For several years, Woods Hole residents have stood up at public meetings or in Zoom sessions to complain about the size and scope of the Steamship Authority’s proposed Woods Hole terminal, saying it should be more in keeping with the Vineyard Haven and Hyannis terminals.
But records first mentioned by Robert Jones, the Barnstable representative on the SSA board, and then confirmed, show that the proposed square footage of the new Woods Hole terminal is smaller than the other year-round terminals.
After the project architect drew up plans for a single-story terminal building, a compromise after complaints from Woods Hole residents, the size of the building is 5,542 square feet. Meanwhile, according to the information in each town’s assessors’ records, Hyannis has the largest terminal at 7,306 square feet, the Vineyard Haven terminal is 6,121 square feet, and Nantucket’s terminal is 5,948 square feet. Only the seasonal Oak Bluffs terminal is smaller, at 1,705 square feet, according to Oak Bluffs principal assessor MacGregor Anderson.
Meanwhile, the new terminal in Woods Hole is replacing a massive concrete structure that was 20,672 square feet before being demolished in 2018 to make way for the construction.
Jones said he was “not necessarily trying to prove a point,” but the numbers show a different story from what some Woods Hole residents opposed to the project repeatedly portray. Jones said he has heard people say comments like, “Would you want this in Hyannis?” when Hyannis is the place with the largest terminal. Woods Hole residents have also said the proposed terminal should be more in keeping with what’s been built in Vineyard Haven.
“When they ask us to make it small, they’re not taking into consideration the utility of the building, what it needs to perform its tasks for now and into the future,” Jones said. He also brought up that the other terminals were constructed based on architectural needs, while the proposed Woods Hole facility is facing more challenges. For example, the new building will have to be on pilings because it’s being constructed in a flood zone.
During that board meeting, James Malkin, who represents the Vineyard, said he has also heard people talking about “size, size, size” when it came to opposition to the terminal’s construction. “Let’s stick to facts and deal with facts,” Malkin said during the meeting. He had expressed frustration earlier that a Woods Hole resident wrote a letter to the Cape Cod Times inflating the truck traffic to and from the Island.
The opposition against the Woods Hole terminal from residents, whether that be vocal during meetings, through letters to the editor, or messages to government and SSA officials, was not only because of the proposed building’s size. Other issues, such as the building’s clash with the Woods Hole aesthetic and possible increased traffic congestion, are on Woods Hole residents’ minds.
Despite the discussion at the last board meeting, some opponents are undeterred. They believe the SSA is not listening to their requests.
“The short answer is no. Size comparisons of the various SSA’s terminals … is a distraction,” Woods Hole resident Suzanne Kuffler said. She believes downsizing the area makes more sense to reduce congestion, and the SSA should spend resources on other endeavors, such as increasing the SSA’s energy efficiency and investment in an offshore port.
Kuffler and other residents believe the current buildings in Woods Hole have served passengers and the community just fine, and are an appropriate size for the area.
“Passengers don’t want to pay for these huge buildings, the people of Woods Hole and Falmouth don’t want them, but the SSA still insists on building them,” Woods Hole resident John Woodwell said.
“Space is already at a premium on the [Woods Hole] terminal. This huge building footprint leaves all the less room for cars and trucks coming and going to maneuver,” Woods Hole resident Nat Trumbull said.
Malkin acknowledged the concerns Woods Hole residents had about the SSA’s project, although he believes the opposition is coming from a vocal minority.
“The SSA did a tremendous amount to accommodate Woods Hole residents,” Malkin said in a conversation with The Times. For example, he pointed to architectural compromises and an eight-page document that goes into how the SSA plans to deal with truck noises, such as limiting the boarding times of large trucks to certain times of the day. Malkin said he thinks a contributing factor to the concerns is the population growth in Woods Hole, a phenomenon shared by other parts of the Cape and Islands. The increased population leads to more congestion on Woods Hole’s roads.
Malkin said some residents opposed to the redevelopment seem to be against the SSA operating in Woods Hole at all. “I think it’s illogical that the people on the Islands would want to spend more time or money on further ports rather than the closest deep-water port, which is Woods Hole for Martha’s Vineyard and Hyannis for Nantucket. Hyannis has existed comfortably with its facility, and Woods Hole makes the most sense geographically,” Malkin said.
As for suggestions that the SSA continue to use the temporary terminal office, the SSA has repeatedly said it has a temporary occupancy permit, and that the state will not allow it to remain there because it is not elevated out of the flood zone. The original occupancy permit for that building has lapsed, and the SSA has received extensions.
“We have been in constant contact with the state building inspector regarding an extension and our ongoing design development of the new terminal building, so to date there has been no issue regarding our continued use of the building,” SSA communications director Sean Driscoll said.