The Martha’s Vineyard Commission last week gave a green light to the Oak Bluffs town hall project and closed a public hearing on a large proposed expansion of the Edgartown Stop & Shop.

The Edgartown grocery store expansion project will go before the commission’s land use subcommittee next Monday for the run up to deliberations and a vote before the full commission.

The 17,432-square-foot addition would increase the size of the 25,000-square-foot store by 69 per cent, raising concerns about traffic, parking, drainage and intensity of use on the upper Main street site.

A public hearing on the project, under review as a development of regional impact (DRI), opened last month.

At a continued hearing last Thursday night, the commission took more than an hour of additional testimony. Discussion focused again on traffic and also renewable energy.

Traffic, parking and energy use are all issues with the new plan. — Mark Lovewell

At the outset, Stop & Shop representatives addressed some of the issues raised in the previous session.

Among them was the possibility moving the store from its congested upper Main street location.

Geoghan Coogan, a Vineyard Haven attorney and spokesman for Stop & Shop, said the company has concluded that the current site is its best option.

“It’s an anchor business for town,” said Mr. Coogan. “That’s where the people are. Stop & Shop looked at the airport and other locations. From a strictly business perspective, the people are not at the airport.”

The expansion would add a pharmacy, florist and health food store to the footprint, along with more parking and realigned entrance on the western end of the site.

Traffic has been a sticking point. The commission traffic planner has estimated the expansion will generate an addition 70 trips per hour, or slightly more than one trip a minute, during peak traffic hours.

Randy Hart, a traffic consultant for Stop & Shop, said standard traffic projections are difficult to apply in this case.

“We can’t tell you what the additional traffic is,” he said. “The analysis doesn’t allow us to get to a certain place. You’ve got to ask yourself what does one trip a minute do to the delay. Does it increase it, absolutely it does. But I don’t think it increases it at a level that is raising all kinds of concerns. I think it’s a modest increase at best. We have taken a very conservative approach and we don’t think these traffic volumes are ever going to be realized.”

Commissioner Douglas Sederholm suggested adding common sense to the calculations.

“Maybe a worst-case won’t be realized,” Mr. Sederholm said. “But common sense says there will be an increase in traffic volume in that particular area as a result of this expansion. There’s no doubt, there has been a tremendous increase in traffic in that area in the last 20 years, and it is, with the possible exception of Five Corners, the worst spot on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer at the peak hour. It is awful. It’s unbearable. If we add even a modest amount of traffic at that location, given that you’re doing everything possible, and this is a great project, do we reach a tipping point where it becomes beyond unbearable?”

As for energy-saving measures, Stop & Shop representatives said the current roof of the store will not support solar electricity generating equipment, although the roof of the new addition will. But the current plan includes no solar generation.

Commissioner Joan Malkin suggested that if the company committed to solar energy, it would weigh strongly in its favor during deliberation.

Commissioner Linda Sibley concurred.

“You said you would put the solar in there if it makes sense financially in your scheme,” she said. “I would just suggest to you that anything that contributes renewable energy on the spot, on the Vineyard, is going to be considered a benefit by the Martha's Vineyard Commission. So a decision that you are going to do it would be in your best interest.”

To comply with the MVC affordable housing policy and help mitigate the housing problem on the Vineyard, Stop & Shop has offered to contribute $50,000 a year to the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority.

In its application, Stop & Shop said it employs about 150 people and rents 29 houses around the Island to help house its employees at a cost of some $600,000 a year. That cost is projected to increase to $900,000 a year with the new expansion and added employees.

Some abutters expressed concern about noise from truck traffic. The plans call for an additional loading dock as part of the new construction.

The representatives said currently the store handles five to six Stop & Shop trucks per day. Three additional trucks per day are expected with the expansion.

The hearing was closed. Written comments will be accepted until Oct. 27. A post-public hearing review begins Oct. 30.

In other business, the long-running Oak Bluffs town hall project won unanimous approval from the commission. The $9.9 million project was approved by Oak Bluffs voters last spring, although the town planning board and selectmen have clashed repeatedly over the plans.

In an unusual motion last Thursday, commissioner Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs moved to release the property as a development of regional impact (DRI), as soon as the town hall project is finished.

Mr.  Hancock said he believed the planning board referred the project to the commission in error.

“I believe . . . . this item was referred to us in a misreading of our checklist,” he said. “Because it’s a replacement building with no additional uses, all the uses are there already on the same site . . . . I propose this DRI status sunset on the certificate of occupancy. This same parcel also contains the town library. If the town needed to do anything else in this parcel, they would have to come back to us. I really don’t see any regional impact to this project.”

The motion failed.

The approval includes one condition: Because of concerns about storm water runoff, the commissioners will require two small rain gardens on the property to help absorb rainfall.

An earlier version of this story reported that the motion by Mr. Hancock to create a sunset clause for the town hall DRI was approved. The story has been corrected.