Protect the character of Martha’s Vineyard


To the Editor:

This letter concerns the plan before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) for the redevelopment and expansion of the Vineyard Haven Stop & Shop.

First, there is no question that a new store is very desirable. However, there are serious issues with that location.

I would like to first address MVC precedent.

In 1987, Ed Redstone, then the owner of the Martha’s Vineyard National Bank, made a large offer of money to the town of Tisbury to win the town’s support for a project then before the commission as a DRI. His bank and supermarket proposal was for the land at the corner of Holmes Hole Road and State Road in Tisbury. The commission granted the application with the condition that the offer from Mr. Redstone had to be accepted by a vote of the citizens of Tisbury.

Please make it a condition, if the application is approved, that the townspeople of Tisbury must accept the mitigation offer of $1.2 million recently approved (pending town counsel review) as a memorandum of agreement by the three-member Tisbury board of selectmen, or any other mitigation offer they may make. It is written in your own rules that, “The project must be approved by the MVC before a town board may issue a required permit or take any action.”

Since then, the MVC has denied applications for a bank and day care project in the same Holmes Hole Road location (by Dukes County Savings Bank,) and a gas station at the corner of High Point Lane and State Road due to traffic concerns in the “failed State Road corridor.” The MVC did approve Elio Sylva’s plan for a food market at the corner of High Point Lane and State Road, because its size and scale fit in with the neighborhood and your own standards.

The MVC must hold Ahold/Stop & Shop to the same standards. They have continuously avoided the facts of the project, which are that this is a 41′ high, 100′ by 200′ , 40,000+ square foot big box store between the Five Corners intersection and the Steamship Authority ferry terminal. It faces the front edge of the historic village and harbor of Vineyard Haven. The Five Corners intersection is so failed, that when the town tried posting a traffic officer there years ago they soon gave up, and took an every man for himself attitude.

It is the MVC’s duty to carefully evaluate this plan, to assure that the character of Martha’s Vineyard be preserved. In this plan, we see a building that will tower over its’ neighbors and cast a long shadow over Vineyard Haven village and Main Street. There is the real potential of serious negative economic impact on businesses in downtown Vineyard Haven. We have not seen the plans for the interior of the building. Think about the uses of supermarkets you see off-Island. Just because it is not shown on the plan does not mean it won’t happen, now or in the future.

What will be done when we have further burdened the surrounding roads with more cars coming to the village of Vineyard Haven and stressing our already overburdened municipal parking lot? There is a 4.5-foot setback on their frontage on Water Street, barely enough room for a sidewalk. There are no setbacks on the side and rear; all outdoor activities will impinge on public property. There are no pedestrian walkways, no parking lot attendant to gather the carts, no storage on their property for carts, no room for them to unload trucks, etc., except on publicly owned land. It would be far better to require that these and any other activities be contained on their own property as far as possible.

As for the harbor, the sheer volume of this building will be what greets us and our visitors upon arrival, and will be the last thing we see as the ferries and visiting boats sail out of the harbor. The drastic change to the character of our village and waterfront is not worth the price we’ll pay for allowing this big box store to be built.

There is precedent, and there is support, for the members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to deny Stop & Shop/Ahold’s application. Vineyard Haven will have to absorb the collateral damage that no amount of money will repair. Ahold has made it clear, by proposing to build to the maximum width, depth, and height, that their concern is for their bottom line.  Ahold should shrink this building to fit in with its neighborhood, or find another location, perhaps at the Airport Business Park.

Marie Laursen