August 20, 2005
Figure 1 Landfill and Power Lines South of State Road
Figure 2 Study Area - State Road, Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs Town Line
Several major issues -traffic congestion, transit options, municipal services, new housing development, open space preservation, economic growth – all converge on a small section of town bounded approximately by State Road, Edgartown Road, Cook Rd. and the Oak Bluffs Town Line.
Along this part of State Road we find many of our year-round commercial services – hardware store, supermarket, home furnishings, bakery, family restaurants, doctors’ offices, garden shop, dry cleaners, video store, electronics shop, and others. School and recreational facilities are nearby, and the area is served by a regular bus route.
Adjacent to this corridor we have much more marginal uses - the former landfill, a new septic treatment plant, the town well, warehouses and light industry and a large amount of land that is either vacant or is used to store trucks, busses, used cars and abandoned automobiles. Unlike more remote parts of town, this is not pristine land. It has been filled-in, dug-up and built-over extensively.
This area was once the outskirts of town but the growth of businesses on State Road has brought these two different types of activities into conjunction with each other.
The fact that these diverse conditions overlap – a local town center adjacent to a marginal, semi-industrial area – creates some interesting opportunities that we should explore:
Reducing traffic congestion and increasing public safety.
Encouraging the use of mass transit.
Creating opportunities for new housing especially affordable housing.
Adding to the town’s open lands, not diminishing them.
Repairing and restoring those portions of our streets and landscape that have been disrupted by recent developments.
Improving the overall visual quality of the town.
Finding ways for the town to grow while preserving its village character and protecting its open spaces.
Below are a series of suggestions for addressing these issues:
Figure 3 Aerial Photo - Upper State Road Business District
Land Use Plan – Main Points
Figure 4 Proposed land uses for the Upper State Road Area
• Build a connecting road system linking State Road and Edgartown road.
• Create a transit center at the Park and Ride lot.
• Extend commercial development along High Point Lane.
• Relocate emergency services to the area.
• Create a motor vehicle storage area within the landfill.
• Expand residential development / Look for affordable housing possibilities.
• Restore the landscape
• Increase open spaces and preservation lands
• Expand recreational opportunities
Connector Road System between State Road and Edgartown Road
One of the most pressing issues raised by the community has been the congestion along the Upper State Road corridor and a corresponding concern about the image of strip commercial development and urban sprawl that is associated with it. Both popular opinion and the MVC’s technical reports suggest we consider a connector road between State and Edgartown roads to alleviate the problem.
Figure 5 Connector Road Options
Previous studies have considered three routes between the two roads:
1. Using Cook Road to Oak Hill. This is the shortest route but, while it avoids the dangerous intersection at Look Street, it returns all of the traffic back into the State Road corridor. It also would disrupt the residential neighborhood in this area.
2. Using Sanborn Lane going past the town well, through the town landfill area and connecting to High Point Lane – approximately at the center of the business district. This route is more effective and uses primarily town land, but unfortunately passes through a zone 1 water protection area so it is not a practical option. Moreover, vehicles attempting to by-pass the area are still mixed-in with vehicles going to the State Road businesses.
3. Using Carroll’s Way going through the Oak Bluffs wedge to a connection with Holmes Hole Road.
This option moves the traffic entirely beyond the State Road business district which helps people traveling up-island. However, much of the traffic on State Road is headed for the business district so those vehicles would have to double back to get to their destination. Moreover, the route is problematic in that it would require the acquisition of a lot of private land both in Tisbury and in Oak Bluffs. Finally, it invites sprawling development into a significant habitat area by inserting a road into a currently undeveloped part of the town.
Recent Origin/Destination surveys done by the MVC have shown that approximately 33% of the vehicles traveling north on Edgartown Road are going to the Upper State Road shopping area. Another 20% are traveling to the neighborhoods north of state Road and only 15% are heading up-island. (The remaining 32% are going downtown or otherwise not traveling through the area). Consequently, the notion of constructing a bypass that will allow traffic to simply avoid the area entirely doesn’t address the main problem which is how to find a way for traffic to circulate to, around, and through this area without creating new bottlenecks.
