The Gazette’s recent editorial headlined Straight Dealing is warranted in its call for transparency over Stop & Shop’s proposal for a new, much improved store in Tisbury.
Stop & Shop has been transparent in all its dealings with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the town of Tisbury. Unfortunately, Stop & Shop — as can happen with these types of hearings — is caught today in a crossfire of misperception, misinformation and innuendo.
To set the record straight yet again, Stop & Shop is required to set forth certain offers relative to its application to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. These offers are conditions which the Martha’s Vineyard Commission will consider when deliberating the merits of this project. Some of these offers have financial components, such as contributions to affordable housing. Stop & Shop has stated openly during the Martha’s Vineyard Commission hearings that we were unable to provide specific financial detail for the offers until we knew what the final municipal lot plan was going to be, and what if anything Stop & Shop was going to be asked to contribute toward financially. Once the Tisbury parking lot committee finalized its recommendation to the selectmen, Stop & Shop was able to put pen to paper to determine what contributions could be made and how to structure those contributions in the form of the offers to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
Stop & Shop could have simply inserted these financial details into the offers to the commission and proceed to the next public hearing without discussing them with the town of Tisbury. Given that the town is a direct abutter to this project and is therefore uniquely connected to the project, Stop & Shop determined that a direct line of communication with the town to review the mitigation package prior to submission to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission was the best approach. There was no quid pro quo, as the editorial seems to suggest.
The Gazette’s news story reports that Stop & Shop did not ask for the town’s written commitment to support the expansion plan. “We did not ask for that as a condition to the agreement,” the paper quotes me as saying. Yet your editorial states that “The announcement this week that the Tisbury selectmen have made a million-dollar deal to throw the town’s support behind the Stop & Shop expansion threatens to make a mockery of the whole review process before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.” To suggest that the town and Stop & Shop “made a million-dollar deal” is irresponsible and neglects to consider the arbiter of this project is not the Tisbury board of selectmen, it is the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
Stop & Shop’s efforts to work with the town directly on mitigation efforts which Stop & Shop is willing to provide, and which the town could support, is the same as if the neighbor next door were a private party. All developers wish to have the support of their neighbors, and in this application the most direct and impacted abutter is the town of Tisbury, owner of the municipal parking lot. For Stop & Shop to submit financial offers which impact the town of Tisbury, it’s neighbor, without first reviewing those offers for support from the neighbor, would be imprudent.
Clearly the MVC process has resulted in highlighting certain impacts of this project on the town of Tisbury. In working with the town and its selectmen, Stop & Shop has crafted mitigation efforts that benefit the community beyond the scope of this project. For example, Stop & Shop has offered $250,000 in mitigation to improve current conditions as well as potential impacts of traffic at Five Corners and in the general downtown Tisbury area. And, as a means of insuring Stop & Shop does not simply run from its obligations, a further commitment of $30,000 annually for the next decade has been offered to be applied toward proper police officer control and other traffic mitigation efforts as they develop.
As your news story correctly points out, the $1.165 million financial commitment agreed to by Stop & Shop also includes:
• A donation of $100,000 to the Tisbury affordable housing trust.
• An annual donation of $10,000 for a period of 10 years to the trust.
• A donation of $150,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard for their exclusive use to finalize the construction of a four-bedroom duplex and to help seed future projects.
• An annual donation of $10,000 a year for 10 years to the town beautification committee for continued upgrades to the downtown area.
• Saving and arranging for relocating the historic house on Cromwell Lane.
• Payment of $165,000 for the renovation and upgrade of improvements to the municipal lot.
• Perpetual responsibility for general maintenance in the municipal parking lot that abuts the store.
Stop & Shop, as noted above, is proposing a new store with a retail footprint just 6,000 square feet larger than the existing store. The building’s extraordinary architecture, designed by Chuck Sullivan of Oak Bluffs and vetted by the town’s historic committee chairman and other local architects, will be an asset to Tisbury, now a gateway to the Vineyard that is unattractive and in disrepair. Stop & Shop in its mitigations and community commitments has gone far beyond the scope and potential impacts of its project, as it has done consistently in all communities it serves.
Albert Einstein once observed, “If facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.”
We’d prefer to stick to them.
Geoghan Coogan is a Tisbury attorney who represents Stop & Shop. He is a former Tisbury selectman.