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Planning Board Minutes 07/10/2013

P.O. BOX 602
(508) 696-4270
Fax (508) 696-7341


DATE:           July 10, 2013
TIME:                   7:00 PM

PLACE:          Town Hall Annex

ATTENDANCE:     Aldrin, Doble, Peak, Seidman, Stephenson and Thompson
                        Mary Ellen, Finance & Advisory Committee’s Representative

BILLS:          Thomson Reuters – West………………………$279.48

MINUTES:                As referred in the June 26, 2013 Meeting Agenda
                        19 June 2013    m/s/c   5/0/0                   
26 June 2013    m/s/c   5/0/0


1. Douglas O. Dowling
RE: Form A Application, AP 23A42

Mr. Peak referred the Board to Mr. Dowling’s revised plan, noting that the applicant had incorporated the notation town counsel recommended as a condition to the plan’s endorsement.

Mr. Peak read the notation, and entertained a motion to endorse the plan of land as annotated for ANR consideration under the subdivision control law.  Mr. Seidman so moved. Mr. Stephenson seconded the motion, which motion carried. 5/0/0

2. Stop & Shop
RE: Hearing on July 11, 2013

Mr. Peak noted that in discussions with the town administrator, it was Mr. Grande’s opinion that the plan should be reviewed in its entirety with a landscape architect to serve as a neutral intermediary between the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board. Mr. Grande suggested Mrs. Dobel, but asked Mr. Peak to see if she’s worked in that capacity in the past. Mrs. Dobel replied in the affirmative.

Mr. Seidman thought the applicant’s representatives were disingenuous in their testimony pertaining to the project’s impact on the municipality. He questioned their logic, when they were more than doubling the building’s  size and adding fifty employees.  Mr. Peak thought it much more important to know the MV Commissioners’ reactions to the  applicant’s testimony.

Mr. Peak attended the site visit the MV Commission scheduled yesterday evening at 5PM with Mr. Stephenson, a couple of the MV Commissioners and staff members, and one of the applicant’s representatives. He mentioned that they provided the latest set of revisions, which completely cut off Norton Street below Cromwell Lane, and directed traffic through the parking lot and out through the existing northerly entrance . Mr. Peak added that the applicant’s hardscape infringed further into town property, so that the latter was becoming an adjunct to the store. The applicant in addition claimed to have a recorded plan that included all of the easements. Mr. Seidman recalled Mr. Grande was going to search the deeds at their last joint meeting. Mr. Peak acknowledged.

Mr. Peak reported that the applicant’s representative, during the site visit mentioned that the in-house operational personnel were unwilling to consider any proposal that would decrease their floor space. This led him to conclude that the applicant was basically going to be intractable in their position. It also concerned him in that the current proposal interfered with at least two of their fundamental goals they’ve been pursuing, such as the multiple use axis running through that area (Cromwell Lane to Beach Street & Norton Lane from Main Street to Water Street). The plan in addition reduced any distinction between the parking lot, and the parking lot which is appurtenant to Stop & Shop, and decreased the migration of pedestrians up to Main Street. The new design clearly redirected the traffic pattern to the store’s benefit. Mr. Peak felt the proposal foreclosed the idea of reversing the direction of Union Street by eliminating the use of Norton Lane as a “feed in”.

A set of the applicant’s revised plans were made available to the Board for their review. Mr. Seidman thought the applicant reduced the number of parking spaces. Mr. Stephenson replied that the number of spaces remained the same, adding that the applicant had removed the vegetation and islands to create an extra lane down the middle in an effort to redirect traffic towards the underground parking area. The applicant also removed the comfort station and closed off Norton Street. But what concerned him most was that in the entire process, the applicant had yet to conduct an in-depth analysis of the project’s impact to the entire neighborhood, given the project’s scale.

Mr. Peak mentioned that the town administrator was still of the opinion that the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen should conduct a site visit without the MV Commission and applicant. He asked Mr. Peak to poll the board members for three potential dates and times, suggesting the early morning hours to observe the trucks as they unloaded their cargo at the store.  Mr. Peak also noted that the MV Commission had arranged for a second site visit tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM, and planned to hold the public hearing on July 11, 2013 at the Senior Center. Mr. Stephenson noted that Mrs. Conklin, at Town Hall had advised him that the hearing was being held at the Commission’s office building on New York Ave. in Oak Bluffs. Mr. Seidman commented that while attending the Commission’s subcommittee on affordable housing earlier in the day, Christine Flynn verified that the hearing was going to be held at Tisbury’s Senior Center.  Mr. Peak asked the board secretary to contact the MV Commission to confirm the location of the hearing, and to contact town hall with the correct information.

Mr. Peak understood that the first hearing was customarily scheduled for the applicant’s presentation and a ‘question & answer” period for the Commissioner’s . Mr. London may make an exception in this case and part from protocol to allow town officials’ comments as part of the first hearing’s record, so that any opposing views would be made available in the public realm. If they wanted to state their view, the best way to pursue the matter was to write their opinion in a letter to the editor.  Mr. Stephenson thought they should review the revised plans so that they could at least make a general comment about Stop & Shop’s initial proposal at the public hearing.

