The long-running review of the proposed Stop & Shop expansion in Vineyard Haven hit another speed bump this week after a Stop & Shop representative said it was blindsided by a letter from the town of Tisbury, which holds the key to a major unresolved issue: parking.
The Martha’s Vineyard Commission met for four hours Thursday to consider the Stop & Shop’s project as a development of regional impact (DRI). The hearing was continued to April 17.
It was the seventh public hearing about Stop & Shop’s proposal to expand its Vineyard Haven store into a two-story, 30,000-square-foot building with a grocery store and a 42-space parking garage. The building would take the place of three existing buildings, including the current store.
During past public hearings, concerns have been raised about the size of the store and the location across from the Steamship Authority terminal and nearby the busy Five Corners intersection. Some members of the public have spoken in favor of a larger, updated building, while others have said the plan is inappropriate for the location.
The town parking lot next to the Stop & Shop continues to be a sticky issue. Last week, Tisbury selectmen signed off on a plan to redesign the parking lot with 64 parking spaces and three two-way parking lanes.
At Thursday’s meeting, attorney and Stop & Shop representative Geoghan Coogan said Stop & Shop received communication from Tisbury selectmen “out of the blue” on March 12 that added a new wrinkle to the discussion.
Although Mr. Coogan did not specify what the letter said, he indicated that the town’s position could impact what Stop & Shop could offer in the way of mitigation on the overall project. Until Stop & Shop can work out its agreement with the town, it could not make any final commitments about mitigation to the MVC, he said.
On Friday, Mr. Coogan told the Gazette: "The only thing I can say further on that issue is that the town and Stop & Shop have made huge progress in the last week on clearing up some issues between the parties. We hope to have an agreement in place by April 1 with the selectmen, which we can then deliver as a part of the final offers to the MVC right after that."
Earlier in the meeting Thursday, commissioners went around the table to offer remaining concerns and questions for Stop & Shop, with questions about traffic a recurring issue.
“I remained very deeply concerned about the impact of this project on traffic,” Chilmark commissioner Doug Sederholm said.
Commissioners also asked about traffic and staging during the construction phase, affordable housing and the size of the building.
Among the recurring issues is an adjacent home at 15 Cromwell Lane that Stop & Shop purchased to make room for the expansion. The Greek revival house, built for mariner Caleb Prouty, dates back to about 1850 and the Massachusetts Historical Commission deemed it eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. While Stop & Shop representatives said they’ve had difficulty finding a place to relocate the house, their written offers include relocating the home. If a final site is not found by the time construction starts, they have said they will store the house until a location is found.
Commission chairman Fred Hancock said many applications change through the course of public hearings. “It’s a very large project with a lot of very big impacts,” he said, and it was important to go over all the details.
These details include construction staging, which would take up about one-third of the town-owned parking lot next to the store, Mr. Coogan said. This is another issue that is tied to an agreement between the town and Stop & Shop. He said construction would take place from October through May and store employees would be relocated to other stores.
When it comes to traffic, Stop & Shop representative Randy Hart said he thinks most of the store’s traffic will come from pass-bys, or people who are already going by the store and are not making a special trip.
Vineyard Transit Authority administrator Angela Grant said the project could have an adverse impact on bus ridership by adding more traffic.
The commission also went over a six-page list of offers from Stop & Shop, which include encouraging employees to avoid parking in downtown parking spaces, no deliveries between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., and getting approval of the final architectural plans from the commission’s Land Use Planning Committee.