To the Editor:
The M.V. Land Bank is charged with doing the valuable work of protecting our shared natural resources. That’s why we were dismayed to read last week’s MV Times editorial, suggesting that Land Bank revenue be diverted to help pay for infrastructure.
It’s worth remembering that in a very important sense, Land Bank is already “paying for” our infrastructure needs. Land Bank’s preservation work on behalf of all of us will lessen the coming infrastructure sticker shock caused by growth and development.
That’s because protecting undeveloped land reduces the need for future infrastructure expansion — sewage treatment, divided highways, traffic lights, schools, police, fire. That will save towns millions. It will also give us a fighting chance to save the defining attributes of a place that generations of residents and visitors have loved and invested in.
To do that, we need to intensify — not cripple — conservation efforts. By every measure, conservation efforts continue to fall far short of the need. Even with a Land Bank, the high price of real estate means that the rate of land development is outpacing preservation by a huge margin. Thousands more new houses, and thousands more guest houses, are permitted under current zoning. Most will not be built for the purpose of adding to our inventory of affordable units. It is the demand for second homes that both conservationists and our affordable housing colleagues compete against.
We are extremely fortunate that Land Bank can often compete for critical parcels that are beyond the ability of the private groups to secure. Future generations will rightly criticize us if we are not more aggressive in conserving more, not less land — now, while the opportunity remains.
We have an obligation to safeguard our natural assets — wildlife, water, farm soils, air quality — as well as to ensure a healthy and sustainable human community. Together, we can do both, but we must live within the limits of the land. We live on an Island, and by definition, islands have limits.
The author is executive director of the Vineyard Conservation Society. –Ed.