At its Thursday evening meeting, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission took up proposed changes to the Stone Bank development in Tisbury that would include the introduction of a new seasonal “fast food” Mexican restaurant.
Formerly used for drive-thru banking, the 16 Union St. property, if the project is approved, will be converted to accommodate a 650-square-foot indoor kitchen and outdoor dining and bar with a capacity of 70 seats, along with a takeout window, for a new taqueria.
According to the proposal submitted by Sam Dunn, seasonal resident Patrick Lyons, who owns Back Door Donuts in Oak Bluffs, would become the new restaurant’s proprietor.
The restaurant would be considered a fast food–adjacent establishment, seeing as it would not be “a full-service restaurant”; the restaurant would not have a wait staff or take reservations. “Patrons would seat themselves, order and pay online using their phones, or via a pickup window,” the application states.
The request comes to the commission as a modification to a mixed-use condo project which was approved in 2021, and had called for the renovation of two buildings, and construction of five more at the Stone Bank development. The project, which included a total of 10 residential and seven commercial units, was approved with the understanding that any potential changes to the site would need to be reviewed by the commission.
The project calls for a redesignation of the existing lawn from a common area for the site’s condos to the proposed taqueria’s outdoor seating area.
“This is really going to be a game-changer in Vineyard Haven,” Dunn said. “For the first time, there will be a place where people coming off the ferry can actually see, and can be attracted to.”
Dunn said Tisbury has struggled to keep up with what often draws Island visitors to Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, as both towns tout an array of easily accessible restaurants and bars.
“We have a terrible problem in Vineyard Haven,” he said; “people are whisked away the minute they arrive because they see nothing to keep them there.”
Additionally, “There’s a number of empty stores on Main Street,” Dunn said. “This is the kind of thing that will really energize the economy of Vineyard Haven.”
Key concerns highlighted by MVC staff included waste generation, traffic and parking, and character and identity.
There are no parking spaces specifically designated to the restaurant, DRI coordinator Alex Elvin said in his review, but a traffic impact assessment projected a need for at least 17 spaces that would need to be addressed. The traffic assessment found “no parking, safety, or level of service impacts in the vicinity of the project.” The application also requests a new curb cut to accommodate food delivery vehicles and customer access.
On generating waste, Dunn stated that the taqueria will be “composting 100 percent,” making use of recyclable and biodegradable materials, and “producing zero plastic waste.”
Additionally, Dunn assured the commission that the new restaurant will make an effort to use locally sourced ingredients.
“If you are using things that are going to be thrown away, how much trash are you going to generate?” Commissioner Kate Putman asked, noting that the site is close to the water, which may prove detrimental on a windy day, as “things blow around.”
Commissioner Trip Barnes disagreed, and said he was “impressed” by the waste disposal plans presented to the commission, including Island Grown Initiative assisting in composting and Bruno’s involvement in nonbiodegradable waste removal service.
Dunn said a number of items offered will just be served in baskets, as finger food. “You eat tacos with your hands, you eat chips with your hands, you eat quesadilla with your hands,” he said.
MVC climate planner Liz Durkee noted that the proposed change is significant, and raised concerns about the condo’s common lawn space becoming an outdoor seating area.
Commissioner Greg Martino, appointed to the MVC as Tisbury’s representative, said although some details of the project are in need of clarification, “this is a welcome addition in Vineyard Haven … I think this is a great project.”
Abutter Peter Stam raised his own concerns regarding possible impacts the project may have on the neighboring residents, including “noise, trash, and just the volume of people coming through the property.” He noted the potential for an increased number of patrons who would be coming to the restaurant and bar for liquor or beer only. “I’d love to see the condition that liquor can only be sold in conjunction with food,” he said, regardless of the town’s recently ratified legislation that would allow liquor and beer to be sold separately from food at restaurants.
On Wednesday, the town of Tisbury will be holding a public hearing at 4 pm — the final step in a lengthy process that included approval by the state legislature and in a townwide ballot question “to amend the all-alcohol regulations by deleting the requirement that alcoholic beverages be consumed with meals only.” The new regulation still requires establishments to concentrate on selling primarily food by restricting overall sales of alcohol to just 35 percent of the restaurant’s annual sales.