The proposed alternative recommends a system of streets that begins with a connector near the Edgartown Bank, the NSTAR power lines and/or IFP property leading up past the MV Land Bank property to the town land. There it splits into three separate ways allowing drivers to sort themselves out according to their destination. The main branch travels past the Park and Ride lot to High Point Lane; those traveling up-island branch to the left around the landfill and on to Holmes Hole Road; and those going toward Pine Tree Road branch to the right and proceed past the DPW building to Evelyn Way. This approach divides the traffic into three or more branches preventing any one of them from becoming overcrowded. Most of this corridor lies within town land and consequently avoids the issues of major acquisitions or of opening up
undeveloped areas for new construction.
For more information and specifics about the traffic analysis and connector road proposal refer to: Tisbury System of Connector Roads Traffic Study Prepared by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, March 2005
Fire Department and Emergency Services
Figure 6 Possible site for fire and emergency services
The current location of the fire department is especially impractical and unsafe. It is located in the heart of town, on our most heavily traveled street. It is adjacent to the post office and across from the hotel. In an emergency, it is very difficult to bring the volunteers in to get the trucks and then to bring the trucks out to the fire. Moreover, new trucks are required that cannot be accommodated in the old station so it is imperative that a new site be selected very soon.
The best sites for emergency services would be out of the congested downtown in a location that has good access to all parts of the town. Also, the site needs to be large enough to accommodate all the vehicles including the new ladder truck and ambulances as well. Because of the geography of Tisbury, the best locations seem to be in the Upper State Road area. Although there are traffic issues in this area as well, they are not as severe and there is more direct access from here to all parts of the town.
The police department’s current location is even more constrained than the fire department and it would also benefit by relocating to a site out of the downtown area.
Shown in the illustration above is a site on town land at the top of High Point Lane. A connector to Edgartown Road would be especially beneficial for this site, giving it easy access to all parts of the town. In the illustration, the DPW road is realigned to provide a larger contiguous area and room for expansion and for other municipal services.
Other sites include; the former Coca Cola plant at the intersection of High Point and State Road, adjacent properties along High Point between State Road and the DPW road, and properties at the intersection of Evelyn Way and State Road. The property at the intersection of Holmes Hole road and State Road was also considered but was found to be very expensive. It is now is under development by the Dukes County Bank and is no longer available.
Consultants have been retained to further determine fire department and other emergency services space needs and compare the viability of these sites. A final recommendation is expected by the end of May.
Emergency Services / Administrative Services
While emergency services, which depend largely on rapid vehicular access to all parts of the town, would work better operating from the Upper State Road area, the town’s administrative functions, e.g. the town administrator’s office, the selectmen’s meetings, building and health departments, planning, zoning review, tax assessors and other non-emergency activities, work best within an active downtown business area.
As a practical matter, the town hall, its employees and the activities it generates, is an important anchor to the year-round economy of downtown Vineyard Haven. Moreover, townspeople have expressed a consistent desire to protect the character of the town and an important part of that character includes maintaining the symbolic and functional heart of the town - its town hall, within its traditional context.
Consequently, we are recommending that we divide the question of municipal services into two parts with emergency services to be located in the Upper State Road area while administrative services remain located within the downtown area.
The Planning Board is completing a study of the downtown area with recommendations about how this and other issues affecting downtown may be addressed and we hope to present them in the near future.
Transit Node at the Park and Ride lot
Figure 7 Proposed Transit Node
The purpose of the park and ride lot is to deflect vehicles away from downtown and relieve the congestion at the ferry. But today, the lot is very lightly used. One problem is that it is isolated on what is essentially a dead end street accessible only from State Road.
However, if the new connector road between State and Edgartown Roads includes access to the lot, then it can be easily reached from all parts of the island without overburdening State Road. At that point it can become an important node in the island transportation network and an anchor to the upper State Road business district. The MVC transportation studies have recommended that we create such a node, one that would include the following facilities:
Weather protected bus shelter
Shuttle Bus Route
Figure 8 Proposed Shuttle bus route
Currently, the Steamship Authority shuttle bus runs from the Park & Ride lot, along State Road to Five Corners and then turns left on Water St to the ferry terminal. This is the most congested corridor on the island. Moreover, the route serves only ferry passengers.
If the route followed Pine Tree and Spring Street to the ferry instead of using the State Road route, it would avoid a lot of congestion along the way. In the process, the shuttle would pass a number of facilities that serve people who don’t always drive - the Catholic Church, Hebrew Center, the elementary school and the senior center. But they do all have parking lots that might function as a supplement to the downtown lots. The school lot would be particularly useful since it is not used heavily in the summer especially on weekends.
