MVC Votes to Rescind District Designation for Chappaquiddick

By MANDY LOCKE

The Martha's Vineyard Commission officially closed a year-long chapter for the residents of Chappaquiddick last night, voting to rescind the island's designation as a district of critical planning concern (DCPC).

The vote ended the one-year building moratorium three weeks early. Without the vote, the moratorium would automatically expire June 7.

Requesting a planning tool that would allow Chappaquiddick to work to protect the "rural quality" of the island outpost of Edgartown, 80 Edgartown residents and the conservation commission had petitioned the Martha's Vineyard Commission to designate Chappaquiddick as a DCPC in April of 2001.

The commission's vote followed an April 9 annual town meeting during which 329 Edgartown residents - in a 195-134 split - voted not to establish the boundaries of the Chappaquiddick district, thereby eliminating the MVC's designation. All five zoning articles, crafted by a handful of citizen working groups, were slashed from the town warrant after the failure of the district boundaries article.

Five weeks after the town meeting, the wounds remain open.

"I'm feeling very broken - it was such a unique opportunity for us to plan for Chappaquiddick's future," said Chappaquiddick resident and DCPC proponent Nancy Hugger. "Our tribe over here on Chappy is being torn apart. We've been threatened before, but this is different."

"I haven't seen people very much [since the town meeting]. We seem to be avoiding each other," said Chappaquiddick resident and DCPC opponent Fran Clay.

Ms. Clay said some Chappaquiddick residents have recently discussed ways to bring their small community back together after the vote.

"We weren't sure exactly what the vehicle would be to get people back together," Ms. Clay said. "The question becomes, ‘Under what auspices do we do that?' "

Long-range planning on Chappaquiddick is at a virtual standstill for the moment. Most of the soul-searching about the collapse of the DCPC process is over. Yet no one seems to be mobilizing to plan for the protection of Chappaquiddick's natural resources at this point.

"In about two years from now, when we finish licking our wounds, we might come back to the town in another way," said Chappaquiddick resident and DCPC proponent Liz Villard.

No plans are in the works to renominate Chappaquiddick as a district of critical planning concern.

"It was such a devastating loss for some. I can't imagine they'd want to put themselves through that again. Maybe they are realizing it was the wrong approach," Ms. Clay said.

Some are concentrating their efforts on projects already under way on Chappaquiddick.

"I'm back to open space planning. I need to stay where I am effective," Ms. Hugger said.

"Some of the supporters are so demoralized, but there will be more work," Chappaquiddick resident and DCPC proponent Lionel Spiro said.

"Hopefully some good will come out of it. It's made people think about the future of Chappaquiddick," said Chappaquiddick resident Edith Potter, a leader of the effort to nominate the island for protection.