The long-running public hearing on the Stop & Shop expansion plan has been extended another month.
The Martha’s Vineyard Commission voted Thursday to approve a request from the grocery chain to postpone a public hearing scheduled for Feb. 20 to March 20. It was to be the seventh public hearing since the plan to increase the size of the Vineyard Haven store was referred to the MVC more than a year ago.
Commission executive director Mark London said he received the request for a delay on Feb. 4 from Tisbury attorney and Stop & Shop spokesman Geoghan Coogan.
Mr. Coogan cited the unresolved issue of the town parking lot adjacent to the store as the reason, Mr. London said. Although the parking lot is not technically part of the commission's review of the Stop & Shop project, it is related in that the town wants the grocery chain to help finance improvements to the lot if its expansion is approved.
“They’re saying that if they have to pay for the full redo of the parking lot they won’t have as much money to spend on mitigation,” said commission chairman Fred Hancock.
The parking lot is one of many sticking points with the expansion plan which calls for nearly tripling the size of the Water street store.
Mr. London said his written response to Mr. Coogan made it clear that the length of the review has become an issue. Six public hearings have been held to date; the Feb. 20 hearing was expected to be the last.
The commission took an advisory vote to postpone the hearing to March; the vote will be formalized on Feb. 20.
Hearing the news, longtime commissioner Leonard Jason Jr. suggested another course of action: declare Stop & Shop’s application incomplete and vote to deny the project.
“And they could start all over again,” he said.
But commissioner Brian Smith advocated giving the developer the extra time.
“I am fine with putting it off as long as they present their final offers and their final plans, and there’s nothing up in the air,” he said. “I see no reason why they can’t do that.”
He also said: “The town does not have to have the perfect parking lot devised in order to move forward. It’s a big project . . . I think Stop & Shop can get [something together]. And if they can’t, then they shouldn’t be in front of us at all.”