A Martha’s Vineyard Hospital plan to create two new large parking lots has residents of the surrounding Oak Bluffs neighborhood on edge over the institution’s continued expansion.
Appearing before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission at a public hearing last Thursday, representatives from the hospital described the plan to create the two new lots, one 47-car lot on property the hospital owns off Eastville avenue, and a second 24-car lot near the helicopter landing pad at the rear of the hospital. The parking lots are intended to meet a requirement of the MVC’s 2006 approval of the 90,000 square-foot, $52 million hospital. The commission ordered the hospital to provide 60 spaces in addition to the 244 currently on its campus. Since then a series of plans by the hospital to meet the condition have fallen by the wayside, and the hospital is currently leasing up to 100 spots at the Portuguese-American Club and transporting employees to the hospital at a reported cost of $200,000.
But to abutting residents, the parking lots are part of an alarming trend of encroachment into their neighborhood. There was much discussion on Thursday about preserving trees and preventing light pollution, but there was also a more philosophical debate about the hospital’s perceived inexorable growth.
“The hospital will ultimately make [this neighborhood] uninhabitable as they spread out,” said David Gross, a longtime resident of Eastville avenue who lives across from one of the sites planned as a parking lot.
“At some time the commission and the hospital are going to have to consider ways to decentralize some of what they have located at the hospital,” Mr. Gross said. “I think that if they don’t do that the only thing that’s going to happen as time passes and there are greater demands is that this neighborhood around it will disappear.”
Among other issues, neighbors registered concerns about light spillage, noise pollution and growing congestion near the busy intersection of Eastville and Temahigan avenues.
“Someday someone’s going to die on this road,” said Mr. Gross, who called for a moratorium of hospital development outside its current envelope and a 10 to 20-year plan for the hospital’s continued growth.
“I think that there’s just a lack of an overall plan for how this is going to be handled in the future,” he said. Mr. Gross also noted that the area historically was a residential area long before the hospital opened its doors in 1922.
Eastville avenue abutter Tom Gilbert, who also faces the prospect of soon living next to a parking lot, noted more direct encroachments by the hospital into his property.
“The trees that are marked with green ribbons that you’re hoping to save, it happens that they’re on my property so you better be saving them,” he said, drawing chuckles from the audience. “As far as the drainage is concerned, apparently I’m going to be living in a swamp because everything is coming my way, but I know I won’t have mosquitoes because there’s going to be oil in the water as well,” Mr. Gilbert said.
The 20,000 square-foot Eastville avenue lot will be surfaced with RAP or some type of gravel; the hospital has proposed a system of 13 leaching basins around this lot for storm water runoff. The 6,800 square-foot helipad lot will be paved, with runoff directed to a nearby bioretention pit.
Commission member John Breckenridge applauded the hospital’s storm water proposal.
“I think you’ve come up with a very good plan,” he said.
Hospital employees who have had to bike to work or park at the Portuguese-American Club spoke in support of the new lots.
“There are already cars going by delivering workers and delivering patients to the hospital and they all get there on four-wheeled vehicles one way or another,” said 30-year hospital employee Brian Reed. “I think the traffic issue is a little overblown.”
Hospital employees John Murray and Wendy Galligan also spoke in support of the project.
“Prior to 2006 and through the construction parking was always difficult at the hospital and it’s great to see an expansion of it,” said Mr. Murray, who also said he did not think light pollution from the lots would be an issue as the parking would mostly accommodate employees during the daytime.
The hearing was closed on Thursday.
On Monday night this week the commission’s land use planning committee unanimously voted to recommend that the full commission approve the hospital plan, with conditions that include the use of motion-sensored exterior lighting and fencing to prevent headlight spillage.
Commission chairman Chris Murphy noted that the plan was not without its detriments.
“The impact on abutters is twofold,” he said. “It’s the creep of the hospital into a residential area and . . . expanding the parking into the buffer zone of Brush Pond will have some minimal detrimental effect.”