Stop & Shop expansion project takes five; await results of ongoing traffic study

Waste from Island Stop & Shops will contribute to a green energy initiative. – Michelle Gross

Stop & Shop representatives asked the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) to postpone a scheduled public hearing Thursday, as they await the results of an ongoing traffic study. Traffic and parking, the focus of most questions and concerns over the project, were expected to once again be at the forefront when the commission met Thursday night as part of the public hearing process.

The MVC agreed to reschedule the hearing to October 3. In the meantime, Stop & Shop representatives said they plan to meet with Tisbury selectmen and town planning officials in a work session to find consensus on their Water Street expansion plans. A working session was scheduled for 5:30 pm on August 27 in town hall.

Geoghan Coogan, a Tisbury attorney and former selectman who represents Stop & Shop, said that while his clients are operating under a tight deadline to get construction underway, Stop & Shop’s priority for the time being is acquiring all of the necessary information in time for the next MVC public hearing.

“We decided we would wait until we have all the material and all of the traffic study information,” Mr. Coogan told the Times in a telephone conversation Monday. “Once we have that information, we can go back before the commission and answer all of their questions.”

Mr. Coogan said that while they wait for the results of the traffic study, Stop & Shop will continue to gain the support of Tisbury selectmen. “While the traffic studies are being finalized, we want to go and square away the parking situation with the Town,” Mr. Coogan said. “We want to go back to the commission with a plan A so that we can move on from that part of the project.”

In past meetings, Tisbury selectmen focused their concerns on how the expansion would affect the already congested Five Corners neighborhood, as well as parking and traffic flow in and out of the town parking lot and on Water Street, the main entry point for SSA traffic.

Time is of the essence for the expansion project. Stop & Shop representatives said they have a five-month window to successfully complete construction. November 1 is the latest that construction can begin, or they will have to wait until next year to break ground. “We’re not going to get into a project that we can’t get completed by May,” Mr. Coogan said. “We understand the hearing process, and if they can’t start and finish a project by then, we will have to look into starting next year.”

Traffic trouble

While Stop & Shop has been conducting a traffic study that will supply data to be used in the review of the market’s Vineyard Haven expansion project, the MVC has been working on a transportation study of their own. Keri Pyke of Boston-based Howard/Stein-Hudson Engineers (HSH), submitted a peer review to the MVC on May 3 and is continuing to work as a consultant to the MVC.

Stop & Shop’s plan — to consolidate three abutting properties and remove the existing buildings to make room for a new, two-story, 23,800-square-foot market — also includes a parking lot for 42 vehicles in an enclosed area on the ground level and a loading area at the rear, fronting on the town lot.

At an MVC hearing on August 1, David Taglianetti of the Boston-based planning, design, and engineering firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB) that represents Stop & Shop, described key differences between the proposed parking lot arrangement and the existing lot. The new market, he said, would be pedestrian friendly, with better landscaping and easier two-way traffic flow. He also said the relocation of the town-owned comfort station would be financially viable for the Town. “The removal of the comfort station is something that the town of Tisbury has been supporting,” Mr. Taglianetti told commissioners. “It is an expense for the town, anywhere from $30,000 per year to $50,000 per year.” Mr. Taglianetti said the removal of the restroom facility is necessary to provide adequate space for trucks to access the store.

The question of where to move the comfort station was foremost on Stop & Shop’s list of issues to be addressed at last night’s Tisbury Selectmen’s meeting, Mr. Coogan said.

So many questions, so little time

On August 7, MVC Executive Director Mark London provided a seven-page list of “outstanding” questions and concerns to Stop & Shop consultant Bill O’Brien. The removal of the town-owned comfort station, a thorough transportation plan, a definitive building design, a parking garage management plan and the economic impact for the town of Vineyard Haven were just a few of the many broad strokes that Mr. London asked Stop & Shop to address at their next meeting.

“It would be useful that you address any other issues that were raised by town boards or members of the public at the first two sessions of the hearing,” Mr. London wrote.