Why is it anyone else’s business?


To the Editor:

When I was growing up, my dad built a 32-foot sailboat in our backyard. Neighbors complained that it was unsightly, and they tried to pull legal stuff to make our family get rid of it. Their plan didn’t work. The boat got finished. We spent summers sailing around Fire Island, Long Island, Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. These were the best summers ever.

One summer, while we were sailing to Martha’s Vineyard and back, our neighbors got together and signed a petition to protest against my dad’s lawn, or what was left of it. When we returned, the mayor, who lived across the street, promptly walked over and presented us with the petition. Dad looked it over, tore up it, and casually tossed the pieces on the ground. Then he picked up his gear, walked into the house, and we followed suit. Coming home from sailing was a downer, and the greeting we received from our neighbors was less than friendly.

According to our neighbors, our family didn’t decorate our house properly or chemically eradicate dandelions and clover patches that grew in the yard. And they sure let us know it. Why was it their business? Why were they casting judgment upon us and the choices my dad made? Why did they try to force us to conform to their aesthetic values? We thought the other houses looked ludicrous with their fluorescent green lawns and flowers standing at attention.

Now that dad is 89-years-old, he can no longer take minimal care of his lawn and has hired a service to do that for him. Would he like chemicals on the lawn? No. Would he like it mowed incessantly? No. Would he like to install an irrigation system? No. I just hope the neighbors don’t mind that my sailboat is being stored in his backyard.

Now, some of the townsfolk on Martha’s Vineyard are gathering. They targeted the Hall family. The angry mob is getting ready to light their torches, drive the Hall family out of town, and take over their property, like a good old-fashioned witch hunt. How wonderfully New England.

I am not defending the Hall family, I don’t even know them. But, you don’t tell people what to do with their time, money, and property. You don’t criticize your neighbors because their choices are not the same ones that you would have made. The exposé on the Hall family was made by nosy people who are intolerant of others. If every Hall property is not impeccably maintained and is not set up to benefit the tourist industry, then so what? It’s their property.

What is considered aesthetically pleasing varies from person to person. The Edgartown historical district, for example, is fun to gawk at and is reminiscent of the days when the Christian conservative class got rich off the whale oil industry. This makes the neighborhood look historical, and it may be interesting, but it does not necessarily make it aesthetically pleasing.

The Hall family is not hurting the Island. While most tourist industries on the Vineyard produce a lot of trash and raw sewage, the quiet Hall properties are not leaving a big footprint at this time. I like the casual look of their buildings and the lack of activity in them. People love coming to the Vineyard because it’s low-key and relaxing. Not every building has to have a Martha Stewart makeover, and not every real estate owner has to pander to the tourist industry.

Karen Columbo