Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I have lived in Chilmark since the early 1970s. I have been a member and chairman of the board of appeals as well as a selectman. In addition I am a licensed contractor and real estate broker. I do not mean to bang my drum but simply to state my long years of involvement with the town of Chilmark.
This year we have an important decision to make at our annual town meeting. The Chilmark planning board has worked long and hard to craft a new bylaw to set sensible limits to the size of houses that can be built in town. I want to share a few thoughts about the proposed bylaw.
First there is a bit of history. I remember well the enormous controversy in the years during which Chilmark adopted the original zoning bylaw. Each section was thoroughly debated. Many sections of the by laws were modified before, as well as after, the voters approved them. There were many doubts and a prevailing sense that property rights were being taken away. Looking back I would guess that most voters now appreciate the care of that process which has served to protect the charm and value of our town over these many years.
For some folks the planning board’s proposal to set limits on the size of a house may seem to be an over-reach of government; on the other hand, as more land is bought at increasing prices it is likely that a proliferation of larger houses will ensue. It is not just the size of houses but the dramatic removal of natural habitat which is replaced with lawns, wide driveways and all the things that accompany these structures that stand to substantially alter the character of Chilmark. It is natural to think these large houses bring business to town and during the short period of construction they may, but history shows they actually displace the townsfolk who, over time, cannot afford to buy property and pay the ever-increasing real estate taxes. Most of these new owners do not have to live with this concern.
Our concern must be for the long term. If we vote to protect the right to build any size structure without limitation we are opening the door to the potential for dramatic changes to the character of Chilmark. While it is important to protect property rights a vote no would, in the long term, be self defeating. Above all else, this is a quality of life decision. The passage of this new bylaw will protect what each of us loves, our town. Those of us who choose to live in Chilmark do so because there is so much that is special in so many ways. For some it is the natural beauty, for others the farm fields, and for most a feeling of the eternal splendor which has been so carefully protected over the years.
I urge you to vote in favor of the planning board’s proposal. It is the right thing to do for Chilmark.
David Damroth, Chilmark