With concerns ranging from storm water management to the fate of town-owned bathrooms, public review of a proposal for a major renovation and expansion of the Tisbury Stop & Shop store continued Thursday before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
The grocery store chain wants to expand its Water street store by creating a two-story building with a first-story parking garage and a 23,800 square-foot store on the second floor. As now proposed, the project would reorganize the circulation and layout of the town-owned parking lot next to the store, and would eliminate town-owned public restrooms.
The expansion would consolidate three buildings — the existing store, the former Midnight Farm store and the building that once housed the Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant. Stop & Shop also bought a house at 15 Cromwell Lane last year, with expansion plans hinging on tearing down the house to make way for the supermarket. But the Massachusetts Historical Commission determined that the circa 1850 Greek Revival house, built for mariner Caleb Prouty, is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Stop & Shop has said they now plan to move the house. That issue was not revisited at length on Thursday, except for Stop & Shop to say that they are still exploring relocation options.
At the first public hearing earlier in the month, the discussion centered on traffic and parking concerns.
On Thursday traffic was not discussed at length because further information on that subject was given to the commission just before the meeting.
But over three hours at the Tisbury senior center, the commissioners and a healthy public turnout debated other areas of concern.
A chief concern for commissioners is the planned removal of a town-run comfort station to make room for the store expansion. Stop and Shop representatives said the restrooms would be replaced with facilities in the supermarket, on the side of the building closest to the Steamship Authority terminal.
Commission members were not sold on the idea.
“I’m deeply concerned by this,” commissioner Erik Hammarlund said. “I think it’s something where you’re going to find a lot of the businesses adverse to removing that . . . if anything the town needs more of them and not fewer of them.”
“Farther away from Main street seems to be very bad planning,” he added.
“I don’t think a tourist town can have too many restroom facilities,” commission chairman Fred Hancock agreed.
Geoghan Coogan, an attorney representing Stop & Shop, said the comfort station restrooms are available about four months a year during limited hours, and that the Stop & Shop bathrooms would be available to the public year-round from about 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Other concerns centered on the reconfiguration of the parking lot.
Some raised other issues. Dukes County Regional Housing Authority executive director David Vigneault asked the MVC to consider the impact more employees at a larger store would have on the housing supply and demand and other kinds of support. Six to 12 Stop & Shop employees have used affordable rentals offered by the authority and other organizations, he said, and another half dozen have used support like rental assistance. With the store’s employees earning around $10 an hour with minimum benefits and facing winter cutbacks, he said, they often require health care assistance.
There were questions about the impact construction would have on the Steamship Authority and the Vineyard Transit Authority.
Steamship Authority general manager Wayne Lamson wrote a letter to the commission outlining concerns, including how the increase in traffic would affect the Steamship Authority and its customers, noting that it would create more congestion and potentially affect ferry schedules.
Other letters spoke in support, and the Stop & Shop submitted a petition with 1,500 signatures in support of the project. Susan and Sherm Goldstein, the owners of the nearby Mansion House, said they generally support the proposal despite some concerns.
The public hearing was continued to August 29. The plan will be discussed again at a land use planning committee meeting on August 19.