The Martha’s Vineyard Commission continued a public hearing Thursday regarding a proposed taqueria slated for the Stone Bank development in Tisbury.
Formerly used for drive-through banking, the 16 Union St. property, if 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 seasonal Mexican “fast food” restaurant.
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, the application states, 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,” according to the application.
The request comes to the commission as a modification to a mixed-use condo project that 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 new project also 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. At the previous public hearing, commissioners heard some testimony from the public who cited concerns about using the property’s lawn to accommodate seating, in addition to the potential of traffic congestion and trash buildup in the area.
On generating waste, Dunn stated that the taqueria will be “composting 100 percent,” making use of recyclable and biodegradable materials, “producing zero plastic waste,” and a number of items offered will be served in baskets as finger food, which would cut down on material waste.
Additionally, Dunn assured the commission that the new restaurant will make an effort to use locally sourced ingredients.
As of late December, the restaurant will also be able to sell alcohol without being accompanied by food, which triggered concerns about intoxicated persons in nearby residential areas.
On Thursday, the commission heard from abutter John Ryder about the impacts the restaurant would have on neighboring properties.
“Having a restaurant or bar seating 70 is going to increase trespass on our property, and the burden on us to police that trespass,” Ryder said. He asked for more clarification from Dunn about what steps would be taken to control the potential trespass problem.
On the potential of increased trespassing, commission chair Joan Malkin said “I think it would be helpful to have you address that.” Dunn agreed, acknowledging that the location of the restaurant may add some unwanted “wander[ers]” in the neighborhood. To avoid this, he said he plans on soon submitting a fencing plan. Overall, Dunn said, the restaurant will “change Vineyard Haven in a very positive way.”
In the past, he said, Tisbury often lost patrons to other towns, “because they couldn’t see any reason to stay.” “For the first time there’ll be actually a place to stop off on your way to the ferry, going or coming,” Dunn said, “and it should serve to keep a lot of people in Vineyard Haven who would otherwise [go] to other venues.”
Commissioners requested that Dunn submit possible initiatives that could help quell the stated concerns, in addition to requiring a more comprehensive plan regarding solid waste management and recycling.
The written record will remain open until the Tisbury planning board is able to submit their questions and determination on the project. That meeting is slated for next week.
In other business, a request by the applicants to briefly reopen the written record regarding the proposed Stillpoint Meadows project in West Tisbury was approved by commissioners.
According to the meeting agenda, the commission was set to deliberate and vote in favor of or against the project Thursday evening, following the closing of the public hearing portion of the review mid-November.
The project, brought to the commission by Thomas Bena, involves the repurposing of an existing 3,200-square foot barn located north of Polly Hill Arboretum as a community meeting and event space.
Per its mission statement, Stillpoint Meadows aims “to create a gathering space for educational offerings, including but not limited to discussions, workshops, silent retreats, and the arts.”
During previous discussions and public hearings, some commissioners raised concerns about the lack of specificity regarding the intended use of the space after it was revealed that the barn would also serve as a rentable private event space throughout the year.
Additionally, some opposers noted the vagueness of a “phase two” of the project which describes potential construction of seasonal living cabins. Project representatives had attempted to quell the concerns by outlining plans to cap the number of large events per year, in addition to highlighting the benefits of preserving the natural environment by expanding the area’s conserved land.
Commissioner Doug Sederholm stated that he found a recently submitted letter from the applicants to be “sufficiently substantive,” and called for further discussion prior to a decision. He said new correspondence from Stillpoint Meadows representatives citing new proposals, or offers, would need to be part of the official project record in order to be considered. The full written record will be reviewed by commissioners before deliberation and decision.
Also on Thursday, Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director, Adam Turner, took a moment to acknowledge the work of MVC staff, who often operate behind the scenes.
A lot of attention has been placed on the elected and appointed commissioners of the MVC, Turner said, particularly surrounding deliberations and decisions made during weekly or bimonthly meetings. Turner highlighted that the developments of regional impact (DRI) reviews are just one facet of the commission’s work. The regional planning agency is heavily involved with a number of other significant initiatives, he said, including working with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on nitrogen reduction at Farm Pond, increasing workforce housing, and data collection on the impacts of short-term rentals. “There’s a lot of stuff going on,” he said.
There are also a handful of future projects in the works, Turner said, such as addressing drainage issues at Five Corners, and conducting a study concerning intersections on Edgartown–West Tisbury Road.
The commission’s work of climate change mitigation, he said, is increasingly at the forefront. Turner pointed out other coastal communities that have been subject to worsening storms and weather patterns of increasing severity. “As an Island,” he said, it’s important to be prepared. Hence the commission’s actions on mitigating those impacts. The ubiquitous risks associated with climate change, he said, are something that Island towns need to pay attention to and take into account.