Nantucketers aren't buying supermarket plan Proposal for bigger store stirs residents' resistance


NANTUCKET, Mass. -- Now that the summer crowds and traffic are gone, people here can get back to worrying about another major threat to this island's quaint tranquillity: the proposed supermarket. The one that would have an outdoor herb garden, fruit trees, brick walkways and a play ground, as well as five additional stores.

"People are getting tension headaches and waking up in the middle of the night," said Teena Loftin, who moved to Nantucket nine years ago from the Boston area with her husband, Richard, a lawyer. "We're all desperate. We're all walking around looking at each other saying, 'What can we do?' "

During the summer, when the year-round population of 7,000 swells to more than 40,000, people complain about the lines, and lack of parking spaces, at the island's two supermarkets, an A&P and a Finast.

Other communities might welcome a new and bigger store. But on Nantucket, with its devotion -- some might say obsession -- to preserving its heritage of whalers and Quakers, the supermarket is the psychological equivalent of Wal-Mart.

Stephen Welch, a landscaper, has formed an anti-market citizens' group, Nantucketers for Controlled Development, and hearings by the Planning Board have drawn as many as 500 people, more than go to the annual town meeting. Another hearing is scheduled tomorrow.

"This is unrestrained," said Dorothy Slover, head of the Nantucket Historical Association, which, along with the Chamber of Commerce, opposes the market.

Billy Cassidy is a native Nantucketer who is the spokesman for the developer, Donald Conte of Grafton. "This isn't a big store," Cassidy said. "It's nothing. They think I'm bringing Blockbuster Video."

Pub Date: 9/08/96

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