Plans for a large expansion and renovation of the Vineyard Haven Stop & Shop, which have raised concerns about a range of issues from aesthetics to traffic, had a slightly different look when they came before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission again Thursday night.
The newest proposal for the renovation of the Vineyard Haven Stop & Shop has reduced the building height by two feet and moved the building back two feet from Water street. But the biggest change in the plan involves shared planning for use of a town parking lot adjacent to the grocery store. Stop & Shop spokesmen now say they wish to remove any discussion about the town parking lot adjacent to the store from commission review, preferring to work directly with the town on the matter.
Whether the commission will allow this was expected to be a matter for discussion at a public hearing in the Tisbury Senior Center last night.
The project is under review by the commission as a development of regional impact (DRI). A public hearing began in July and remains ongoing. The large project has faced extra scrutiny because of its location across from the Steamship Authority terminal and near the Five Corners intersection, a highly visible and high traffic part of the Island.
Stop & Shop proposes to consolidate three buildings — the existing store, the former Golden Dragon restaurant, and the former Midnight Farm building — into a new two-story building with an indoor parking garage on the first floor and a supermarket on the second floor. According to commission staff, the supermarket sales floor would be about 18,500 square feet, and the building would be about 46,800 square feet including the parking garage.
The grocery chain also purchased a circa-1850 home at 15 Cromwell Lane last year, with expansion plans hinging on tearing down the house to make way for the supermarket. The Massachusetts Historical Commission deemed the house eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and Stop & Shop has said they now plan to relocate the house.
After two public hearing sessions before the MVC, Stop & Shop delayed the process to spend time working on issues with the town.
The most recent variation of the store’s plans have some material changes. The part of the store facing Water street has been moved back two feet, allowing for a wider sidewalk and trees. A small bathroom, accessible from outside the building, would be added in the back of the store in addition to other restrooms in the building.
The revised plan has relocated the building so it is solely on private property, whereas the previous proposal had part of a ramp going to the store on town property. The staff report notes it is likely there would still be an impact on the town lot to accommodate delivery trucks.
Stop & Shop has also said it is prepared to have an intense archeological survey of the area around 15 Cromwell Lane and the Golden Dragon property. These steps were recommended by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which said the site could be archaeologically sensitive.
Parking and traffic have been central concerns. The original plans outlined a reorganization of the municipal parking lot next to the restaurant. Traffic now can go straight from Main street to Water street through Norton Lane; the plan called for Norton Lane to be closed and traffic to be routed through the parking lot, exiting at the end of the lot furthest from the store. The proposal would also have eliminated town restrooms located in the lot.
A Sept. 26 letter from Stop & Shop’s Vineyard attorney Geoghan Coogan to the MVC said the company will work with the town in hopes of altering the lot, but those plans are no longer included in the application before the commission.
“The town is putting together a committee to study the comfort station and town parking lot,” Mr. Coogan wrote. “At this point in time we are not engaging in a discussion about removing the comfort station.”
A commission staff report about the proposal retains that information as a separate topic, “since the commission may find that it is material to the decision on the store itself.”
As for the parking garage, Stop & Shop said it intends to limit use to store customers, with two-hour parking limits. The company said it intends to arrange for enforcement by the town police department, with ticketing revenue going to the town.
Traffic is a critical issue. The commission has already determined that the congested Five Corners intersection is at or beyond its traffic-carrying capacity.
A study by the firm VHB was commissioned by Stop & Shop; the initial traffic study used traffic data from January as a starting point. That study showed that the project would have a minimal impact on traffic in the area, but a peer review showed that the traffic modeling was not properly showing the change at the Five Corners intersection.
Other software has since been used, the commission staff report said, and the commission collaborated with VHB to do a traffic and parking study in late August. A report notes that the data collection was undertaken by Stop & Shop “at great expense” of more than $20,000 prior to any approvals “to demonstrate the cooperative working nature of the proponent with the MVC and the town of Tisbury.”
According to the MVC staff report, that data is still being compiled and analyzed.
A peer review based on previous numbers concluded that the store expansion would increase traffic in the area. “The changes to average delay and queue lengths, especially for the most critical movements, are significant increases that would have an important impact on all the traffic in the area, including that of VTA buses and of vehicles leaving the ferry,” the review said.
A preliminary draft of new models, according to the commission report, shows that an average delay at the Five Corners intersection on a summer weekday peak hour would increase from 42 to 52 seconds and the intersection volume would grow from 1,607 to 1,690 vehicles an hour.
Proposed mitigation measures include working to improve shuttle service between the Steamship Authority terminal and the Tisbury Park and Ride and incentivizing Stop & Shop employees to take the shuttle to work.
The hearing last night was expected to be continued again.