Officials helping to map Tisbury’s master plan discussed concepts and priorities for downtown Vineyard Haven, with the primary goal of preparing for sea level rise and larger and stronger storms.
During a meeting last week, topics included the possibility of a storm causing 10 feet of flooding at the waterfront in 2030, and plans to add parking underneath Stop & Shop and around the post office.
No plans or specifics are set in stone, and they will be subject to change as more public input is gathered.
The proposals follow more than a year of community engagement regarding the master plan.
Master plan goals for the B2 commercial district were covered in a previous Times article.
Dillon Sussman, of Dodson and Flinker landscape architects and consultants, presented possible adaptations for sea level rise, especially at the waterfront. Sussman referenced a map showing the annual chance of flooding, sourced from the state Office of Coastal Zone Management. The map incorporates information regarding sea level rise, flooding, and wave action, to indicate depths of flooding that would result from storms of different likelihoods.
According to the map, a storm that has a one-percent chance of occurring in 2030 would cause flood depths of 10 feet for much of the waterfront area, and would significantly flood Beach Road and Lagoon Pond Road.
“There is of course some degree of uncertainty in these things,” added Sussman. “But I think the conclusion is that it makes sense to plan for a reasonable but conservative estimate of the bad future, so that you’re prepared for it, and also to be in line with what the state of Massachusetts is planning for.”
Sussman recommended that Tisbury work to develop a basic coastal sea level rise strategy, which could involve three options. For the first option, dubbed “Accommodation,” structures in harm’s way would be modified. “That’s techniques like raising buildings so floodwaters can move beneath them,” said Sussman.
The second option, “Protect,” would involve adaptations to block floodwaters. This can include engineered structures like bulkheads, seawall or sheet-pile wall; or more naturally based options, like engineered dunes.
In the third strategy, “Retreat” structures would be relocated. “[This can involve] moving a building a little bit, or it can be a larger retreat where buildings and other things you don’t want harmed are moved out of the area entirely,” Sussman said. “Moving forward, the master plan recommends that Tisbury have a robust community conversation about basic strategy for responding to sea level rise.”
Sussman also recommended increasing flood-tolerant uses, like temporary businesses and stormwater management facilities, as well as supporting water-dependent uses in the waterfront, like bulk shipping and marina uses.
With flood risk in mind, Sussman also discussed the importance of developing better circulation for pedestrians, and shared-use paths for bikers. A specific location of focus is the existing connection through Cromwell Lane to Veterans Park. This could provide better passage for pedestrians and bikers who are trying to avoid Five Corners. “[This connection] enables you to get out towards the B2 [commercial district], or from the B2 to cut through Veterans field to come out to Lagoon Pond Road, and then use the developing path network to get over to the bike paths on Beach Road,” said Sussman. “[This] would enable you to avoid the more dangerous and narrow portions of State Road, and in particular Five Corners.”
Planners did state that no solutions currently exist for Five Corners. “[Five Corners] clearly could use improvement, both for stormwater flooding and for safety of people moving through the intersection and for congestion. So, the master plan makes a recommendation to basically do comprehensive transportation planning…it’s going to take more work to come up with one,” said Sussman.
Regarding all master plan goals, more coordination is needed with private property owners. “Stop & Stop has been talking about redevelopment of their stores for quite a long time,” said Sussman. “The town parking lot is right next to it, [and Stop & Shop] utilizes the town parking. So, work together with Stop & Shop to come up with a plan that works for the town and works for Stop & Shop.”
Peter Flinker of Dodson & Flinker then shared the town’s priorities for walkability. “[O]ne of the principles and objectives we want to keep in mind…is about creating more space for pedestrians, planting more trees, and making the whole [downtown] into more of a coherent grid of sidewalks and streets that is easier to navigate, even without an official wayfinding signage program,” said Flinker.
Flinker also remarked upon the current state of connections from the waterfront toward Main Street. “Right now there’s sort of a web of narrow pedestrian crossings. You could go up Union Street. You can go up through the town parking lot, some of which is paved and some not. You can take Norton Lane, which is marked for both pedestrians and bicycles as well as cars, but a little unclear [on] where you’re supposed to be walking.”
According to Flinker, instead of relying on those multiple paths, one primary connection could be developed. “[An] idea is, maybe consolidate some of that movement through the [town] parking lot, so instead of multiple narrow sidewalks and marked lanes you have a single larger one.”
The easiest way to achieve this involves Norton and Cromwell lanes, said Flinker. “The first step would be, say, to…repave those [lanes] with a continuous, attractive pavement…Instead of having half a sidewalk and some asphalt for the street, [one could] repave the whole thing—including the sidewalk and the street—as a shared street which is attractive, comfortable to walk on, but also available for vehicles.” This solution is easier, according to Flinker, because it largely involves use of public spaces.
Further concentrating parking is another focus for the town. Flinker supported a past Stop & Shop plan that involved creating additional parking space underneath the supermarket building.
During the public comment portion of the presentation, many asked about the role of the supermarket in Tisbury’s plans, and the increased flow of traffic from out of the town lot.
Flinker advocated for future negotiations between the town and supermarket. “The issue of traffic coming in and out of that [lot] is something that’s sort of beyond what we can tell [is] the right approach. But appropriately, when we get to that point, [Stop & Shop’s] traffic engineers will be able to analyze that and tell you exactly what the impacts are, and then you can make a decision…We know that no change prevents anything from happening, but it also prevents something good from happening.”
Carolina Cooney, Executive Director of the Vineyard’s Chamber of Commerce, shared her experience discussing master plan priorities with Stop & Shop. “[Stop & Shop] is dying to improve that store…they really are interested in being a part of the conversation, a part of the community, making the fixed and recommendations that the community and town recommends, and even potentially including a visitor center as part of their master plan and master rebuild.”
The public is encouraged to provide feedback at the bottom of the Tisbury master plan website.