Tisbury forum hears worries over Stop and Shop expansion plans

The new Stop and Shop would include parking on the ground level. — Photo courtesy of Sullivan, O' Connor Architects

Tisbury selectmen led off their regular Tuesday night meeting with a public forum on the Stop and Shop company’s plans to dramatically remake its Water Street, Vineyard Haven market.

Although few members of the public attended, representatives of the town planning board, Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), Vineyard Transit Authority and Steamship Authority (SSA) joined the selectmen at the meeting. The main concerns expressed centered on how the expansion would affect the already congested Five Corners neighborhood, and parking and traffic flow in and out of the town parking lot and on Water Street, the main entry point for SSA traffic.

In February, the Stop & Shop company announced plans to take advantage of its related real estate holdings to increase the size of the building the grocery store now occupies and add enclosed parking for 43 cars.

The building site includes the block of land that houses the present grocery store, the space at the rear previously leased to Midnight Farm, the adjacent former Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant, and a residential building behind the Golden Dragon building at 15 Cromwell Lane.

The proposed two-story, 24,000 square foot building would include parking in an enclosed area on the ground level and a loading area at the rear fronting on the town parking lot.

Tisbury lawyer and former selectman Geoghan Coogan, who is the local representative for the Stop and Shop project, was the spokesman for the the presentation. He said Stop and Shop project managers were unable to attend because of scheduling conflicts.

During the presentation Tuesday night, Mr. Coogan said Stop and Shop wrapped up pre-public hearing meetings with the MVC’s land use planning committee on Monday night. Although the project plans have not been finalized yet, Mr. Coogan said they would be ready for the start of a public hearing by the MVC on June 6.

Selectmen agreed that traffic and parking are also their concerns. Selectman Tristan Israel commented on the underground parking spaces Stop and Shop plans to add. “On the one hand, that’s more parking, but it also means more cars in the heart of town during the season when it’s really busy,” he said.

Jeff Kristal said he would like to see Stop and Shop look at Water Street as a whole, in conjunction with the Steamship Authority.

“Stop and Shop is committed to working with the Steamship Authority,” Mr. Coogan said. “We understand it’s not just a building; it’s got to be a teamwork approach to the whole street.”

SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said he and SSA leaders would reserve comments about the Stop and Shop project until they see the final plan, since it has undergone revisions.

Town officials also chimed in on the project. “I would like to remind everyone this building is going to be huge, by far the biggest in Tisbury; it will dwarf what’s in there now,” planning board co-chairman Tony Peak said.

“This building will have immense consequence on every aspect of that part of town,” he added.

Ned Orleans, Tisbury appointee to the MVC, agreed. “I’ve urged my colleagues on the commission and I urge our town leadership to look at this project not just as a Stop and Shop project but as a downtown project,” he said. “It’s going to have a large impact, not just on Water Street but also on Main Street, not just on the quantity of traffic, but also on the traffic flow.”

Sullivan O’Connor Architects of Oak Bluffs designed the building.

Stop and Shop’s expansion plans have met with some opposition. In May 2012, Steve Bernier, owner of Cronig’s Market, bought a crumbling house south of the former Golden Dragon restaurant for $700,000 and donated it to the Island Housing Trust.

In a telephone conversation last May, Mr. Bernier said he moved on the property “to deal with Stop & Shop.” Mr. Bernier said he had heard that Stop & Shop was interested in purchasing that whole block. “So I bought the property, which was pretty much in the middle of their plans,” he said.

Mr. Bernier said he acted after learning that Stop & Shop planned to triple the size of its Vineyard Haven store.