Martha’s Vineyard Commission to review revised grocery store plan


Businessman Elio Silva last week asked the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) to revisit his plan, approved last May, to build a new building at 412 State Road in Tisbury to house a market and apartments . Mr. Silva now proposes to increase the size of his project by 8,000 square feet for a total size of 11,120 square feet.

Mr. Silva is the owner of Vineyard Grocer and the nearby Tisbury Farm Market, both on State Road. His plan is to consolidate both markets into one building that includes four, one-bedroom apartments on the corner of State Road and High Point Lane.

The MVC reviewed the earlier version of his plan as a development of regional impact (DRI). The project won approval on May 5, 2011.

Mr. Silva submitted his revised plan to the MVC as a modification. Following a review of the proposed changes, at a meeting on January 19, the commissioners decided the modification was significant enough to require another public hearing, set for 8:30 pm on Thursday, February 2.

“Because there will be changes to the septic system and this is in a particularly touchy and sensitive area because of the Tashmoo watershed, the public needs to be able to hear about it and comment,” commissioner Christina Brown of Edgartown said after making a motion for the hearing.

“The store is going to be visually quite more noticeable to the public from what it was,” she added.

The site is the former Coca-Cola bottling plant and most recently a home furnishings store is a stone’s throw from Cronig’s Market, one of the Island’s major supermarkets.

Last May the commission moved with uncharacteristic speed in the public hearing phase — one week — to approve Mr. Silva’s commercial enterprise at a business location that had drawn considerable regulatory scrutiny in the past.

In 2002, the MVC reviewed a proposal to build a gas station on the site as a DRI but rejected it, citing concerns about increased traffic along State Road, reliance on the automobile in general, and the pressure a new station might place on other Island gas retailers.

Expanded plan

The proposal the MVC approved in May was for a new three-story complex that would include a grocery store and four one-bedroom apartments. The plan called for the demolition of one of two buildings on the property.

In the DRI modification, Mr. Silva proposes to include the demolition of the second concrete block building at the back of the property, in order to construct a larger building. He submitted the modification to the MVC in advance of any referral or review from Tisbury officials, knowing that it would require the commission’s review, according to an MVC staff report.

Mr. Silva’s new grocery store would be 35 feet high, with three floors, including a basement, as described in the report. The ground level would house a grocery store and bakery in 9,220 square feet. The retail area would be about 300 square feet less than in the original plan. The second floor would contain four one-bedroom apartments, offices, and storage space.

The new footprint would be 11,120 square feet, including a porch, which is slightly larger than the one previously approved. However, since the building that will be removed and replaced by more store area does not have a basement or second floor, the overall net increase is about 8,000 square feet.

In a telephone conversation yesterday, MVC DRI analyst Paul Foley said that if the commission had deemed the modification minor it would not have required a public hearing. The MVC will now consider the proposal as a modified version of the earlier DRI and vote again.

Active or passive storage?

At the MVC’s review of Mr. Silva’s modification request last week, commissioner Doug Sederholm of Chilmark said at a meeting a few days earlier the Land Use Planning Committee (LUPC) had a tied in a vote on whether to recommend that the change undergo a public hearing.

Mr. Sederholm, the LUPC chairman, said the crux of the matter for the committee was whether the significant increase in square footage triggered a referral, based on what its intended use. “If it’s not going to be used for anything other than storage, it’s not a mandatory referral,” he said. “But why build it? If there is any possibility it would be used as office space, living space, or active storage in the future, it would trigger a review.”

Ms. Brown, who looked up the MVC’s definitions of storage, said “active storage” applies to goods currently stocked on shelves and sold to customers. Mr. Silva said the second floor storage space in his new store would not be used for active storage.

Commissioner Brian Smith of West Tisbury asked whether the purpose of reviewing Mr. Silva’s proposed changes at a public hearing would be to define storage. “What effect it would have on the public is negligible,” he said.

Why the extra space?

Mr. Sederholm cut right to the chase.

“Elio, I know it makes sense, given the condition of the concrete building, not to rehab it and to build what you’re proposing, but what is your long-term plan?” he asked. “You don’t build that much more space without having a plan.”

“I’m not sure, but maybe I’ll increase the size of the apartments or office space,” Mr. Silva said. “My main thing is that if I don’t build it now, chances are I won’t build it later. And 10 or 15 years from now, I may need it.

“Storage does not pay off,” he added. “I hope it will have a better use.”

Tisbury town leaders are considering adding a sewer line in the business district where Mr. Silva’s store would be located, in conjunction with plans for a new connector road between State Road and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. Mr. Silva transferred a 10-foot wide strip of his new property along High Point Lane to the town to facilitate the connector road’s construction.

Once a sewer line is put in, Mr. Silva said he could consider the possibility of additional apartments and offices and come back to the MVC to discuss it.

Parking and wastewater concerns

Commissioner Lenny Jason of Chilmark asked whether Mr. Silva would have enough parking with the bigger building.

Mr. Silva said his new parking layout includes 51 spaces, up from 31, which meets zoning requirements. He had to reduce the retail square footage by 300 square feet, in order to provide eight parking spaces for the four apartments.

As a compromise, Mr. Silva said he would be allowed to “stack” the spaces for employees and apartment tenants, meaning that one space would block another. If apartments were added later, Mr. Silva said he would have to go to the zoning board of appeals to request a reduction in the number of required parking spaces.

“The revised parking plan is not stamped by an engineer or architect and has no scale,” the MVC staff report noted. “Staff is not convinced that the layout will work.”

The commissioners also discussed wastewater concerns. The property for the new store is in the Tashmoo Pond watershed, a nitrogen-impaired pond within the MVC Water Quality Policy. The calculations for the nitrogen load for Mr. Silva’s previously approved project were close to the limit. He offered to install composting toilets, which would zero out the nitrogen load from the apartments and the public restroom.

Mr. Silva had also planned to discharge the remaining “grey water” to drip irrigation disposal in a grassy area off the parking lot. Since the grassy area is somewhat decreased in the new parking layout, MVC water resources planner water Sheri Caseau said she was concerned it might not be large enough for the drip system.

Ms. Brown brought the discussion to an end with a motion that Mr. Silva’s proposed modification was a significant enough change to required a public hearing. With the exception of Mr. Smith, the commissioners approved her motion in a voice vote.