Main Street Project Asks Modest Change in Vineyard Haven

By JOSHUA SABATINI

The Main Street Project committee presented at a public hearing last Thursday a plan for the restoration of the Vineyard Haven thoroughfare after it is torn apart to install a sewer system.

The plan is a modest one. Only a few alterations are proposed for the existing Main street.

Some changes are to create a more efficient working roadway. Others are just basic aesthetic improvements.

The committee is to submit a final plan with recommendations to the Tisbury board of selectmen by Sept. 1, although likely it will come to the board a few days later, as the committee is putting finishing touches on the plan.

The committee plan proposes: a town sidewalk five feet wide along Main street's east side, parallel parking spots every block for loading zones and handicap spots next to each, the removal of the steep steps on the corner of Leslie's Drug Store and a gateway to the main road from the Steamship Authority terminal along Union street.

The committee was established by an April town meeting vote to review the plans drafted by architect Jamie Weisman of Terrain Associates of Vineyard Haven.

Mr. Weisman was paid $25,000 by the Tisbury department of public works (DPW) to design possible improvements to the downtown area.

The town plans to start the sewer installation in the downtown area on Oct. 15 and continue until Nov. 22. Work will reconvene after Jan. 1 and continue until mid-April.

DPW director Fred LaPiana said he believes the curbing and first coat of pavement for 1,000 feet of Main street can be complete before Christmas.

Mr. LaPiana said the committee plan calls for "no major changes."

Over a year ago, Mr. Weisman began drafting his design. Throughout, he met with community members and solicited written comments. The process has remained open and controversial suggestions simply faded off the table.

The committee members were appointed by the Tisbury board of selectmen as prescribed by town meeting: one member each from the DPW, board of selectmen, Tisbury Business Association, planning board and historical commission.

John Thayer, a DPW commissioner, said: "[The committee] began by walking Main street, and ended by walking Main street."

Tristan Israel, selectman on the committee, said one of the goals set for the project was to ensure Vineyard Haven would not end up "looking like Edgartown when finished."

"From an architectural standpoint that has been achieved," said Mr. Israel.

"I wanted to make sure it still stays a business district," said Jeff Kristal, president of the TBA.

Nancy Hall, of the Tisbury historic commission, said her role on the committee has been to "protect what is Tisbury and what distinguishes it from other towns and cities in New England and the Island."

Mr. Thayer spoke to the more than 20 in attendance. He first addressed the plan for parking. Along Main street, said Mr. Thayer, loading zone parking places were made horizontal wherever possible.

"We have loading zones for every block," he said.

Handicap parking places were placed alongside each loading zone spot.

In thinking of traffic flow, Mr. Thayer said, police chief Theodore Saulnier has recommended restricting the time when trucks over 20 feet can travel Main street.

Various materials for sidewalks have been discussed since the Main Street Project design was first put on the table. But at an April town meeting, residents put the debate to rest by voting in favor of using concrete.

One option for the sidewalks along Main street was to straighten them out into a smooth curve. The committee has settled on sidewalks not in a straight line, but in keeping with the present appearance.

He said owners can do whatever they like with their part of the sidewalk, but the municipality side will be concrete aggregate.

The curbs, said Mr. Thayer, will be rough granite.

The corner of Main street and Union street will see a dramatic change. The steep steps near Leslie's Drugstore will disappear and in their place a ramp is proposed.

The ramp, where it wraps around the corner, will be level with the street so trucks, if need be, can roll over the edge without hitting a curb when turning onto Union street. The opposite corner will be trimmed back a bit to make the turn more manageable for trucks.

For crosswalks, the committee proposes cobblestone borders and the rest blacktop.

"In Massachusetts, when we drive on a crosswalk, we should feel as if we are driving over a sidewalk," said Mr. Weisman.

Mr. Weisman suggested making the entire crosswalk cobblestone. The committee has not made a final decision about the crosswalks.

As for Union street, Mr. Thayer said the committee proposes to create a more "pedestrian friendly" road.

"We want to do something for people who are walking," said Mr. Thayer. "We want them to look up and see some place they want to go, that looks friendly."

The committee proposes sidewalks along both sides of Union street, putting trees along a portion of the sidewalk adjacent to the Union street parking lot and possibly closing the car exit nearest MV Strictly Bikes, owned by Bill Brown.

"The whole key to Vineyard Haven," said Mr. Weisman, "has been how to connect Main street to the harbor."

He said using Union street and an alley of trees to achieve this is a dynamite idea.

Another suggestion from Mr. Weisman was creating a water source for walkers, calling Tisbury's water as good if not better than bottled water.

The committee will have its last meeting this Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Katharine Cornell Theatre. In 10 days, said Mr. Kristal, the committee's proposed plan will be hung on the shop window of LeRoux at Home on Main street, provided by shop owner Michael Levandowski.