Mr. Peak brought to the Board’s attention that the site improvements appeared to infringe approximately  fifty per cent on Cromwell Lane, across the face of the store.  Stop & Shop’s representative at the site visit commented that the landscape ran along the property line, and that the building would be six feet back from the landscaping. The applicant’s revised plan illustrated a different picture.  Mr. Peak further mentioned that Mr. Orleans, at the site visit voiced some frustration at the absence of any markings to show the property line and building envelope. Mr. Peak did not understand the need for all of the retail floor space, when there were acres of free space between the different sections of the store.

Mrs. Doble noted that the plans she had been emailed different from the plans currently before the board. Mr. Stephenson concurred, and referred to the new set of plans that were provided for the Board’s review to illustrate the revisions. Mrs. Doble observed that the stairs at the entrance were no longer reflected in the new plan. She asked if it was because the applicant was eliminating the stairway or relocating them. Mr. Seidman observed that one of the plans illustrated the stairwell. Mr. Peak referred the Board to the accompanying plans, and they did not reflect the stairwell.

Mr. Stephenson noted that the bathrooms were located all the way in the back of the building, which would be a great disservice to the general public. He asked Mr. Peak if the Commission posted additional information about the proposal on their website to address the discrepancy.  The board secretary advised the Board that the current plans were obtained from the applicant’s local architect, and described to contain the most current information.

Mr. Aldrin inquired if the town in general had an opinion on the proposal. Mr. Peak replied in the negative, and questioned whether the accommodations and sacrifices asked of the town by the applicant no longer justified the end result. It made him think if perhaps they should be advising Stop & Shop to consider another location, if they persisted in remanufacturing the whole of downtown Vineyard to satisfy a traditional ideal they believed necessary for an economic revival.  Mr. Stephenson acknowledged that there were enormous consequences that were not part of their initial proposal. The ad hoc revisions that have appeared were because the site could not accommodate the proposed development.   The issue with the proposal was that it did not consider the town’s needs or plans for the area in their planning process. Mrs. Doble thought they should document and share their ideas with the general public. Mr. Stephenson replied that they would have to revise several of their reports before they could share the information.  

Mrs. Doble noted that the proposal did not acknowledge any of the town’s visions of a pedestrian network that weaved the village court together. She questioned whether the MV Commission was applying the site design and landscape policies they recently adopted, and offered to review the policies’ principles to highlight components of the proposal that failed to comply with the Commission’s standards. Mrs. Doble commented that the applicant was doing nothing on their property, and taking a lot of public land without offering anything in return.  If they proposed to make improvements to public land and eliminate public amenities, they should insist on being part of the planning process to protect  the town’s interest.  Board members agreed.

Mr. Peak understood that the applicant was required to provide the MV Commission with their actual construction plan. The applicant was scheduled to begin construction during the off-season in September, so that they could open in May. Mr. Seidman inquired if the applicant planned to use the parking lot as a staging area, and if they acquired the necessary permits or permission to do so.  Mr. Peak did not know.

Mr. Stephenson thought the applicant could still construct the store without infringing upon town owned land. Mrs. Doble inquired if the board understood the purpose. Mr. Peak believed it was done to accommodate their trucks. Mr. Stephenson informed the Board that there were alternatives to the applicant’s proposal that did not alter the parking lot or eliminate the public restrooms. He designed a plan to illustrate how the trucks could be redirected to the front plaza on Water Street, where they did not present a public safety hazard  and could be screened from public view.

Mr. Seidman acknowledged that the recommendation presented the applicant with another option, as did all of the recommendations Mr. Stephenson enumerated in his letter to the Board of Selectmen. And while he was in accord with the recommendations, he could not support the one recommendation requiring the applicant to have solar power. He did not think the Planning Board had the right to “dictate” a requirement involving the store’s operations.  Mr. Stephenson noted that they have an energy policy. Mr. Peak understood that they couldn’t require the applicant to use solar energy, but they could ask the applicant to engineer the roof so that it could support solar panels if the opted to do so in the future. Mr. Seidman agreed.

Mr. Stephenson redirected the discussions to the plans, stating that they did not need to insist on using the lower level for retail space or a seasonal space when it could be used to create a much more attractive landscape on Water Street. Board members noted that the office manager’s and staff’s break room were not in the rear of the building, but up the retail floor, at the front entrance thereby eliminating any view out to the harborfront.   Mr. Seidman thought the new building was massive and unattractive.

Board members engaged in additional discussions pertaining to the use of the municipal parking lot, relocating the public restroom to the old ambulance bay at the applicant’s cost, and the expansion’s impact on pedestrian walkways. If the applicant insisted on the current proposal without any due regard to the town’s property or needs, the town should not consider any modifications to Norton Lane, and the parking lot’s current configuration and traffic pattern. Mr. Stephenson asked the Board if they had any recommendations for the public hearing. Mr. Peak mentioned that the board secretary emailed Mr. London to explain that the memo Mr. Stephenson prepared for the Board of Selectmen was not intended as written testimony for the public hearing.  

