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The victory puts the Vineyard up 19-17 in the longtime inter-island rivalry.

Martha's Vineyard fans react to the Vineyard's first score. – Photos by Michael Cummo

In a defensive game with plenty of fouls by both teams,  Martha’s Vineyard beat Nantucket 21-7 on Saturday afternoon in the annual Island cup football game. Mike Mussell, breaking a Vineyard passing record, threw for two touchdowns to Jacob Cardoza.

The Island cup will stay on the Vineyard for at least the next year.
The Island cup will stay on the Vineyard for at least the next year.

Hundreds of fans — Vineyarders and a robust cheering section from Nantucket — filled the stands at Dan McCarthy Field at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, on a sunny but chilly November day.

The first quarter remained scoreless, but Ben Clark changed that at the start of the second quarter when he plunged over the goal line for a touchdown. James Sashin’s extra point  made it 7-0, Vineyard.

The score remained the same until 6:07 on the clock in the third quarter, when Nantucket tied it up 7-7.  The game stayed a nailbiter until Mike Mussell found receiver Jacob Cardoza for another touchdown, and Sashin kicked the extra point to make it 14-7, Martha’s Vineyard.

With 7:17 left in the fourth, the Vineyard recovered the ball on a bad snap on a Nantucket punt and at 5:56, it was Mussell to Cardoza again, extra point good, and MV was up 21-7 for the final.

Over three and one-half decades, Island Cup dominance has ebbed and flowed. The Vineyarders have won the last nine Island Cup games and the Whalers enjoyed a 9-1 run before Mr. Herman took the Vineyarder helm 28 years ago. This year’s victory gives the Vineyard a 19-17 edge in the rivalry.

Mr. Nichols, and his wife Diane Sawyer, were frequent visitors to Martha’s Vineyard, where they owned a summer home.

Director Mike Nichols, with actress Mia Farrow, at the Martha's Vineyard Playhouse in 2004. — Photo courtesy Martha's Vineyard Playhouse

Updated 12:15 PM, Friday, November 21. 

Mike Nichols, the celebrated director whose career spanned Hollywood to Broadway and beyond, died in New York City Wednesday night of a heart attack. He was 83.

Mr. Nichols, with his wife, Diane Sawyer, former anchor of ABC News, were longtime seasonal residents of Martha’s Vineyard. The couple were married on the Island in 1988, and in 1995 purchased Chip Chop, the former home of actress Katharine Cornell, located overlooking Vineyard Sound on the west side of the entrance to Lake Tashmoo.

Mr. Nichols was known for his generous participation in Island charitable causes, including the Possible Dreams Auction to benefit Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. He was involved in the local arts community, and was a supporter of the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society.

Last summer, Mr. Nichols hosted a special screening of “The Graduate,” the 1967 film for which he won an Oscar, at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

“He was very frail when he came to the film center,” founder and executive director Richard Paradise said Thursday morning. “But he had great enthusiasm. He was planning on coming back to the film center next summer to do some more questions and answers on films that inspired him as a young director. The audience just loved Mike, how open he was. I’ve already heard from two or three people who were there, reflecting on that evening.”

Mr. Paradise remembers the legendary film and stage director as a man whose humanity showed in his work, as well as his private life.

“Very lovely, very sweet,” Mr. Paradise said. “He and Diane were such a wonderful couple, there was such an aura of love between them. He was so passionate about his craft. He was a great friend of the Vineyard. They loved coming here and relaxing, getting away from the big city environment.”

MJ Bruder Munafo, artistic and executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, said Mr. Nichols and Ms. Sawyer attended several productions at the playhouse, often with their friends William and Rose Styron. She said Mr. Nichols was also generous with donations to the nonprofit theater. While he liked to keep his visits low-key, Ms. Bruder Munafo said, Mr. Nichols was very approachable and open.

“When you were with him, you knew you were in the presence of greatness,” she said. “It’s such a privilege living on the Island, and having the chance to meet people like Mike Nichols. You think about how a life such as his inspired millions of people in so many different ways, people who got to work with him intimately, and people who saw his films. I was sad to hear he died suddenly.”

The Nichols and Styron families were close friends for more than 50 years. Writer and educator Alexandra Styron, the daughter of William and Rose Styron, has fond memories of growing up with Mr. Nichols, who was a frequent houseguest at her parent’s West Chop home. As she grew into adulthood, Mr. Nichols was a mentor.

“There was nobody more exciting to be around,” Ms. Styron said, “nobody who was a better blend of being both brilliant and hilariously funny, and also extraordinarily generous. You always felt a kind of a thrill being next to him. He knew everyone, he’d met everyone, he’d been everywhere. He’s going to be terribly missed. He was a great man.”

