened municipal parking lot? There is a 4.5-foot setback on their frontage on Water Street, barely enough room for a sidewalk. There are no setbacks on the side and rear; all outdoor activities will impinge on public property. There are no pedestrian walkways, no parking lot attendant to gather the carts, no storage on their property for carts, no room for them to unload trucks, etc., except on publicly owned land. It would be far better to require that these and any other activities be contained on their own property as far as possible.
As for the harbor, the sheer volume of this building will be what greets us and our visitors upon arrival, and will be the last thing we see as the ferries and visiting boats sail out of the harbor. The drastic change to the character of our village and waterfront is not worth the price we’ll pay for allowing this big box store to be built.
There is precedent, and there is support, for the members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to deny Stop & Shop/Ahold’s application. Vineyard Haven will have to absorb the collateral damage that no amount of money will repair. Ahold has made it clear, by proposing to build to the maximum width, depth, and height, that their concern is for their bottom line. Ahold should shrink this building to fit in with its neighborhood, or find another location, perhaps at the Airport Business Park.
The MOA includes a commitment by the company, with a total value of $1.165 million, to support various town projects and initiatives. These include donations to affordable housing, downtown beautification projects, traffic control and mitigation, and public restroom upgrades. The company would also work with the town on construction schedules.
In return, Tisbury would allow the company to use part of the town parking lot for construction staging and lend its support to the project, now under review by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) as a development of regional impact.
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 announcement of the agreement followed the public portion of the regular Tuesday night meeting. Although the Stop & Shop was on the regular agenda, town administrator Jay Grande cut discussion short. He said the town had received a draft summary report from a Stop & Shop project facilitator and that the selectmen would review it in executive session at the end of the meeting, then reconvene in open session to discuss it.
Before heading downstairs to meet in executive session, selectman chairman Jeff Kristal told members of the press and the public waiting in the Katharine Cornell Theatre that he and selectman Jon Snyder might have something to announce about the project when they returned. Selectman Tristan Israel was absent.
“I am happy to report we’ve reached a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with regard to the Stop & Shop, not the building, but the parking lot that the town owns,” Mr. Kristal said, when he and Mr. Snyder reconvened in open session 35 minutes later. They voted to approve the MOA, subject to review by town counsel.
Details in the dollars
According to the MOA, Stop & Shop’s financial commitment includes: $100,000 to the Tisbury Affordable Housing Trust; an additional $10,000 a year for 10 years to the housing trust; $150,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard; and $250,000 for deposit into a town-established fund for downtown traffic mitigation issues.
Stop & Shop also makes a 10-year commitment to the town to donate $10,000 to the Tisbury beautification committee and $30,000 for traffic mitigation issues, including police officer control and maintenance activities in or about the town-owned Water Street parking lot next to the grocery store.
Under the heading of in-kind and construction phase commitments, Stop & Shop pledged an additional $165,000 toward renovations and upgrades to the town’s restroom facility at the back of the Water Street lot, including curbing, landscaping, and sidewalks. Stop & Shop also committed to maintain the parking lot and plantings along the Water Street sidewalk.
In addition, Stop & Shop agreed to relocate the Caleb Prouty House, behind the supermarket at 15 Cromwell Lane, to a storage site mutually agreeable to the town and Stop & Shop. If the town’s housing trust decides to accept a transfer and conveyance of the house, Stop & Shop will arrange and pay for the structure’s relocation from the storage site to a site designated by the trust.
Stop & Shop bought the Caleb Prouty House in February 2012. A report by consultants subsequently hired by the MVC concluded that the house is historically significant and eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We are actively working with two interested parties right now that want the house, so hopefully we can make that work and facilitate a nice, easy transfer of the property rather than a holding spot,” Mr. Kristal said.
The MOA stipulates that the house will be relocated prior to and as a condition of the issuance of a building permit for the project.
The MOA requires Tisbury to indicate its support of the project to the MVC. The town has agreed to keep Norton Lane extension, between Main and Water streets, open to vehicular and pedestrian traffic, to ensure that Stop & Shop will have vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle access to the replacement store’s truck dock, garage, and pedestrian entrances.
The town will also allow Stop & Shop to construct a sidewalk on Water Street in front of the replacement store and to use a portion of the parking lot for construction staging. The town agrees to work cooperatively with Stop & Shop in connection with any redesign of the parking lot.