With the exception of the last entry pertaining to solar power, Mr. Seidman did not have an issue with Mr. Stephenson’s memo to the Board of Selectmen. He did not feel they should coerce the applicant to have photovoltaic solar power when it wasn’t economical or within the board’s scope of address. He asked that they eliminate the recommendation.
Mr. Stephenson noted that the entry was simply a recommendation for the applicant to consider. Mr. Seidman asked for a vote on his recommendation.

Mrs. Doble thought they could refine Mr. Stephenson’s memo by reducing each section into one or two sentences listing their issues and recommendations. She thought it would help the public comprehend their points. It would be much more straightforward. Mr. Seidman also noted that they should not state that the applicant could consider a shuttle service to the parking areas at the Hebrew Center and the Catholic Church when they were privately owned properties.  Mr. Stephenson clarified that the recommendation was simply listed as a suggestion , noting that tt was possible that they could arrange a lease for the lots’ seasonal use.  

Mrs. Doble reiterated that they should refine Mr. Stephenson’s summary just to list the more salient issues and recommendations. Mr. Seidman concurred, noting that Mr. Stephenson’s memo would serve as a great backup document. Mr. Stephenson and Mrs. Doble agreed to work together on a new document.

Mr. Peak felt they should prepare a comment for the public hearing tomorrow, in case they were asked to make a statement. He thought it could be a very simple statement. Mr. Stephenson asked that the statement include a comment pertaining to the need for a comprehensive analysis of the proposal’s impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Mr. Peak understood Mr. Stephenson’s concern, but felt their statement should be general: He suggested the following language:

The Planning Board has reviewed the current plans and proposals of the applicant and we have a number of reservations and concerns. We feel that these plans have been developed without sufficient consideration of the context of the surrounding area.

The Planning Board has been consistent in its proposals and statements of principal with regard to an integrated approach to the circulation of all modes of traffic through and around the Town Parking lot and with the utility of this very limited resource for the entire downtown business district.

And it was the consensus of the Board that the language Mr. Peak recommended was acceptable.

Mr. Peak asked the Board if they had thought of potential dates for the site visit with the Board of Selectmen.  He asked the Board if they had any preferences between the dates of July 13 to July 23, 2013, and any suggestions for time(s). Mr. Peak mentioned that Mr. Grande was suggesting an early hour such as 7AM.  Mr. Aldrin noted that on the occasions he’s shopped at the Stop & Shop early in the morning, he’s noticed the store full of patrons. Mr. Thompson mentioned that it was usually empty at 8A-9A.  Mr. Stephenson inquired if there was any parking available at that time. Mr. Aldrin replied in the negative.  

Mr. Stephenson preferred the earlier hour, but asked that they not schedule the site visit on a weekend. Mr. Thompson could not make it, if the site visit was scheduled on a Monday.  Mr. Seidman indicated that he would not be able to make it early in the morning.  Board members referred to their digital date books and agreed to meet any morning between 7A-7:30A between July 16, 2013 - July 19, 2013.

Mr. Aldrin inquired if they were going to entertain a motion on the one recommendation for the solar panels, as Mr. Seidman requested.  Mr. Stephenson did not think it was necessary at this juncture given that the Board was only going to enter a general comment as testimony at the hearing.  They had time to revisit the subject.

As soon as Mr. Grande polled the Board of Selectmen and agreed on a date and time , Mr. Peak asked the board secretary to post the site visit, even though it is not required.


1.  Tisbury Board of Appeals
A. Hearing Notice – Sonya Lima, AP 24A01
B. Hearing Notice – Joseph Dockter, (Vineyard Assembly of God) AP 50A03
C. Hearing Notice – Barbara Babcock, (Vineyard Assembly of God) AP 50A03
D. Hearing Notice – Jessica Steele, AP 08D05+

2. Martha’s Vineyard Commission
A. 05 July 2013 Extended Schedule
B. 11 July 2013 Meeting Schedule
C. Jo-Ann Taylor re: FEMA Map’s presentation on July 16, 2013 @2-4P in the VTA Bldg
D. Jo-Ann Taylor re: Coastal Community Planning & Development Training on 08/01/13 E. cc: New York Times – A Legal Blow to Sustainable Development, 26 June 2013
F. cc: Stop & Shop’s Revised Plans, 07-01-13

3. Thomson Reuters-West
RE: Zoning Bulletin, 10 June 2013

PRO FORM        Meeting opened, conducted and closed in due form at 9:40 P.M.           (m/s/c  5/0/0)          
Respectfully submitted;
Patricia V. Harris, Secretary

APPROVAL:       Approved and accepted as official minutes;

______________  _________________________
Date                    L. Anthony Peak