Editorial: Because they can

Thursday night, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) will review a proposal by the Island Housing Trust (IHT) to build a six-unit rental apartment building between the Stop & Shop Supermarket and AA Car Rental Company, a stone’s throw from Five Corners in Vineyard Haven. The 3,600-square-foot building containing six one-bedroom apartments would replace a derelict house.

The MVC will review the project as a development of regional impact (DRI). Why? Because they can.

The MVC could have voted to take a pass and send the project back to the town. IHT has a responsible track record developing affordable housing. The plan was developed in close consultation with the Tisbury Planning Board, Historic Commission, and Affordable Housing Committee. It is still subject to review by the zoning board of appeals.

There will be six 600-square-foot apartments, three of them handicapped accessible ground-floor units and three on the second floor, each with one bedroom and one bathroom. Photovoltaic panels on the southern roof will help reduce energy costs. There will be one parking space for deliveries and handicapped accessibility.

The commission voted on June 19 that the project required a public hearing because of its location near Five Corners. It is hard to understand the regional impact that may be attributed to six new tenants living near Five Corners unless the MVC has so broadened the definition of regional impact to include a Chilmarker having to pause to allow one of the new tenants to get out of the crosswalk.

In a report dated March 11, 2003, titled, “Looking at the Commission, Review of the Operations of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and Recommendations for Improvements,” newly hired MVC executive director Mark London observed that many of the people he spoke to thought that the commissioners were too involved in the minutiae of projects — work that could more appropriately be done by the towns and by MVC staff.

“The net for referring projects to the MVC is too fine and requires referral of too many projects that don’t have a significant regional impact,” Mr. London wrote.

In his DRI recommendations, Mr. London wrote, “The commission should review fewer projects, but carry out the review in a more comprehensive way with a better process leading to better projects. The MVC should ensure that only projects of a truly regional impact are subject to the full public hearing process.”

This page agrees. The MVC should expedite the Water Street project and let IHT get back to the business of providing affordable housing.

In the broader context, Five Corners figured large in the MVC’s consideration of Stop & Shop’s proposal for a new market. One year of regulatory review and process and nothing to show for it. The regional planning agency would do well to examine what might be done to unravel this traffic Gordian knot, and come up with a plan for Five Corners.

Honoring the Fourth

In a Letter to the Editor published July 3, Nick Van Nes of West Tisbury claimed that the government was hiding the truth in its official account of 9/11. Mr. Van Nes said evidence of controlled demolitions “was overlooked by the government.”

The letter attracted sharp criticism. Several readers were highly critical of The Times decision to publish the letter.

Don Keller asked, “Why does this deserve publication? Nick is accusing our government officials and many other American citizens of murder … I understand that The Times wishes to allow for free expression of opinions, but there is a line. And this letter clearly crosses it. ”

Helene Brown commented, “Disappointed with MV Times that they would publish such an inflammatory and unsubstantiated letter, especially on the eve of July 4th.”

R. Scott Patterson wrote, “The MV Times owes everyone an explanation and an apology for publishing this letter! It is a joke and beyond reprehensible!”

The Letters to the Editor section is intended to be a forum for ideas and points of view

underpinned by respect for one of our country’s most cherished rights enshrined in the First Amendment, freedom of speech.

Presenting the views of letter writers to public scrutiny and comment, even those we might disagree with and consider not worthy of comment, is in line with the values we honor on July Fourth. Censoring those views is not.