Editorial : Indulgence unwanted
Among the behaviors of the Martha's Vineyard Commission, at which critics, including this page, have aimed their objections are two that persist, despite some effort on the part of the commission's professional leadership to curb. One comes under the general category of jurisdiction, and the other may be defined as late, whimsical intervention in the approval process. Both are apparent in the MVC's recent consideration of a change in its approval of the Field Club development plan for 24 Katama acres.
The Martha's Vineyard Commission, partly due to the unreasonably broad language of its enabling legislation, has, with rare exceptions, been pleased to extend its developments of regional impact review to all manner of projects, whose regional impact characteristics appear, looked at generously, to be insignificant. If regional is understood to describe impacts that extend beyond town lines or that may be expected to affect Island-wide services, then one struggles to understand why the Field Club development qualifies for MVC review, except on grounds that it is extensive. Similarly, the Bradley Square development, or a large, single family house plan, over which the MVC is want to torture itself, before deciding to impose itself only slightly, on the flimsiest grounds, without invoking full-fledged MVC proctology. All this could be avoided if the MVC simply agreed to apply itself only to the largest proposals, with the most obvious regional implications, leaving to the towns the up-close decision making, regulation, and enforcement. But, that is not the MVC way.
In addition, the Martha's Vineyard Commission's own expressed efforts to curb its intrusion into what ought to be municipal decision making - such as the question over whether the Field Club developers ought to give three affordable lots in Edgartown as penance for their sins or $1.8 million and no lots - have once again brought the regional land use planning and regulatory agency into conflict with a town that is perfectly capable of knowing what would best serve its affordable housing efforts, which are already outstanding. Edgartown wants the money. The MVC says, well, it might be better if you took the three lots.
And, that brings us to the lack of organizational self-restraint and the willingness to indulge institutional whimsy. The $1.8 million proposal by the Field Club developers, endorsed by the town's affordable housing leaders, the selectmen, and the Martha's Vineyard Commission's own land use planning pre-review, review subcommittee, was derailed by the notion embraced by several Martha's Vineyard Commission members that such a rich, clubby development plan ought to be leavened by some affordable housing lots.
"I think if you pushed fast forward on the clock for 100 years on the Vineyard you would find neighborhoods that have been gentrified and people have been run out ... You will find people living only in these affordable housing projects being creating right now. The one thing I care passionately about is trying to find ways to keep the working class people in our subdivisions and in our neighborhoods across this Island." This, from West Tisbury Martha's Vineyard Commission member, farmer Andrew Woodruff. This view, endorsed by other MVC members, led to a decision to hold a new public hearing on the change in the way the affordable housing option must be satisfied.
The Martha's Vineyard Commission has approved the Field Club subdivision. As part of the approval, the MVC required that the developers donate three deed restricted, perpetually affordable lots in the development to the Edgartown affordable housing committee. In negotiations with the Edgartown affordable housing committee, the Field Club proposed a payment of $1.8 million instead of the three lots. Edgartown would rather the money. The MVC should recognize that here is an occasion when it is not wanted or needed.