MVC addresses Menemsha’s summer traffic troubles

Connecticut architect will focus on traffic, parking, and pedestrian safety.

Adam Turner, at left, director of the MVC, goes before Chilmark planning board members, from left, Janet Weidner, Peter Cook, John Eisner, and town clerk Jennifer Christy last Monday. MVC is hiring a consultant to look at traffic issues in Menemsha. — Edie Prescott

Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) director Adam Turner told the Chilmark town planning board that he will hire William Brewster of Brewster Architects of Lebanon, Conn., to help plan to improve the familiar, beloved, but overpressed and chaotic scene at the end of the road that ends at the Menemsha Beach. It’s a summer hot spot for bathers, boaters, and shellfish lovers, especially at sunset. Mr. Turner could not say how much the professional advice would cost.

The work will begin with about two weeks devoted to an assessment of the area and of the press of summer activity. The architect will work with the MVC and the planners to produce conceptual sketches of solutions, followed by construction drawings.

MVC will fund this process through the construction drawings, then the town of Chilmark will pay for implementation.

Planning board member Joan Malkin thought the “look” of the town is important, but that the “design” of Menemsha really is key.

“We have right of last refusal if the town doesn’t like what he comes up with,” planning board member Janet Weidner said. “We’re the ones paying for the implementation of this, ultimately — that message needs to get across to the town too.”

Brewster Architects has done a plan for the historic Connecticut town of Colchester, and Mr. Turner said that the town implemented the Brewster plan, so he thought Brewster really “listened to the officials’” concerns in Colchester.

“Menemsha is a ‘place’ — having a creative transportation guy is the best way to do it,” Mr. Turner said. “You don’t want to change it, but you want to solve the problem.”

Ms. Malkin said planning board members would be able to explain to Brewster “what it is that the people seem to like,” and to also explain “that we’re kind of a low-budget town — we can’t afford dramatic structural changes.”

“You don’t want to lose what you’ve got, but you want to create safety and get people off the streets,” Mr. Turner said. “There’s a fine line between losing the charm and character of that area and trying to do too much.”

Mr. Turner said that even if what is done is very “low key,” he thinks [William Brewster] is the “right guy.” “You’re still going to have to lead him to what you want — you’re his client,” Mr. Turner said.

“What we’re aiming for is not suburbanization, but safety and convenience,” Ms. Malkin said. “I feel totally comfortable that he can produce something.”

“He’s going to have to listen to [the planning board] and translate exactly what it is that you want,” Mr. Turner said. “I’m here to help you guys.”