Expanded Commercial Development
With a connector to Edgartown Road, High Point Lane can absorb an expansion of the local commercial functions without extending strip development along State Road. These include: neighborhood shops, gas station, neighborhood convenience store, and professional offices. But the larger objective is to allow for the entire business area to function more in the manner of a traditional village with housing and shops mixed together throughout.
The Planning board and the Affordable Housing Committee aer both reviewing our current zoning regulations to see if there are modifications that would encourage more housing and mixed uses in the area.
Motor Vehicle Storage Area
Figure 9 Proposed Vehicle Storage Area at the landfill
To free-up land near State Road, we need to provide an alternative site for the trucks, vans, and autos that are now stored in this area. One possible location for these uses is the landfill. The landfill is capped and no buildings can be constructed on it for at least twenty years. However, we can park vehicles there. There are more than five acres of land within the landfill that the town can designate this area as an automotive storage zone and encourage owners of trucks, trailers and other large scale vehicles and equipment to locate there.
Much of this land is within our Zone II water protection area so care would have to be taken to insure that leaks from vehicles were not absorbed into the soil. But the fact that the lands here are capped with a waterproof membrane suggests that this may in fact be a particularly appropriate location for just such a use.
Figure 10 Blue shaded areas indicate potential residential development sites.
More than seven acres of marginal and vacant land exists in the area bounded by State Road, Cook Road, the Landfill and the DPW access road.
With year-round commercial services within walking distance of this area as well as schools, transit, parks and recreation facilities, it is a very attractive location for new housing.
We are recommending that the zoning be revised to allow residential units to be built more compactly than is presently allowed (perhaps 10-12 units per acre instead of the usual 4). This recommendation conforms with the new State regulations called 40R which provide incentives and subsidies to communities who will allow this level of development in areas that have shops, schools and services, i.e., areas just like this.
Local street system
Figure 11 Existing neighborhood streets off State Road
Local Street Network
A number of options exist for creating a more coherent neighborhood street system throughout this area. Extensions of Kate’s Way and Mechanic’s Way to the DPW as well as links to other roads helps create a grid of neighborhood streets that allow circulation throughout the neighborhood without exiting on to State Road. It also allows properties to be in-filled with mixed uses and higher density housing to take advantage of their proximity to transit, shops and services.
Figure 12 Connection possibilities for a neighborhood street system
Open Space Network / Recreation Areas
Figure 13 Proposed walking and biking trail and open space network
Many of the same barriers limiting vehicle circulation through this area also limits connections between many of the town’s parks and open spaces.
Aside from creating a system of access ways for vehicles, the Upper State Road area provides opportunities to create a coherent system of linked access ways. The above drawing suggests a method of integrating the Sailor’s Burying Ground ancient way with town lands, Land Bank property, the new athletic field, the cemetery, the school, the William Street historic district, downtown and the waterfront.
To the south of this area the network can connect to a large preserve of wooded and open lands overlapping the towns of Tisbury and Oak Bluffs.
Figure 14 Open Lands
This study has concentrated on development on those lands in and around the town landfill just off State Road (shown in upper right corner of the above illustration). But there is an important corollary concerning the lands to the south and west of this area. These lands are, for the most part, undeveloped woodlands and farmlands that include a large portion of the Tisbury and Oak Bluffs aquifer. They are zoned for very low density residential development but it would be better if they were not “developed” at all.
Much of this land (but not all) was acquired to protect the two town’s water resources. It has also been identified by the MVC as an important wildlife habitat. For all the preservation lands and conservation areas on the island, there are few that are really open to the public. Here we have the opportunity to assemble these holdings into a large preserve, possibly amounting to hundreds of acres.
Pressure to build on these lands can only intensify and so it would be good to look into acquiring important private parcels right away. We can work with the Land Bank and with the town of Oak Bluffs to turn these areas into a large preserve of fields and woodlands that will protect our aquifers, limit the chances for sprawling developments around the town and provide relief for the more built-up areas to the north.
It is important to keep in mind that these two considerations go together – we should develop the properties in and around the Upper State Road Shopping area, using disturbed and marginal lands adjacent to the landfill to build on; but, by the same token, we should not build in the open lands to the south.
Summary of Land Use Proposals
Figure 15 Upper State Road Proposed Land Uses