The proposed expansion of the Edgartown Stop & Shop cleared a major hurdle when the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) approved the project as a development of regional impact (DRI) at its Thursday night meeting.
Conditions on the approval included improved exterior appearance, a sound-mitigating wall to reduce noise to abutters, and a strong recommendation to provide a delivery service during the summer months to mitigate traffic.
Commissioners expressed concern that the expanded building exterior had the appearance of a warehouse, also described as “massing,” and was not consistent with “Island vernacular.” They pointed to exterior details on the newly constructed Stop & Shop on Nantucket that were more consistent with the Island’s architectural character.
Refinements on the roof, the sides of the building that face the parking areas, and the trim and façade were requested.
Commissioners voted that a revised architectural plan, with input from MVC staff, must be submitted to the Land Use Planning Committee (LUPC) before a building permit can be issued.
Attorney Geoghan Coogan, representing Stop & Shop, told The Times he was surprised that the store exterior had become an issue, because the architectural plans were shared at two previous public hearings, earlier this fall. “If someone had spoken up earlier, we may have been able to make amendments before we got to that point, but nobody did,” he said.
Mr. Coogan said objections about the landscape plan at Monday’s LUPC meeting were similarly unexpected. “A commissioner asked about the lack of a landscape plan, and they’ve had the landscape plan since August 21. A full, detailed, to-the-species plan,” he said. “I can’t make them look at it. Maybe there was so much information they didn’t digest it all.”
Stop & stop
Traffic concerns dominated the conversation. Commissioner Doug Sederholm of West Tisbury said increased traffic is a major detriment. “It’s just about the most congested place on the Island,” he said. “It’s going to be gridlock. For 12 weeks a year, it’s going to be hell. I don’t see any mitigation efforts are going to help.”
The traffic study, completed in November 2016 and revised in March 2017, estimated a 48 percent increase in traffic during late-afternoon and early-evening hours during the summer.
Mr. Coogan told The Times he thinks the traffic concerns are based on inflated numbers in the MVC traffic study.
“Those are not our numbers; our traffic expert doesn’t agree with it,” he said. “We don’t believe there’s going to be a 40 percent increase.”
“The numbers we used are still based on worst-case scenarios, like if the store was based in Falmouth and we’d be generating trips from 16 different towns. In reality, instead of sitting behind three cars to make a left turn into the store, you might be behind four. We’ve maintained that from day one.”
After lengthy debate, the commission voted to strongly recommend that Stop & Shop investigate some kind of home delivery option during the summer to reduce traffic, per a suggestion at the first public hearing by Aquinnah commissioner Kathy Newman.
To mitigate sound from the two loading docks, including a new loading dock on the west side of the store for refrigerated trucks, Stop & Shop agreed to install a 12-foot-high sound-attenuating wall between the back of the store and residentially zoned properties. Initially the MVC requested a minimum STC rating of 45. STC is a metric for decibel reduction. Mr. Coogan told the commission on Thursday that a minimum STC 45 wall would be the size of walls installed along major highways. “I don’t think you want that in this neighborhood,” he said. Mr. Coogan said a wall rated STC 30 would still put the sound levels within state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations.
The commission required that the attenuating wall on the west side of the store be lengthened. The distance will be determined at a later date. If sound isn’t mitigated to less than 10 decibels of current ambient noise, Stop & Shop will have to go back to the MVC to face the music.
Stop & Shop agreed to the condition that solar panels will be installed on the new roof within three years of receiving the Certificate of Occupancy. The solar plan must be approved by the MVC before construction begins.
To encourage commerce between local farmers and the store, the commission required that an annual product fair be held.
Per the MVC affordable housing policy, Stop & Shop agreed to a onetime payment of $26,670 and also an annual payment of $50,000 to the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority until the store can build its own housing. The company plans to spend $948,195 for 131 existing employees at both Island stores.
The commission made the condition that an enclosed bus shelter be installed in front of the store on Upper Main Street, designed in conjunction with the Vineyard Transit Authority.
Thursday’s final vote was 11 to 1, with two abstentions. Doug Sederholm, commissioner from West Tisbury, abstained over his concerns about the potential for catastrophic traffic conditions. Richard Toole abstained because he felt the commission was not specific enough in the conditions, and that another public hearing was warranted.
Mr. Coogan said that he spoke to Stop & Shop executives Thursday night after the meeting, and they are happy to be moving on to the Edgartown planning board. “After the LUPC on Monday, we were feeling like this might be another Tisbury,” he said. “We were pleasantly surprised, we thought we might be headed for another public hearing. The staff did a great job between Monday and last night. I think Adam [Turner] did a great job of refocusing them.”
On Monday, the LUPC had voted 5-2 to reopen public hearings. “There weren’t many people who spoke at the last two public hearings, so we didn’t see the necessity for a third one,” Mr. Coogan said. “We’ve discussed some architectural tweaking. I’d consider the final review items to be pretty minor. Hopefully we’ll have our final — final meeting with the MVC in early spring.”
The date for the Edgartown planning board will be set after the board gets the MVC written decision.
No one from the general public attended Thursday’s meeting.