To the Editor:
Our thorniest national problems — climate change, environmental degradation, and an economy in which one percent of the population holds more than 90 percent of all assets — are the result of the empowerment of individuals to abuse the commons we all share.
We should not make that mistake in our own communities — it is our duty and responsibility to protect the commons for all of us. Chilmark’s proposed big house by-law is a worthy attempt.
Yes, building is an essential part of our economy (and an essential part of my own livelihood), but community character is our one true industry, the one that keeps us afloat and assures longterm vitality. We may not be able to measure it, but we sure can feel it.
And it’s important to understand that smaller houses do not necessarily cost less, especially if they are well designed, built to perform, and optimize the use of every square foot. Think about boats. Think about Sarah Susanka’s Not-So-Big-House books that have been so influential. This bylaw will encourage landowners to invest in craft and use resources wisely. It will educate as it regulates.
The Chilmark planning board has proposed a well conceived, sensible bylaw. It’s not flawless — in my view — but sometimes we must move forward without perfection. Poking holes in everything, and doing nothing, is not a strategy. We see enough of that in Washington. We don’t need it here.
I hope the voters of Chilmark will give this a try — improvements can be added as needed after seeing how it works.
John Abrams is president of South Mountain Company, an employee owned architecture, building, and renewable energy company.