To the Editor:
The following letter was sent to Oak Bluffs town administrator Robert Whritenour and Mark Barbadoro of the Oak Bluffs Buildings Department.
My family has owned property on Pacific Avenue for nearly 60 years that abuts the proposed site for the park and ride facility. Our connection to the Island goes back nearly 100 years, with Cape and Island family connections. Speaking as a lifelong seasonal resident, the area proposed for the park and ride lot is already a much overused go-to place for a rising number of the town’s utility vehicles, and an area where construction materials have been, and continue to be, deposited and stored for major town projects.
Right beside our property is an existing parking area for several town vehicles, and from time to time, directly in view of my backyard, a large truck used to transport mini-bulldozers, etc., from project to project has been parked. This former Oak Bluffs elementary school field has been torn up by traffic patterns. When new water mains were installed along Vineyard Avenue and the surrounding area a couple of years ago, the mains and other major hardware necessary for the work’s completion were stored at the lot. All related work activity begins in the early-morning hours of the weekday, which in effect puts residents on the same working schedule, rather than a schedule of our own choosing in our own homes.
I feel the rushed nature of this park and ride proposal during its planning stages reflects a basic lack of consideration shown to residents and has once again aggravated a sore spot — made worse by the fact that this is not the first, nor the second, time that a decision for alternate use of this particular plot of land has been rushed through with little or no consideration for the surrounding residents who would be most impacted.
A low-income housing development was planned for the area in the ’90s, with architectural renderings already drafted by the time property owners were made aware — by word of mouth — of a town hall planning meeting. This meeting took place in March, before most seasonal residents arrived; however many seasonal and year-round residents did attend that March meeting, some of them property abutters, all of them concerned with what we see as the further deterioration and transformation of the neighborhood by drastic alterations to its character. In response to that particular development proposal, the creation of a concerned citizens group took place.
Years later, again concerning the same property, and again scheduled at a time before seasonal abutters arrived, plans for the placement of a wastewater treatment facility abutting residents’ property were put in motion.
Open lines of communication are not only appreciated but also expected by residents of this and any Island community. This area has gone through major development and new construction saturation over the past 10 to 15 years at least. That’s a nice way of saying housing construction has blown up, with some houses larger than the area can reasonably sustain.
A major reason why new water mains had to be installed in this section of town was due to the huge number of residences that were added to the community. There was insufficient water pressure for the area fire hydrants to properly function as a result of the area’s rapid, some feel over-development. The character of this neighborhood continues to be altered on an Island where natural surroundings are always touted as a top priority, but for some areas, it would seem only selectively.
In terms of traffic, Pacific Avenue has always been a “cut-through” street from one end of town to the other (New York Avenue crossing over to Vineyard Avenue), and with the addition of the number 7 public transit bus route from the library — also relatively new construction — another layer of transformation has been added, further changing a once relatively quiet street into more of a well-traveled thoroughfare.
Reaching farther back, at the end of School Street near Dukes County Road, the tour bus parking, repair, and maintenance facility has figured into the mix of nonresidential development and activity bordering this residential neighborhood.
I understand the important need for more parking facilities to relieve downtown congestion, but having a huge number of cars concentrated in this compact residential area, where countless people would have all-day access, will further destabilize a neighborhood that has already undergone more than its share of overdevelopment and change.
Now that a rescheduling of the March 26 planning meeting has been announced, I sincerely hope that an alternate site for the location of this parking lot will not only be seriously considered but also acted upon, with the input of property owners and concerned neighbors included as a major part of the decision-making process.
The opportunity for community input is greatly appreciated, and I would also hope advance notification for future projects potentially impacting our neighborhood’s environment will be a matter of course as part of standard business practice.
David van Leesten
Dorothy van Leesten
Lisa van Leesten
Oak Bluffs; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Plymouth; Arlington, Va.