We applaud Stop & Shop’s decision this week to withdraw its proposal to expand the Vineyard Haven store. In a statement delivered to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission on Thursday, Stop & Shop pledged to step back, take another look at community reaction and evaluate alternatives. Their local representative, attorney Geoghan Coogan, added that it was the company’s “sincere hope” to come forward with another proposal in the future.
That is our sincere hope as well. The grocery chain’s current store is badly in need of an upgrade, and there is an opportunity for Stop & Shop, guided by thoughtful suggestions by key community leaders, to adjust the scale of the project to better address issues of traffic and parking.
To be sure, Stop & Shop is not the cause of the fiasco that is Five Corners or the fifteen minutes of gridlock that ensues each time a ferry disgorges passengers across the street. But like it or not, an expansion of Stop & Shop will affect a situation that is barely tolerable now. It is not unreasonable to judge the store’s proposal in light of the realities of its location, and too many issues remained unresolved.
For those hoping to see an end to the nightmare on Water street, it is unfortunate that we still have no resolution after eight public hearings over ten months before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Some delay might have been avoided by a more orderly process. Discussion of the municipal parking lot lurched between the town of Tisbury and the commission; later the Tisbury selectmen unveiled a mitigation plan they had worked out with Stop & Shop, only to deep-six it a week later. As a community newspaper, we will take a share of the blame for not doing more to explicate the issues.
It was only when a prolonged comment period was coming to an end that public opposition to the proposal became more vocal. For us, and perhaps for Stop & Shop, the turning point was not an eleventh-hour petition drive against the plan that has attracted more than seventeen hundred signatures online. It was positions taken by the very leaders of the town: a four-to-nothing vote in opposition by the Tisbury planning board and surprising comments against the plan from two of the three Tisbury selectmen at the commission’s final hearing.
It is easy to discount critics who simply don’t want to see change; it is harder to ignore elected town officials who are presumably looking out for what is best for their community. Letters to the Gazette in this edition and over the last several weeks from them and others have outlined some concrete suggestions that Stop & Shop would be wise to consider before returning with a revised plan.
We take Stop & Shop at its word that it wants to be a strong community partner, and look forward to seeing how the grocery chain interprets what it has heard.