Perhaps it was only fitting that the public hearing before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission on a plan to expand the baseball field at Veira Park last Thursday took place during game five of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians.
And both Jacobs Field in Cleveland and in the Olde Stone Building in Oak Bluffs saw their fair share of tense moments.
Most of the testimony Thursday was from those opposed to the Veira Park plan, who said it would create problems with noise, traffic and safety, both in the neighborhood and for the young ball players.
“It’s already a dangerous situation; we see cars whipping around the corner who don’t slow down for anything,” said South Circuit avenue resident Anne Baird. “And now we’re talking about bringing more cars and more people into the area . . . somebody is going to get hurt,” she added.
“I understand why they want to expand [the baseball park], but this is not the right location,” said Peggy McGrath, whose family owns a home on Naushon avenue. “You look at the plan and you can see it doesn’t fit: the fence is up against cars, the cars are up against the road, the road is up against the homes — and the roads are already too narrow.
“You add the variable of young children into the mix and it won’t be safe for anyone.”
Sponsored by Vineyard Little League, the plan calls for building a second baseball diamond, new seating for fans, an unpaved parking area off the road and a picnic and play area. In order to build the second diamond, several trees will need to be removed while others will be trimmed back.
The plan was approved by Oak Bluffs voters at the annual town meeting in April, but has since turned into an acrimonious bureaucratic battle between the neighbors and Little Leaguers.
A second article to rescind the $200,000 in Community Preservation Act money to expand the baseball park was barely defeated at a special town meeting in June. Two weeks later, selectmen referred the plan to the commission for review as a development of regional impact (DRI).
Many of the opponents to the plan on Thursday said they supported Little League and understood the need for an expanded facility, but felt adding a second diamond at Veira Park would be a problem.
“I love baseball, so I kind of feel like I’m a two-timer up here, but I have to speak out,” said Edgartown resident Warren Gosson. “I’ll be honest here, I don’t care about the trees and I don’t care about the neighborhood. What I care about are the kids, and in any park it has to be about safety, safety and safety.”
Mr. Gosson, a former Oak Bluffs police officer and a certified reconstruction expert for auto accidents, said the busy intersection and sharp curve near the baseball park is already unsafe.
“Short of putting in an overpass down there, [this plan] is no good . . . if a kid ever got hurt and I didn’t speak up it would be on my conscious,” he said.
Traffic consultant Charlie Crevo, who was contracted by the commission to draft a traffic report for the project, said the roadways see low levels of use. Even with the addition of a second ball field, Mr. Crevo said, the roads around the park — including the sharp curve where South Circuit avenue turns into Wing Road — would continue to see low traffic levels.
Mr. Crevo recommended raised crosswalks across Wing Road and South Circuit avenue, a plan currently being considered by the selectmen. But the idea of designating an area for pedestrian crossing near a dangerous curve and blind spot worried some residents.
“Everyone knows how dangerous that curve already is, and in my experience you just can’t legislate the way people behave or drive,” said Wamsutta avenue resident Anne Margetson.
Commission chairman Douglas Sederholm also questioned the safety of adding crosswalks.
“I view traffic as the most troubling aspect of this project. We should question whether the worst blind corner on the Vineyard is a good place for a crosswalk . . . based on my own experience people don’t [drive] 20 miles per hour there,” Ms. Sederholm said.
When Mr. Crevo later said that additional traffic generated from a second ball field would not increase congestion, some residents said they had a hard time following his logic.
“[The applicant] is saying that the second field will produce twice as many cars on some days, but you say there won’t be any more congestion . . . I don’t get it,” said one man.
After almost three hours, the commission agreed to continue the hearing until Nov. 8.