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) also benefited from his generosity. “Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer were tremendous supporters of MVCS through the years,” said Nell Coogan, MVCS director of development and community relations. “They also attended many Possible Dreams Auction events when Art Buchwald was our auctioneer, and the staff at MVCS and Possible Dream Auction committee members were saddened by the news today.”

According to an obituary in the New York Times, as a young child Mr. Nichols fled with his family from Nazi Germany shortly before World War II and settled in New York. After a difficult childhood, he found his calling in comedy and theater, joining a Chicago theater troupe which eventually became the famed Second City group.

While he began as a performer, he soon moved to directing, where he earned acclaim for working with actors to draw out their best performances. He was one of only a handful of people to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, and a Grammy. He was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, and was also honored with a National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given to performers by the U.S. government.

In addition to his wife, Ms. Sawyer, Mr. Nichols is survived by two daughters, Daisy and Jenny, and a son, Max. He is also survived by a brother, Bob Nichols, and four grandchildren.

This story has been updated to reflect the addition of quotes from MJ Bruder-Munafo and Alexandra Styron.

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Citing issues that surfaced at an Island-wide meeting with state officials, the board amends official comment on 2014 ocean plan.

Yellow areas have been identified as possible locations for sand mining in Massachusetts waters. The areas outlined in purple are located in federal waters. – Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management

Massachusetts is the only state on the east coast that bans offshore sand mining. But the recently released  206-page 2014 Ocean Management Plan (OMP), compiled by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), proposes the formation of up to nine offshore sand mining pilot projects. Since the report was released, Oak Bluffs officials have been staunch advocates of offshore sand mining. In a letter to CZM dated October 22, Oak Bluffs town administrator Robert Whritenour, on behalf of the board of selectmen, wrote, “It has become clear to us that without the availability of offshore sand resources, [Oak Bluffs] will be unable to preserve our coastal resources. The town strongly supports the use of sand mining in Massachusetts.”

At their regular meeting on Tuesday night, however, selectmen reconsidered their position. Responding to information presented at last week’s public meeting with CZM officials and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the board agreed that offshore sand mining was a more complex solution than previously thought, and that a more measured response to the CZM was in order.
“We all went to the commission meeting, and we heard a slightly different discussion than we anticipated,” chairman of the selectmen Greg Coogan said.

Warren Doty, a Chilmark selectman and the founding president of two fishermen’s organizations, was on hand to speak against sand mining. “Every time you collect sand, you’re disturbing the benthic environment, which is six inches of sand and mud and dirt at the bottom and is the base of the food chain,” he said. “In Nantucket Sound, the major fishery is conch (channel whelks). There are two million pounds of channel whelk landed in Martha’s Vineyard in 2014 and the price is over $2 a pound. Something in the neighborhood of $4 million is coming into this fishery. It is the most profitable fishery on the Island, and it’s very sensitive to changes in the sea bottom.”

Mr. Doty said sand mining in Vineyard sound would likewise jeopardize the winter flounder population.
“The issue is not just supporting sand mining itself,” selectman Gail Barmakian said. “We want all the sand we can possibly get, but not at the cost of our fisheries. We don’t live in a vacuum here. We have to do a cost-benefit analysis. They say Rhode Island is successfully balancing both sides of the issue, but there hasn’t been any track record with long-term data.”
“This is an exceptionally complex issue,” conservation commissioner Joan Hughes said. “We need to deal with hard science and good statistics and find out how we can solve problems for both. Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey have done this. There’s a lot of very good science out there.”

Shellfish constable David Grunden said that the state would rigorously monitor the pilot projects to minimize environmental damage and that ultimately the town has to take substantive action, especially given its northeastern exposure. “If Oak Bluffs didn’t have infrastructure that was so exposed, especially during northeasters, I would probably be on the other side of this, but I’m all in favor of it,” he said. “Our low-lying roads are in peril. It’s even worse when you factor in climate change and sea level rise. The town must insist that the state allow [sand mining] to protect the town infrastructure. It’s not going to be cheap, but there’s no cheap way to protect the town from the northeast exposure.”

Mr. Grunden showed the selectmen a map that indicated the closest potential sand mining site to Oak Bluffs was three miles offshore. Selectman Michael Santoro asked why sand could not be mined closer to shore, where it has been clearly building up for years. “It’s very difficult when you get involved in these projects because a lot of the common sense solutions are not acceptable,” Ms. Hughes said.  “We asked about this, but the Army Corps of Engineers refused.”
Mr. Grunden added that mining sand closer to shore can be counterproductive, as a mass of sand near the shore can help impede wave energy during storms. Moving that sand would remove that benefit.

