Committee recommends MVC approve bowling alley plan

The proposed bowling alley would be built on the site of a former laundromat on Uncas Avenue. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Monday evening, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s (MVC)  land use planning committee (LUPC) unanimously agreed to recommend, with conditions, developer Sam Dunn’s proposed bowling alley/entertainment center in Oak Bluffs.

“I think from the town perspective, this is a major improvement,” commissioner Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs said at the conclusion of the meeting.

“We have a good developer who’s taken an eyesore and made a reasonable plan,” added commissioner John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs.

LUPC chairman Linda Sibley of West Tisbury added that the bowling alley would be an attraction during the shoulder seasons, a goal of the most recent Oak Bluffs master plan.

The LUPC is the next to last step in the MVC approval process. At the conclusion of public hearings, the LUPC analyzes the benefits and detriments of a project and its consistency with the Island Plan, with town regulations and with town plans. Once the LUPC has finished its analysis, the committee can make a recommendation to the full commission to approve, to approve with conditions, or to deny the application. The full commission is not obliged to follow, in full or in part, the subcommittee’s recommendation

Since the public hearings began on February 6, the MVC has discussed possible conditions for approval that have included hours of operation, parking, affordable housing, additional de-nitrification, noise and light mitigation, and landscaping.

Sound mitigation has been a major issue. After the first public hearing, in response to abutter concerns, the commission asked Mr. Dunn for an independent acoustic study to more exactly determine potential sound levels that could be generated by the bowling alley.

Mr. Dunn enlisted acoustical consultants Cavanaugh Tocci Associates to provide the requested acoustical study — the same firm that developed the successful sound mitigation protocol for Dreamland after abutters had expressed similar concerns. Cavanaugh Tocci Associates responded with a sound mitigation plan for the abutting wall with a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating of 62, per the guidelines of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).  According to the ASTM, at STC 30, “loud talking is audible through a wall, at STC 50, loud sounds like musical instruments can be faintly heard and 99% of the population is not annoyed. Anything over 60 is considered “superior soundproofing, most sounds inaudible.”

Although commissioner Joan Malkin of Chilmark reiterated her reservations at Monday’s LUPC meeting, Ms. Sibley appeared to speak for the majority saying it was not a realistic goal to hear absolutely no noise.

“Mr. Dunn has made extensive offers at his expense to mitigate noise that may occur,” Mr. Breckenridge said. “He’s stepped up to the plate and gone above and beyond. [STC] 62 is excellent.” He added that the STC would be measured after construction and that Mr. Dunn may have to take additional sound mitigating measures if he didn’t meet the projected STC.

The LUPC also considered abutters’ concerns about drunken behavior, and their requests that the bar serve beer and wine only.

“If I were persuaded that beer and wine only would make a difference in public drunkenness, I would be for it, but I am not convinced it would,” Ms. Sibley said. Mr. Breckenridge noted the MVC was not presented with any studies that showed a beer and wine restriction reduced drunken behavior.

The proposed bowling alley/entertainment center would be located on Uncas Avenue, at the edge of, but within, the town’s business district. It would include 10 bowling lanes, a bar, a restaurant, two golf simulators, a game room, an event room, and two apartments that would qualify as affordable housing. Mr. Dunn estimates the cost of construction at $2.5 million.

The project will go before the full commission for a vote tonight.

Depending on the final MVC decision and the subsequent pace of the town approval process, Mr. Dunn said that the exterior of the steel modular structure could still be completed by the June 1 exterior construction moratorium for the B-1 district in Oak Bluffs.