Tisbury selectmen voted to approve a conceptual plan for the Water Street municipal parking lot on March 11. They agreed, after a discussion with the town’s parking lot committee and representatives from Stop & Shop, that the plan would serve as a working template in the development of the final design.
Geoghan Coogan, a Tisbury attorney and former selectman, who represents Stop & Shop, said the supermarket company has asked the MVC to reschedule the next public hearing, now set for April 17, because two of the commissioners will be absent. The company’s request to schedule the hearing sooner than April 17 doesn’t help because the commission members are away. Under commission rules, commissioners who miss more than one session of a DRI are not allowed to participate in the final vote.
Optimism and hard work
In a telephone conversation Wednesday morning, Mr. Kristal told The Times the agreement is fair and would provide benefits to the town in the short and long term. Mr. Kristal said the MVC review process has been extremely slow, but he is optimistic that with the town’s agreement the process come to an end, and the MVC will approve the project with the conditions outlined in the MOA.
He said people need to look forward. “While people see a mass of a building, I see three properties cleaned up in the downtown area,” he said.
Mr. Kristal said the agreement bodes well for future cooperation. “I feel extremely confident that the town and Stop & Shop, five, ten years down the road, if there is another project, that the town can go to Stop & Shop and ask them to help us out in some fashion.”
In a conversation with The Times Wednesday, Mr. Coogan stressed that the MVC process has necessarily awaited the negotiation of details between the company and the town.
“I think it has taken some hard work to get to where we were last night [April 1],” Mr. Coogan said. “This (MOA) was a piece of the puzzle that’s been very difficult to get to. What’s been difficult to explain is the combination of an applicant, the combination of a commission, and a town who is really a part of the application whether they wanted to be or not. They’ve always been in it because they’re a neighbor, they’re right there. You have a parking lot right next to you, and there are a lot of details you have to deal with.”
Greg O’Brien, a consultant to Stop & Shop, said the mitigation measures included in the MOA were the company’s response to requests from the Tisbury selectmen. “Stop & Shop is doing the best it can in responding with mitigations that benefit the community as a whole, beyond the scope of our project,” he said.
As an example, he pointed to $250,000 in mitigation to improve traffic flow at Five Corners, in addition to $30,000 annually for 10 years for police officer control or other traffic mitigation
“The traffic impact of the proposed new Stop & Shop is less than a six percent increase, as noted in our peer-reviewed traffic study,” he said, “yet Stop & Shop is contributing far beyond any impact for the greater need of public safety at Five Corners.”
And Mr. Coogan pointed to measures outlined in the MOA that give the town continuing, multi-year assistance in addressing problems that exist today, before the reconstruction and enlargement of the market, and that will need to be addressed and readdressed in the future as other changes occur in the neighborhood.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.”
Stop & Shop market representatives reiterated many of the arguments they have made during five earlier public hearings at a sixth public hearing before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Thursday. Frustration on both sides of the table set the tone for the meeting, attended by opponents and proponents gathered in the Tisbury Senior Center.
Prior to the hearing, commissioners and Stop & Shop representatives said they were ready to see the hearing come to a close. But a snowstorm last week prevented a Tisbury planning and design committee, established to address issues surrounding the town parking lot adjacent to the market, from gathering to address the applicant’s most recent offers to address town concerns.
As a result, MVC executive director Mark London said the MVC process would continue to a seventh public hearing scheduled for Thursday, February 20. In addition to the parking lot, Mr. London said outstanding issues included the size of the proposed store and the fate of a house at 15 Cromwell Lane that is designated as a historic structure.
Despite the MVC decision to continue the public hearing process, supermarket consultants Greg O’Brien and Bill O’Brien said, in comments following the meeting, that the hearing and the company’s plans to build a new store are moving in the right direction.
“We felt the meeting on Thursday was very positive,” Greg O’Brien told The Times in a conversation Friday.
The Stop & Shop representatives said they now have a clearer understanding of what the MVC is looking for, particularly the need to relocate the 15 Cromwell Lane house. Up to now, the Stop & Shop representatives said there appeared to be no interest on the part of anyone to take the house.
