As one of 200 Naushop homeowners, I am aghast as a developer coaxes us to change the zoning to attract big retail chains to my neighborhood.
The developer says, “We're talking about better pricing, more and better products to purchase, and a safer experience. You can't just look at traffic. Competition is good.”
I say “baloney” to his assertion that better pricing, better products and improved safety would result from major development on our island.
Our island has a terrific new grocery store at the harbor. By the summer of next year, we'll have a brand-new, larger Stop & Shop to replace the current store, with more parking, better quality because of more refrigeration, and a bigger selection. We can look forward to more and better products to purchase and a safer experience without major development.
So what about the pricing argument? What makes us think that another traditional supermarket spending millions of dollars to open a store here would set prices below what the market will bear? The grocery business operates on razor-thin margins of under 3%. There is no room for a price war that would drive down our grocery bills significantly. If you need more evidence that competition doesn't always result in low prices: There are four gas stations on the island. The last time I looked, they were all charging the same price, 30% more than the mainland.
But perhaps a traditional supermarket isn't what the developer has in mind. At the forum last week, he made the point that his proposed 38,500-square-foot store on the Valero property and his 45,000-square-foot store across the street would not technically be “big-box” stores. No, they wouldn't. But Wal-Mart has a junior version, a 40,000-square-foot “Neighborhood Market” that, according to Standard & Poor's, competes directly with supermarkets. Wal-Mart plans to have 500 of them by 2016. Will one be in my neighborhood?
If cheap is the objective, maybe Nantucket wants a dollar store on Old South Road. Dollar General will open 635 new stores this year. One of them out here would sell cheap soda and socks and toothpaste … and probably kill locally-owned pharmacies and Tugboat Tim's and other Nantucketer-owned businesses. Not all competition is good.
Any discussion about large-scale development can't just focus on prices and selection. We have to consider the negative impacts on traffic, health and safety.
I understand a Town official has raised the specter of Old South needing to become FIVE lanes wide to deal with the traffic that this scale of development would generate. Does Nantucket really want to replicate Route 132 in Hyannis? (That would not be good for tourism.) We already have a traffic jam when somebody in an SUV wants to turn left onto Fairgrounds Road. What happens when tractor-trailers line up on Old South? And multiple accidents have already occurred as cars cross the heavily-used bike path. How could more traffic make it safer? With all the new traffic and construction in the well head recharge area, how will the aquifer be affected?
Please vote NO at Annual Town Meeting in order to prevent the zoning change and stop undesirable development in the Naushop Crossing Area. While the out-sized buildings, traffic, noise, trash and light pollution that would be 20 feet away from my neighborhood will certainly harm it, Hyannis-style development would not only negatively impact my neighborhood. It surely wouldn't make the rest of Nantucket better, either.