In a change of direction from last week, Tisbury selectmen voted Tuesday to remove language from an agreement with Stop & Shop pledging their support for the grocery chain’s expansion plans.
The change came at the urging of selectman Tristan Israel, who was not present last Tuesday when selectmen Jeffrey Kristal and Jon Snyder announced a draft $1.16 million mitigation agreement with Stop & Shop. Under the agreement the town would receive the money in the form of donations to affordable housing and other key projects, and the town also would agree to support the plan before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
At the selectmen’ meeting this week, Mr. Israel said he was disappointed that the board voted on the agreement without him present, and said he strongly disagreed with the decision to tie the agreement to town support for the project. “It looks like we are trading favors,” he said. “I helped push for that mitigation, but . . . . that clause creates a dynamic that I don’t feel comfortable with.”
Mr. Israel said he does support some kind of remuneration from Stop & Shop to the town if the MVC votes to approve the plan. But as currently written, the agreement “makes it seem like we’re getting mitigation in exchange for support of the project, and that shouldn’t be the reason we’re getting mitigation . . . [It’s] a very large project that has substantial impacts on our town.”
Mr. Israel said if the clause stayed, he would not sign the agreement.
“I don’t see any harm in taking it out,” he continued. “I’m trying to think of a kind way to put it . . . if this is left in, we sold ourselves out.”
Mr. Israel said he didn’t think the clause was inserted at the request of Stop & Shop. Town administrator John (Jay) Grande said he wasn’t sure if that was the case.
Mr. Snyder said he didn’t see the agreement as a “quid pro quo” but he agreed to second Mr. Israel’s motion to remove the pledge of support.
“I would be willing to take it out,” he said. “I see so much other language in here that we are in support of this project, it almost goes without saying.”
Mr. Kristal said town counsel did not see a problem with the agreement, and noted that the selectmen were in favor of the project, though Mr. Israel has concern about the store size.
“I think this board does support the project,” Mr. Kristal said. He added: “Any discussion we’ve had in the past, we’ve all stated as selectmen that we’re in support of the project with some fine tuning and tweaking.”
“What’s the harm of taking it out?” Mr. Israel said.
“What’s the harm of leaving it in?” Mr. Kristal responded.
In the end the board voted 3-0 to remove the support clause.