Speaking as a selectman, Mr. Doty said the town of Chilmark is particularly opposed to mining between the north shore and Cuttyhunk. “The idea that we’ll stand on Menemsha beach and see a 150-foot barge take sand to Hyannis is not acceptable.” he said.
“I don’t think any of us want to see a big operation that could supply Hyannis,” Ms. Barmakian said.

The revised letter from the selectmen will be sent to the CMZ once the 60-day public comment period on (OMP) ends at 5 pm on Tuesday, November 25.
The ocean plan draft is available online at the EEA website, mass.gov/eea/. Comments can be emailed to oceanplan@state.ma.us.

The Magnusons have been married for 46 years.

In an occasional series, some great Island couples tell us how they’ve made marriages last. We salute the stamina, love, good will and compromise required of couples who stay together for a long time. Debbie and Eric Magnuson were married on October 12, 1968, at the Lambert’s Cove Church.

How did you meet? Eric was my sister’s classmate. He is five years older, and I knew him from West Tisbury School.

Who proposed and how? It was a mutual decision — we went together two years.

The Magnusons started dating, and got married, in the sixties. — Photos courtesy of Deb & Eric Mag
The Magnusons started dating, and got married, in the sixties. — Photos courtesy of Deb & Eric Mag

Describe your Vineyard wedding. Small — Lambert’s Cove Church doesn’t hold too many people, so some guests were just invited to the reception at Chilmark Community Center. Decorations were big crepe paper flowers and streamers. We had an Island band, my Dad knew them. Annie Kelly, good family friend, catered it with simple food and punch. My Dad, who liked his drinks, snuck a bottle of something into one bowl of punch and almost gave Annie a heart attack — she was a teetotaller.

How many children? Did any of them stay here? We have two children. Sara was our firstborn and she has given us two wonderful grandchildren — Ashleigh, 20,  and Michael, 17. She lives very near us with her husband, Paul, and the kids. Eric, our second child, has a wonderful family. Wife, Ginger, and boys Ryan, 16, and Owen, 13. They live in Burlington. And we see them as much as we can.

Do you both work? Eric has retired from carpentry but does caretaking, and we have an orchard so that keeps him busy. Debbie had a career of 31 years as a hairdresser, and retired to take care of the babies, newborn to three years. My dream job!

Briefly describe your years together – the good, the bad, and the wonderful….. 45 years of wedded bliss? Yes, most of the time!

The Good: Parenting together, but that was also challenging! We had trips with the kids, trips with just the two of us, which we believe are important. We’ve had a few surgeries but are basically healthy, and looking forward to many more years together.

Has the Vineyard been the best place to live your lives together? A resounding YES!

Why? We both were born here and love the Island, the seasons, the people. I love that when I go to the store or the PO I always run into friends to chat with for a minute. The Island pulls together for others in tragedy and illness. We feel so lucky to live where we do in W.T.

If you had one piece of advice to a couple about to be married, what would it be? Trust, respect, love, care, Golden Rule, go on short trips together — no kids. And date night.

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The Chilmark School. —Photo by Susan Safford

The vast majority of Island teachers ranked proficient in performance ratingsreleased last Thursday by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Within those numbers, a percentage of teachers earned exemplary ratings, ranging from 1.9 percent in the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD), which includes West Tisbury School and Chilmark School, to 15.2 percent in the Edgartown School. Teachers ranked proficient ranged from 82 percent to 95 percent among Island schools.

Teachers ranked in the needs improvement category included 2.2 percent at Edgartown School, 6.5 percent at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, (MVRHS), and 7.7 percent in the UIRSD.

Three years ago, the state’s board of ESE adopted regulations that place educator practice and student learning at the center of evaluations, according to a press release. All educators, including superintendents, principals, and teachers, take part in a five-part evaluation cycle that includes self-assessment; analysis, goal setting and plan development; implementation of the plan; a formative assessment/evaluation; and a summative evaluation.

Every educator evaluated in 2013-14 received a summative performance rating of exemplary, proficient, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory. There were 279 teachers, including both those with professional status and those with non-professional status, evaluated in Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) and 12 at Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School (MVPCS), according to school and district profiles available on the DESE website.

“I haven’t had a chance to look at the results in great depth, however I’m struck by the large percentage of our teachers, in the high eighties and nineties, who are ranked proficient, which is what you would want,” MVPS superintendent James Weiss told The Times in a phone call Monday. “There is a small number, anywhere from 4 or 5 to 10 to 15 percent, ranked exemplary, and that doesn’t surprise me.

