Factor climate change into the S&S plan review


To the Editor:

Regarding the review process of the possible redevelopment at the Tisbury public parking and Stop & Shop site, we are writing in part to say that all the coverage, space, thought, patience, and consideration given these issues by the Martha’s Vineyard Times over recent months is commendable and very much appreciated. Any and all attention, analysis, public discussion and engagement in this whole process are a critical public service in view of the central importance of the Tisbury Water Street Lot and S&S site to the whole Island’s survival infrastructure. Bound up with these issues and the processes of review is not only the economic well-being of Vineyard Haven, the flow of traffic, goods, and essential public safety services between Water Street and Main Street, Vineyard Haven and through the Five Corners intersection — but also the logistics surrounding the Island’s main Steamship terminal, as well as all the other shipping facilities along Beach Road in Vineyard Haven.

A major consideration has been conspicuously absent from almost all the coverage of the proceedings at public hearings. The only example we have found included in the review process of the Stop & Shop site is a letter dated January 9, submitted as testimony to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission by the Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS), which cites that the site is in a designated flood zone and that, “balancing calculation of benefits and detriments, it is worth repeating that climate changes currently underway are altering those designations. VCS has tried in our ‘Rising Seas’ educational initiative to bring to the attention of leadership and the public how projected one — and — two meter sea level rise over the next century will impact the Island, particularly the downtown areas.… It appears that the site of this DRI will be impacted. It is therefore appropriate to weigh the relative benefit of significant new investment in infrastructure there.”

We agree most vigorously.

The VCS statement mentions sea level rise projections over a long time span, but there is a much more immediate threat to the stability of the Stop & Shop site and the surrounding area, one that may deserve to be placed at the very top of any serious list of concerns as this review and decision making process continues. The sea level rise that is already evident on our shores now means that storms will produce bigger surges and floods. The VCS testimony on the Stop & Shop plans also points out that since the main driver of sea level rise and increased storm surge threat is the still increasing emissions of heat trapping greenhouse gases, the increased traffic in an already congested area resulting from a much larger store contributes to the problem. In the same vein, as many others in our community have also stressed, we suggest that any new Island redevelopment must consider making the lowest possible carbon footprint.

In a recent Letter to the Editor, it was stated that, “the public has not kept up with the meetings or the debates that have lasted almost a year.” This does not do justice to the considerable public involvement and interest in these issues that has been evident thus far. The writer also stated that, “This parking lot will be a major turning point in the downtown Tisbury retail district.” The whole area from the bus stop circle opposite the SSA building to Five Corners and Beach Road and from Water Street to Main Street, including the fire house, police station and the Island’s main Post Office and distribution hub is and will be more critical to the functioning of the whole Island than we might think. Our main ferry terminal, Water Street and Five Corners are at sea level in a coastal flood zone, and the Stop & Shop corporation site and the public parking lot are less than 400 feet from the shore. All the thoughtful, well-intentioned concerns about new projects like the Stop & Shop site expansion and Tisbury’s public parking needs will have a bearing on the traditional priorities of a tasteful vacation destination like Martha’s Vineyard Island. We must insist that taking into consideration the impact on the environment and its linkage to climate change be made a top priority in this and all future development projects.

Do we also want to prioritize factoring in forces as powerful as those which have now become a part our everyday reality — due to the onset of chaotic climate change and the new storm patterns and ocean incursions it is bringing here?

Chris Riger and Mas Kimball

350 Martha’s Vineyard Island