In an op-ed in the April 12 Gazette, Geoghan Coogan, attorney for Ahold-Stop & Shop, stated that “Stop & Shop has been transparent in all its dealings with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the town of Tisbury.”
I disagree. Transparency has not characterized Ahold-Stop & Shop’s course of action to replace its Tisbury grocery store with a mall-style two-story big-box superstore and use the municipal parking lot, instead of its own property, as its wall-to-wall outsize building’s front yard.
• Ahold-Stop & Shop, to the best of my knowledge, has so far failed to provide actual construction and engineering plans for its project. Local experts stand ready to review these plans for the benefit of the public, but the MVC does not appear to have any such plans on file. Not too transparent.
• No environmental impact study has been done for the project, so the public is in the dark as to air, water quality and other environmental impacts.
• Mr. Coogan in his op-ed stated that Ahold-Stop & Shop’s offer to Tisbury had been “crafted” to meet the town’s needs — implying a generous, thoughtful gesture to the town by the Netherlands-based multinational. In fact, the $1.65 million figure appears to be the product of a simple calculation, a standard corporate percentage formula that was communicated to Jay Grande, the Tisbury town administrator, by VHB, Ahold-S&S’s engineering and traffic consultant. Such quid pro quos are no more than an expected cost of doing business for the billion-dollar corporation Ahold when it makes a move into a locality in the USA — and it is not a particularly generous offer, either (bear in mind that Tisbury gets $245,000 yearly from the SSA to mitigate its impacts on the town). Also not clear: why the money has been apportioned out as it has. The fact is that virtually none of the proposed mitigations will moderate or alleviate (which is what mitigate means) the problems created or exacerbated by the project. At best the money is a form of indemnification to the town in exchange for putting up with the impacts of this grocery store on steroids. But the impacts will be felt beyond the Tisbury gateway.
• Corporate planning for this project obviously started well before — probably many years before —the public heard about it. Numerous meetings have taken place between Ahold-S&S representatives and town officials and others that set the baseline for the public debate — a baseline that has not seen meaningful movement.
Corporations have few obligations for transparency, as long as they are planning internally. Transparency moves front and center as soon as they start dealing with public officials and a public review process.