Plans to build a fast-food restaurant at the blinker intersection are well advanced, according to a Martha’s Vineyard Derision (MVD) email memo recently leaked to the Martha’s Vineyard Chronicle.
The memo, from MVD director Mac Landon to Oak Bluffs selectmen Crafty Button and Chug Coolaid, was marked “CONFIDENTIAL.” However, copies went to several derisioners, most of the MVD staff, and two employees of the Oak Bluffs Highway Department, apparently by accident.
“Landon should never, ever type his own memos,” said a former MVC staffer who asked not to be identified. “He’s been known to email draft reports to his whole address book, and he hasn’t figured out BCC either.”
According to Oak Bluffs Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) minutes for Nov. 22, 2012, a proposal by New Bedford’s Meals2Go Corp. to build a 100-seat restaurant at the intersection was approved by the board last November. The plan has not come formally before the MVD, but the Landon memo suggests that several staffers and derisioners are aware of it and may have played a role in its development.
“West Tisbury’s elected commissioners, Limbo Sibilant and Airlock Hammerhead, have been assured that the restaurant will emphasize non-GMO ingredients and free-range chickens,” Mr. Landon wrote in the leaked memo. “They think it’s great. Richard Knobby won’t be able to stir up trouble this time. West Tisbury voters eat up this organic crap.”
Mr. Knobby, a West Tisbury selectman, played a key role in the unsuccessful island-wide effort to block construction of the roundabout at the intersection.
According to current plans, eastbound drivers approaching the roundabout on the Vineyard Haven–Edgartown Road will have to pass through the restaurant’s parking lot. “This will minimize the hardscape and the need for additional lighting,” Mr. Landon wrote in the memo. “Counsel agrees that there’s no longer anything worth saving at the intersection, so no environmental impact review will be required.”
“Hardscape” is a planners’ euphemism for “pavement.”
“We are not endorsing the applicant’s proposal to route traffic past the restaurant’s drive-through window,” noted Mr. Landon. “Our traffic expert believes this might cause excessive delays for summer motorists.”
Gastronomic activists have charged that Meals2Go Corp. is a front for a well-known fast-food chain. Meals2Go’s CEO, Wendy D. McBell, told the Chronicle in a phone conversation that Meals2Go is a family-owned company that operates several restaurants in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She declined to name any of the restaurants.
Ms. McBell’s brother, Ronald DeFries, is the Meals2Go CFO. Until Jan. 1 he was a deputy director at MassDOT, which is funding and managing the roundabout project. Reached by the Chronicle, Mr. DeFries laughed off the suggestion that a conflict of interest might be involved. “MassDOT is not in the restaurant business,” he said.
Questions have also been raised about the Nov. 22 ZBA meeting. According to the minutes, the proposal was unanimously approved by the ZBA at that meeting. Speaking on condition of anonymity, two ZBA members said they had never heard of Meals2Go Corp. The ZBA meets regularly on the third Thursday of every month, but the 22nd was November’s fourth Thursday. It was also Thanksgiving.
Said one ZBA member, “Me, miss Thanksgiving dinner for a ZBA meeting? What do you think I am, a turkey?”
Asked about the apparent discrepancy, Oak Bluffs selectman Chug Coolaid said, “So someone made a typo. Big deal. Who told you that?”
Reminded that reporters are not obliged to disclose their sources, Mr. Coolaid said, “Most town officials can’t find their way to the bathroom with a road map. This restaurant is going to be great for the town. Our seniors need jobs and the kids need a place to go after school.”
Selectman Crafty Button sees no reason to bring the proposal before the voters, at either town meeting or the ballot box. “The voters elected us because we have the town’s best interests at heart,” she said. “Why should we make them vote on it? Elections are a waste of the taxpayers’ money.”