Updated 9/6 at 12 pm
Santander Bank is closing two branches on Martha’s Vineyard, including the controversial branch on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, where bank officials changed the roof tiles, a renovation the Martha’s Vineyard Commission now says should have gone before the regional agency.
In a letter to bank customers, Santander announced the closing of the Vineyard Haven branch on Dec. 1, and one of two Edgartown branches on Nov. 17. “We are committed to providing you with the banking convenience and quality service you have come to expect from Santander,” the letter, dated August 30, states.
The branch closing in Edgartown is located at 19 Main St. Customers with safe deposit boxes at the Vineyard Haven branch are being asked to close them out by Friday, Nov. 17, to be eligible for a limited number of boxes at the Edgartown Triangle branch, according to the letter.
A branch manager for the Vineyard Haven office declined to comment on the branch’s closing, referring calls to the bank’s corporate public relations office.
“We routinely review our branch network to make sure we are optimizing our resources, and this consolidation makes good sense for both our customers and our business,” Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for Santander, wrote in an email. “Our customers were given 90 days in advance notice of the closures so they can plan accordingly, and all of our team members from the closed branches will remain employed with us at our remaining Martha’s Vineyard locations.” Santander’s Oak Bluffs branch will also remain open, Ms. Davis wrote.
It’s unclear exactly what this means for the Vineyard Haven building’s roof. In early June, the commission voted to require the bank to restore the red clay roof tiles on the historic Tisbury building. The bank was given two months to submit a plan and six months to complete the work or face legal action.
“Santander is appealing the decision issued by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission regarding the roof at the Vineyard Haven branch,” Ms. Davis wrote. “Because this matter is currently in the courts, we are not able to comment further.”
The appeal was filed in Dukes County Superior Court last month, and seeks to overturn the decision by the commission.
“Nearly seven months after the work was completed and a new roof was on the building, the commission issued an order requiring the bank to replace the brand-new roof with a clay tile roof,” the complaint states. “The order is in excess of the commission’s authority, and must be annulled.”
The complaint alleges that Santander followed proper procedure and was issued a building permit, but the board of selectmen, under public pressure, referred the roof issue to the commission anyway. If Tisbury officials thought the commission had jurisdiction, the issue should have been referred before a permit was issued, the complaint alleges.
“The commission further exceeded its authority because it issued its decision notwithstanding a complete lack of evidence to support its determination that Santander’s proposal ‘because of the magnitude … is likely to present development issues significant to more than one municipality of the island of Martha’s Vineyard’ as required by Chapter 831,” the complaint states.
Adam Turner, executive director for the commission, declined to comment, except to say he’s hopeful for a settlement with the company over the shingles.
In its decision to require the shingles be replaced, the commission pointed to the building’s historical significance.
The closing of the Vineyard Haven branch is puzzling in that Santander directs its customers to use the Edgartown branch, apparently bypassing an Oak Bluffs branch that will remain open. It also creates a void in what is one of the Island’s major economic centers.
“Vineyard Haven is the main branch; why not consider keeping this one open?” Peter Cronig, a Vineyard Haven businessman and longtime customer, said. “I don’t get it.”
The Cronig family has used the bank out of convenience for generations, watching its various iterations from Martha’s Vineyard National to Compass to Sovereign to Santander. This time, despite the hassle of moving accounts, Mr. Cronig is considering a bank change rather than a nine-mile drive to Edgartown, he said.
“For me, it’s a convenience thing,” he said. “But how do you close your prime location? Did anyone from corporate even come to the Island?”
The two branches closing will leave holes in two of the Island’s busy centers. “It’s always disheartening when a longtime, established business leaves Main Street, but I’m confident whatever goes in there will do well,” Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, said. “Those are prime locations both in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven. It’s a challenge, but it does create opportunity.”
Editor’s note: Updated to include more details from Santander and its appeal. Reporter Barry Stringfellow contributed to this report.