As a months-long review by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission of expansion plans for the Vineyard Haven Stop & Shop continues, members of the commission expressed frustration late this week with the lack of progress.
And spokesmen for the international grocery chain told the commission that they have reduced the size of the plans as much as they can.
“Going any smaller than this doesn’t make any sense to Stop & Shop,” attorney Geoghan Coogan, the Vineyard attorney representing the company, told the MVC at a public hearing Thursday night. He said they are still open to design changes.
It marked the fourth public hearing before the commission which is reviewing the plan as a development of regional impact (DRI). The first hearing opened in July. A fifth hearing is now set for Nov. 21. To date most discussion has focused on size and scale of the project, located on Water street across from the main Steamship Authority terminal and half a block from the Five Corners intersection, a heavily congested area in the summer months.
The latest plan calls for a building of just under 30,000 square feet, nearly triple the size of the existing store. A sales floor of about 16,000 square feet would be on the second floor, and a 41-space parking garage on the first floor.
In addition to size and scale, traffic impacts, and economic impacts for downtown Vineyard Haven are points of concern before the MVC.
The plans have been reduced in size by 15 per cent since the initial application, and the building has been moved back 15 feet from Water street.
Commissioner John Breckenridge suggested an informal committee composed of architects to work on the architectural details.
But commissioner Lenny Jason Jr. said that would be premature. “So we haven’t heard anything about the traffic, how many people are unemployed while its being built, anything about the Steamship Authority, nothing about the staging area, nothing about how it’s going to impact the rest of the Tisbury businesses and we’re already saying yes, it’s fine?” he said.
Commissioner Ned Orleans agreed. “The impression we’ve been giving is that subject to changing a few curlicues here and there we’re almost ready to say okay,” he said.
Commissioner Erik Hammarlund said the commission was just answering questions about whether the proposal would be turned down because of size.
But Mr. Jason said the process has dragged on. “We’re wasting an awful lot of time on this stuff,” he said.
Mr. Coogan said the developers have responded to concerns. “We have brought the store in, in terms of the size and the scope, as much as they can do. That was our charge and I think we have listened,” he said.
Other members of the commission raised concerns about the process. Traffic and parking concerns have been off the table for the last two public hearings as the commission focused on other issues and waited to get the appropriate information. The next public hearing will be dedicated to traffic and parking.
“I don’t know how many of these meetings we’ll have if we keep going and going,” said commissioner Clarence (Trip) Barnes 3rd.
Commission chairman Fred Hancock said the commission has clarity now on architectural plans and can move on to other issues. “We can reasonably now look at the traffic, the building impacts, all the rest of the things you just talked about,” he said.
“I think they substantially answered the architecture question,” commissioner Linda Sibley said. “They’ve told us this is essentially what it’s going to be. Now we move on to our next problem, which is traffic.” She continued:
“We can’t just keep having hearings over and over and over again . . . on the minor details of the architecture until we’ve looked at the whole thing. Personally we haven’t gotten to the elephant in the room which is traffic, so how long are we going to be talking about what the building looks like?”
Mr. Jason called it death by a thousand cuts.
“Then we’re going to listen to traffic and then two weeks from that we’re going to listen to something else,” he said. “That’s not a good way to do business.”