The Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved the construction of a takeout window at the Barn Bowl & Bistro Thursday night, albeit with pushback from neighbors and some commission members.
The takeout window is a modification to an approved kitchen addition that has been built, but is not finished. The purpose of the window is to streamline the pickup of orders made by phone and online.
According to Barn co-owner Sam Dunn, the Barn does an average of 12 takeout orders a day year-round. In a memo to the MVC, the Barn hopes for an increase in business and expects the takeout window could handle a fivefold increase, but doesn’t expect business to grow that much.
Several abutters sent letters to the commission in opposition to the takeout window, citing encroachment on the neighborhood, noise issues, and disregard for MVC restrictions and guidelines.
Maura McGroarty wrote she had no issue with the Barn as is, but didn’t agree with the takeout window. “My only concern is the impact of an additional feature, the takeout window, on the already existing traffic congestion in the Circuit, Uncas, Pocasset, Hiawatha block,” she wrote.
Diane Streett took issue with what she called the Barn’s “continual expansions.” “Is there no end to the encroachments on the quality of our neighborhood and our right to quiet enjoyment?” she wrote. “For six years, we have been bombarded with numerous proposals from the Barn, which seem to disregard the parameters for the Barn set by authorities. The Barn periodically submits proposals that would expand and distort its originally professed intentions.”
While the commission approved the takeout window, notably three of the four commissioners who voted against it were the MVC’s three Oak Bluffs representatives: Fred Hancock, Richard Toole, and Gail Barmakian. Aquinnah commissioner Jim Vercruysse also voted against the project.
“I understand you’ve got a proposal,” Toole said, referring to a proposed 40B project next door at 3 Uncas Ave. “I’m not necessarily against that proposal for the corner house, but I’m appalled with what you did to that house, and you just left it sitting there.”
Dunn said he was not involved with the Uncas Avenue project, which has faced opposition from the town.
“My concern is that it’s chaotic there anyway, with a lot of things going on. There’s not enough parking, oftentimes the road is congested with parking on both sides of Uncas Avenue for patrons to the bowling alley. Should that parcel be developed into a 40B affordable housing unit, with a drive-through bank, it’s going to be untenable,” Barmakian said.
Vercruysse said the Barn is a successful business, but the takeout window was almost universally opposed by neighbors. He added that the takeout window is one of many issues in the area. “I think it is a step too far on this piece of property,” he said. “I think we need to listen to the neighbors.”
Hancock said the bowling alley has been a wonderful addition to the town and the Island, but raised concerns about the potential for increased traffic.
“Once people see that there’s a takeout window there, it will increase the traffic to it,” Hancock said. “I think this pushes this project over the point where it’s acceptable.”
Hancock then moved for the commission to deny the takeout window. The motion was shot down 9-4.
Other commissioners voiced support.
“I just think the window is an advantage. It’s going to allow people to run up to the window, grab their food, and go away,” commissioner Ernest Thomas said.
“I don’t see that this is a major change,” commissioner James Joyce added.
“I think they should get the window,” commissioner Clarence (“Trip”) Barnes III said. “I don’t think it’s going to disturb anybody anymore than they’re already being disturbed by the normal summer madness.”
“We’re making a big deal out of a piece of business that they’re already doing,” commissioner Ben Robinson said. “The window just makes it a little easier for them to operate.”
Dunn offered a two-year “sunset provision” on the project. After two years, the project would have to come back to the commission, seek a continuation, and have another public hearing. Commissioners accepted the offer, along with other offers, including the window being closed at 9 pm, no outdoor dining, no in-person orders made at the takeout window, and no advertisements or promotions that target the pickup business.
Commissioners also approved the construction of an enclosed trash area and parking spaces for employee parking off Hiawatha Avenue.
The project was approved 9-4, with Barmakian, Toole, Hancock, and Vercruysse opposing.