The Martha’s Vineyard Commission unanimously approved the new Oak Bluffs town hall, 11-0, as a development of regional impact (DRI) last Thursday night.
The $9.9 million project now moves to the Oak Bluffs planning board for site-plan review.
Owing to several planning sessions with MVC staff, architects Keenan and Kenny, and building committee members prior to the two DRI public hearings, final approval came with minimal conditions — the installation of two rain gardens to improve drainage in the parking lot.
“We reviewed the site plan, and the applicant made several changes, so when it came to the full commission, most of our concerns had already been addressed,” commission executive director Adam Turner said after the meeting. “You also have to credit the applicant for being open to making changes.”
At Thursday’s meeting, there was a long debate about making the town hall DRI approval conditional on the orientation of the parking spaces on School Street, which nearly drove a dismayed town hall building committee chairman Bill McGrath from the room.
“I feel the town can handle it, we should leave it up to them instead of micromanaging,” Fred Hancock, commissioner from Oak Bluffs, said.
Commissioner Christina Brown of Edgartown disagreed. “We’re not supposed to delegate our authority,” she said.
The commission eventually voted to leave parking to the Oak Bluffs planning board. Gail Barmakian of Oak Bluffs was the lone dissenting vote.
Citing workplace health concerns, the commission voted to “strongly recommend” that wood floors replace the planned vinyl flooring and that wool carpet be substituted for synthetic fiber carpeting. Commissioner Ben Robinson of Tisbury said his inquiries to architects Keenan and Kenny about substituting wood floors and wool carpeting had gone unanswered. He said he believed the possible cost increase would be more than offset by reduced healthcare costs of town hall employees.
Hearings end for Stop & Shop
In anticipation of a large turnout, Thursday’s commission meeting was held in the meeting room of the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown.
About 20 people were on hand for the second and final public hearing on plans to expand the current 25,259-square-foot market by 16,000 square feet — a 70 percent increase — and to demolish the 607-square-foot bank and replace it with a new 1,000-square-foot building, with two drive-through lanes.
As he did in the first public hearing, attorney Geoghan Coogan, representing Stop & Shop, opened by quashing any notions about a change of location from North Main Street in Edgartown to the Airport Business Park.
“We looked at the airport; people aren’t at the airport, they’re right here,” he said. “The idea is flat-out not on the table.”
Offers made by Stop & Shop included a $26,000 donation to affordable housing and a $50,000 yearly contribution to the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority. Deliveries will be restricted to the hours between 7 am and 9 pm. A larger bus shelter and wider parking spaces along the North Main Street border were also proposed.
Traffic concerns dominated the conversation.
Randy Hart, traffic engineer, said traffic studies are an inexact science and that calculations are based on “worst case” scenarios. Previously, he projected the increase during peak time in summer to be about one trip per minute, or a 13 percent increase on peak summer weekdays and an 8 percent increase on Saturdays. “It’s an increase, but I really don’t believe you’ll notice a substantial difference,” he said.
Commissioner Doug Sederholm of West Tisbury expressed concern that even a modest increase in traffic at the gridlock-prone Triangle could become an economic barrier. “If we add even a modest amount of traffic at that location, given that you’re doing everything possible, do we reach a tipping point where it becomes beyond unbearable?” he said.
As she did at the first public hearing, Commissioner Kathy Newman of Aquinnah asked if Peapod, a Stop & Shop service that delivers for a fee, or some kind of delivery service, could reduce traffic during peak hours. ”I can’t believe people won’t pay for deliveries,” she said.
Stop & Shop project manager Lisa Davis explained that Peapod trucks would come from off-Island, and that to create a delivery service on the Island would be a complicated process that would require construction of a refrigerated warehouse.
Joan Malkin, commissioner from Chilmark, suggested the store come up with incentives to deter people from shopping during peak hours.
Commissioners also asked that Stop & Shop invest more in renewable energy.
“A decision that you’re going to go solar would be in your best interest with the MVC,” commissioner Linda Sibley of West Tisbury said.
Ms. Davis said that the new HVAC system and upgraded refrigeration would keep energy consumption to roughly current levels.
“There might be a small increase, but not much,” she said.
Written comments will be accepted at the MVC until Oct. 27.