At a continued Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) public hearing last week, supporters and opponents of a new lumberyard in Tisbury turned out to argue the pros and cons of the project. The major sticking point is a plan to create an access road out of the entrance to the Island Cove Mini Golf parking lot, off State Road between the complex and Shirley’s Hardware.
Chris Dias, owner of Specialty Builders’ Supply, a lumberyard in Brewster which now serves Cape Cod, eastern Massachusetts, and Martha’s Vineyard, said he initiated the project to meet the Island demand for his products. He said it would be a contractor-only yard, as opposed to other lumberyards in town, and will sell only to builders and businesses.
Mini golf property owners Mary and Ray Gosselin object to the decision to access the property over an existing easement, which they said poses a danger to families and children. The Gosselins, who have the property on the market, have pressed Mr. Dias to access his property off High Point Lane.
The proposal calls for a 60-by-112-foot warehouse and a smaller 60-by-28-foot showroom and office located at the end of the road now used to access the Mini Golf property off State Road. The project is currently under review by the MVC as a development of regional impact (DRI) because the building exceeds the 3,000-square-foot trigger on the DRI checklist.
Earlier this year, the MVC approved a proposal by Joe DeBettencourt, owner of Buddy’s Auto and Truck Repair in Oak Bluffs, to build a 5,100-square-foot, four-bay automotive garage on a half-acre lot that would be accessed off High Point Lane uphill from the proposed lumberyard. Both buildings would be located on the same 1.2-acre parcel of land.
Thursday, MVC DRI coordinator Paul Foley said he had received over 30 letters within 24 hours prior to the public hearing, all of which expressed concern with the project.
Michael Goldsmith, the Gosselins’ attorney, in a letter to the MVC, said, “It is not logical that an easement over a property frequented by children, who walk along an adjoining path, should be simultaneously used as an access road for commercial and heavy truck traffic to link up with the State Highway across the street from a busy commercial lot.”
He said that in the Gosselins’ view, a better option would be to use the State Road access for residential uses of the building, and create a High Point Lane access for the commercial portion of the business.
“We understand there may be challenges with creating that access … but ultimately directing the commercial traffic to and from High Point Lane, where it is removed from State Road and where it is separated from the family recreational uses at the Mini-Golf park, would make more sense from a public safety and from a land-use planning perspective, at least in the Gosselins’ view,” he said.
The Gosselins have alleged in a pending Superior Court challenge that the Tisbury planning board lacked the authority to approve the division of the original parcel of land into four lots.
“While the Gosselins have not yet litigated the matter to a conclusion, in my judgment the planning board should have considered the proposed division to be a subdivision — and held public hearings under the governing statute — because the two rear lots have no frontage on an existing way,” Mr. Goldsmith said. He said that under the subdivision control law, access, drainage, safety, and other issues are considered before approval.
Last Thursday night, opponents of the lumberyard project asked the MVC to conduct a traffic study prior to any decision on the proposal. They also questioned the size and scope of the project, and if another lumberyard in town is necessary.
Those arguments echoed those used to defeat a proposal for a gas station on the same property on which the garage and lumberyard are now planned. In December 2002, the MVC rejected the proposal, citing traffic congestion along the State Road business corridor and the effects a new gas station would have on the economic well-being of the Vineyard’s two up-Island gas stations.
Mr. Dias said that he didn’t need to use tractor-trailers, and his operating hours wouldn’t conflict with the mini golf’s business, especially because it won’t be open on weekends.
“I’m as concerned about safety as anyone,” he said. “Pulling into a driveway is not barreling down the road.”
MVC commissioner Trip Barnes of Tisbury, owner of a moving business, recused himself because his business is located close by on State Road, but he pulled no punches in expressing his opinion. He said most of the letters of objection came from seasonal residents.
“I don’t know what kind of town we’ve got anymore,” he said. “Mr. Dias is doing the same thing his father did. He’s worked hard, he’s well-behaved, he saved his money, and now he’s making a huge commitment to the town of Vineyard Haven … Any time there’s big trucks involved, everybody gets outraged. I think he’s an asset to the community, I think he can help the town tax base, and I think we have to take care of some of our sons here.”
Property owner Tom Pachico, a former Tisbury selectman, directed sharp criticism at Mrs. and Mr. Gosselin, who purchased the property from his father.
“Let’s call a spade a spade here; the thing that’s driving this conversation is greed,” he said. “The miniature golf is for sale — for seven, eight, nine times what they bought it for. My father was nice enough to give the Gosselins a lease with an option to purchase. He carried them through hard times, when it was tough making the payments, and the whole nine yards. Now greed’s set in, and the property is for sale for $1.55 million. Does anybody sitting here really think somebody is going to spend that much money and leave it as miniature golf? … Now [the Gosselins] are saying they can make a few extra dollars if the right of way goes away, at my expense and Mr. Dias’ expense.”
Public comment on the proposal closes at 5 pm on Thursday, May 12. The MVC is scheduled to meet at 7 pm, Wednesday, May 18, rather than Thursday, to meet a quorum, at which time they may take a vote.