“We’re going to expand the search, and we’re going to continue to speak with people,” Mr. O’Brien said. “I think that everyone realizes after last night, that the commission has spoken, the residents have spoken. We want to work with commission members, we want to work with residents to find a place for that home. We get it.”
Stop & Shop plans to consolidate three abutting properties and remove the existing buildings to make room for a new two-story, 30,500-square-foot market, nearly doubling the size of the current Water Street store. The new store would include a parking lot for 41 vehicles in an enclosed area on the ground level.
In recent weeks,, behind the scenes, Elio Silva, owner of Vineyard Grocer and the nearby Tisbury Farm Market on State Road, and his agent, Robert Sawyer of Tisbury, a real estate broker and instructor, have promoted the notion that rather than build on its current site, Stop & Shop executives should look to a swap.
Mr. Silva has plans on the drawing board to build a new three-story, 11,180-square foot complex that would include a grocery store and four apartments on property he owns on the corner of State Road and High Point Lane just a stone’s throw from Cronig’s Market, the Island’s other supermarket.
Although Stop & Shop representatives have said emphatically that their current location is the only one under consideration and that such a swap is not practical, or even an option, the unsupported notion appeared to gain some traction with at least one commission member.
“What is it about this particular location down at Water Street that it is so important to Stop & Shop that they’re willing to go through the type of torture you’re going through now?” Tisbury commissioner Ned Orleans asked supermarket representatives Thursday.
Deborah Farr, director of real estate for Stop & Shop, said supermarket representatives are dedicated to providing the Island with a higher quality place to shop, one that is a vast improvement over the current market on Water Street.
“You deserve better, our customers deserve better,” she said. “We need to do something.”
Mr. Orleans, who compared the public hearing process to a “charade,” said he is tired of playing games.
“It seems to me there are so many angles to this whole project,” Mr. Orleans said in a reference to a swap. “It seems to me we’ve been playing games. I’m tired of playing games. I would hope that my colleagues are tired of playing games. Why are we continuing to play these games, instead of taking some other action?”
Referencing an earlier question in the hearing process about alternate locations, Mr. Orleans persisted. “As far as I’ve been able to figure out, there is still another location out there, and as far as I know, as of yesterday, that location is still potentially available,” he said.
Lawyer Geoghan Coogan, a former Tisbury selectman who is representing Stop & Shop in the public process, said at this point, switching locations was not an option.
“Let’s set the record straight, there is no other site,” Mr. Coogan said. “It’s not on our radar. Period.”
Also Thursday, opponents and proponents sounded familiar themes. Tisbury planning board co-chairman Henry Stevenson expressed his concerns about the size of the store and its influence on traffic at Five Corners.
“The planning board has asked the town of Tisbury for a broader study of downtown circulation and to also consider what alternatives there are because frankly because putting a few extra cops on the corner of Five Corners is really not going to be a solution,” Mr. Stevenson said.
Holly Stevenson, Mr. Stevenson’s wife and a former MVC member, said she is not in favor of the new store. “I think the Stop & Shop is too big. It’s too big for Vineyard Haven, it’s was too big for that spot,” Ms. Stevenson said. “If Stop & Shop goes in there, it will be very convenient, a cash cow, and wonderful for everybody else on the Island who comes in on a car. But for the town’s people, I don’t think it works at all. It turns Vineyard Haven into a service area and not a town. We need a town.”
David Vigneault, executive director of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, once again asked Stop & Shop to pay attention to the need for year-round affordable housing for Stop & Shop workers.
“It’s not a Stop & Shop problem, this is an Island problem, it’s a gap, it’s an affordability gap,” Mr. Vigneault said. “So what we’re looking at is where we can we as a community help workers on the Island, workers that we need, in shops like Stop & Shop doing services for us, to continue to be available, and to keep their roots and put down new roots and stay here and raise their families.”
Vineyard Haven resident Lorraine Clark said she supports the new store unequivocally. “I’m here only and completely to support Stop & Shop,” Ms. Clark said. “I love the building, it’s going to brighten up that whole area. That whole area is junky.”
Ms. Clark said the MVC should consider the long-term benefits of expanding the store. “Why start now on a smaller scale store when in ten years we have to go through this again?” she said. “I’d shoot myself; in fact, after I’m done here I’m going home to poke needles in my eyes.”
The Martha's Vineyard Times is a weekly newspaper on Martha's Vineyard.