Mark London, the retired executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, died Saturday.
London retired in 2015 after 13 years at the helm of the Island’s regulatory agency. He continued to live in Chilmark with his wife, Linda Thompson.
“We are greatly saddened by the passing of Mark,” Adam Turner, the commission’s current executive director, wrote in a text message. “He was a passionate advocate who took great interest in celebrating the Island’s character.”
In 2014, shortly after he announced his retirement, London told The Times he made his decision after dealing with health issues. “Everything’s fine now, and I’m in great shape, so I want to have some time to myself and with my family,” he said. “I’ll be just about 68 when I retire. I think that’s a good age.”
His years as the executive director included the debate and, ultimately, withdrawal of the Stop & Shop renovation project in Vineyard Haven. Other projects included the replacement of the Lagoon Pond drawbridge, the new Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and the decision to install a roundabout at the intersection of Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road at Barnes Road.
In an essay for The Times published in 2014, London wrote that the commission, which is often a lightning rod of controversy, serves the Island community well.
“The commission rarely denies a project. But whether it’s a bowling alley in a downtown neighborhood or a subdivision in significant habitat, the commission’s review and setting of conditions make projects much better, minimizing impacts on neighbors, the community, and the environment to an extent not otherwise possible,” he wrote.
London also touched on the importance of the commission’s role in keeping the Vineyard the way folks like it. “The MVC’s extraordinary regulatory authority has been tremendously important in preserving the Island’s character and environment, something most of us just take for granted,” he wrote. “Simply knowing they might be subject to MVC review leads most development professionals to carefully deal with issues like water quality, traffic, scenic values, neighborhood scale, affordable housing, habitat, and noise.”
Linda Sibley, a longtime commissioner from West Tisbury, said she was part of the group that hired London, who previously worked as a city planner in Montreal, for the job.
“He was very energetic and very dedicated,” Sibley said. “He had been coming here as a summer visitor for many years before we hired him. It was clear that he personally cared about the Island. It wasn’t just a job for him.”
Lenny Jason, building inspector in Edgartown, concurred with the assessment of London being energetic. “He seemed to keep going — boundless energy,” he said.
Joan Malkin, who serves on the commission, said London was good at establishing relevant policies to guide the commission. “He was very, very good and thorough at writing those policies,” she said.