HIGH IMPACT, LOW PROTECTION
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
For more than 10 years, the Vineyard Conservation Society has called for a community conversation about large-scale, high-impact residential development on Martha’s Vineyard. We welcome the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) taking steps in that direction, with their consideration of amending the DRI checklist to address such development. We also support John Abram’s comments about broadening the base of stakeholders to help craft workable guidelines.
No one disputes the fact that the scale of the built environment on Martha’s Vineyard — the relationship between structures and the natural landscape — serves as an important defining component of Vineyard character. The visual assets of the Vineyard shoreline and hilltops are especially vulnerable to problems associated with high-impact development. Having regional regulatory power to protect these values is sensible, and amending the DRI checklist is a good way to do that.
The fact is that the MVC is the only regulatory entity empowered to undertake such “trans-zoning” actions as limiting footprint size, requiring off-site conservation offsets, zero nitrogen impacts, low energy use, smart design, and no net loss of habitat.
The land and waters of Martha’s Vineyard are recognized by the legislature of this commonwealth as possessing natural, historical, ecological, scientific, cultural and other values in which there is a regional and statewide interest in preserving and enhancing. Such protection is not currently assured. Our MVC is best positioned to undertake the necessary, nuanced analysis of development tolerances of different landscape types on the Island, and to ensure that structures placed on the land are appropriate to the setting, and minimize habitat and other impacts.
The writer is executive director of the Vineyard Conservation Society.
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
As an Island builder I was dismayed at the various comments made concerning new construction of the megamansions here on the Vineyard. Several of the comments claimed review of large homes is unprecedented and should not be allowed. As one example, our sister island, Nantucket, has an independent review board that reviews every new home or renovation on that island.
Though I do not think a review of every home or renovation is necessary, there is no doubt new mansions should have some form of review. I do not think the current Martha’s Vineyard Commission is the correct forum for such a review, but experienced construction-related professionals would be, possibly as a subcommittee of the MVC.
I think the greatest harm of large homes is the amount of energy they consume. As inexpensive energy sources become depleted, utility costs will greatly rise, and these increased utility costs will need to be shared by all Islanders. In addition, on a national level, increased utility needs forces our country to enter into wars to secure energy, and requires we strip our national parks looking for new sources of energy. I would recommend all megamansions be required to incorporate an alternative energy plan, utilizing solar, geothermal or other renewable energy sources, to offset their utility use.
Though the new mansions provide many lucrative jobs, they also create an inverse effect by raising the prices of available labor and materials to the smaller home builders, or the residents looking for workers, that may charge an affordable price. I am also confident the new megamansion owners would gladly contribute something to affordable housing here on the Vineyard, if they were ever asked.
FROM THE NEXT GENERATION
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The following letter was sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission via e-mail:
My name is James. I am 15 and I live and attend school on the Island. I attended your meeting regarding big houses on Monday and was rather disappointed with what I saw. This issue is very important to me. But maybe not to you. You skimmed maybe two of the items on the DRI checklist, and the subsequent talks were unproductive and lacked enthusiasm. With that being said, there are a couple of things I would like to point out. First, nobody needs a house bigger than 7,000 square feet. A family of seven people can very comfortably live in a 3,000-square-foot house and still have extra room for their grandparents, uncles and cousins to visit for Thanksgiving. I am horrified that there was even talk of allowing a house bigger than 10,000 square feet to be built. Secondly, the baby boomer generation has done an awful job as stewards of the planet. You have left my generation with a disgusting and embarrassing mess to clean up, and I think that the least you could do is to start the cleanup now so that we have a prayer of actually saving this one planet we have. Please don’t disregard the earth as the rest of your generation has. Don’t allow our planet’s remaining resources to be depleted so people can build excessively large homes that will only be lived in for eight weeks of the year. Please reconsider this issue in a serious way with the best interests of this Island in mind.
READER FEEDBACK FROM THE WEB
What follows is an edited selection of comments from the Gazette Web site:
Attempts to regulate the very rich are doomed to fail. In our economic system, money trumps everything, including ethics, the will of the people, and the “character of the Island” (whatever that is), almost every time. But those who idealize and idolize Occupy Wall Street should take note: on Martha’s Vineyard and elsewhere many of the 99 per cent make their livings serving the one per cent. Those megamansions are disgusting, and the people who live in them will never be Vineyarders, but how about the people who build them?
Susanna J. Sturgis
I think the Gazette should do an investigation as to how the how the West Chop compound referenced ever got approved in the first place. Having lived across the street from the compound, passersby would slow down their cars, without fail, and just stare at that monstrosity. In addition, is there some sort of limit as to the size of a septic system for a relatively small parcel of land so close to the water?
Cambridge (formerly West Chop)
I agree regulation is in order. Martha’s Vineyard’s appeal is its little fishing shacks, gray, weathered shingled houses, small stores and eateries all laid out on a tiny Island. Who lives in the behemoth anyway? I’d be embarrassed! Regulate away!
Fine to let the MVC provide some guidelines to towns. But, if people have money and enough property to build a large place so be it. If people build near other properties then they should not be able to do so in a way that tends to overwhelm their neighbors. Some may drive by and admire these places and others may ridicule them (“That’s not a home, it’s a village”). That’s okay, just fair comment but not regulation.