To the Editor:
Editor Doug Cabral utilizes fuzzy math, or perhaps no math at all, to reach his conclusions [At Large, March 21, 2013, The ‘Not Our Crowd’ approach to zoning against big houses] criticizing the proposed Chilmark bylaw aimed to regulate new house size in order to protect critical assets of the town.
Mr. Cabral asserts it is the very large houses that are the backbone of the Island economy and without them the construction, maintenance, and service industry will not survive. In fact, in this situation size does not matter, money does. As long as homeowners have the disposable income to pay other people to do their chores for them there will be little discernible effect on the maintenance and service sector between a 3,500-square-foot house and one that is 4,500 square feet. It is my understanding that people with modestly sized houses still hire painters, landscapers, and housecleaners; they still need someone to plow their driveway, occasionally hold parties and enjoy fresh flowers in their homes.
In fact, we have limited information on the economic impact of house size in relationship to the overall labor force. All new housing of any size creates work. We know the initial construction happens once; all homeowners know that maintenance lasts forever. While there will be some economic gain in building super-sized, the benefits go to a very few people in that initial construction phase; people who may or may not even live on-island. The long-term economic benefit is cumulative and comes from the establishment of active relationships with local maintenance and service providers.
The Chilmark planning board had the audacity to come up with a reasonable number for a reasonably sized house, and Mr. Cabral is offended. He has a right to be offended for any number of personal reasons; and he made it clear that his objection is personal. However, he does not have the right to inflate the consequences of the proposed bylaw when there is no factual foundation for his claims.
I want to thank the Chilmark planning board for their time, effort and foresight putting this discussion on the table. Rural atmosphere cannot really be quantified; to the extent possible, this zoning by-law defines what rural atmosphere means for the Town of Chilmark.