“We have some outstanding teachers, and although being rated an exemplary teacher under these standards is extremely hard to get, some people did,” Mr. Weiss added. “There are a few folks who need improvement — many of them are new teachers, but not all — and there’s nobody on the list, looking at all the zeroes that I see, that is unsatisfactory.”

Some data for districts and schools, including MVPCS, was not included in last week’s report. For confidentiality reasons, the DESE did not post performance ratings for individual educators, nor for schools or districts where fewer than six staff members were evaluated, or in cases where all staff evaluated in the same group received the same rating, or when all educators were evaluated and a single educator had a different rating than the rest.

In an email response to a request from The Times for comment about the Charter School teachers’ results, MVPCS director Bob Moore said, “The faculty at the Charter School is talented, highly knowledgeable of their curriculum, and bring multiple strategies to the classroom to ensure positive growth for each of their students.”


State and local results

Statewide, close to 71,700 educators in 372 districts were evaluated using systems aligned to the new state framework in the 2013-14 school year, according to a DESE press release dated November 13.

“Massachusetts leads the nation in student achievement, and our educators are the driving force behind those results,” Secretary of Education Matthew Malone said in the release. “We know that these evaluations help educators inform their practice and will positively impact student outcomes.”

Mr. Weiss said that using the new system has involved a learning curve.                           “I think it’s a process that we’re trying to get teachers to understand all of the standards, and teaching is more than any one of those things,” he said. “It’s how you work with kids, it’s how you work with other professionals, how you communicate with the larger community and parents, all of those things.”

And as Mr. Weiss noted last year, the evaluation results are affected by many factors, including how experienced a teacher or educator is.

Principals and assistant principals did the evaluations at the elementary school level. At the high school, the evaluators included the principal, two assistant principals, and directors of guidance, special education, and vocational education. The superintendent’s staff was involved in some of the educator evaluations, as well.

Among the results, those rated as exemplary were: 15.2 percent of the teachers evaluated at Edgartown School, 5.7 percent at Oak Bluffs School, 4.7 percent at Tisbury School, 1.9 percent in the up-Island schools in Chilmark and West Tisbury, and 9.4 percent at the regional high school.

The percentage of teachers ranked proficient included 82.6 percent at Edgartown School, 94.3 percent at Oak Bluffs School, 95.3 percent at Tisbury School, 90.4 percent in the up-Island schools, and 85.7 percent in the regional high school.

How the process works

The new evaluation system applies to all professional educators, including administrators such as superintendents, principals and assistant principals, and non-administrators such as guidance counselors, as well as teachers.

The evaluation system includes four broad statewide standards for administrators and teachers. The process involves five steps.

Previously on Martha’s Vineyard and elsewhere, teacher evaluations focused on classroom observation and a checklist of topics such as instruction, professionalism, and the classroom environment. Two significant changes in the new evaluation system are the requirement for evidence or documentation, and a set of very specific standards for teachers to follow.

Both teachers and administrators do self-assessments. They also gather evidence, then exchange and discuss it, Mr. Weiss explained to The Times in a previous interview. Evidence gathered by administrators includes reports on two kinds of classroom visits — formal observations, either announced or unannounced, and 5- to 10-minute walk-in visits on a regular basis.

The new evaluation system utilizes a chart that links impact on student learning to educator practice. If a teacher teaches an MCAS subject, it will be one of the determinants of his or her performance rating for impact on student learning.

An evaluation rating is not tied to compensation. However, a teacher or administrator with poor ratings in educator practice and/or student achievement who does not demonstrate improvement could lose his or her job.

According to the DESE regulations, a teacher with a low rating in impact on student learning would be put on a growth plan and be given one year to change his or her practice.

Next steps

The framework for the educator evaluation system is designed to help teachers and administrators collaborate and receive meaningful feedback that lets them recognize their strengths and address areas where they could do better, DESE Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester said in last week’s press release.

Teachers ranked in need of improvement, for example, would have a higher level of supervision and work on improving skills specified by their evaluator, Mr. Weiss said, which may include sending them to workshops, doing more observations of their classrooms, and pairing them with other teachers.

“The goal is to move them from ‘needs improvement’ to proficient,” he added. “This isn’t a gotcha kind of thing; it’s a matter of helping them to refine the things that they need to improve on.”

In an opening day program for MVPS educators for the 2013-14 school year, Mr. Weiss said he would try to make the new evaluation system less stressful by reducing some of the paperwork requirements. He also noted that a Joint Labor Management Committee, made up of some administrators, teachers, and representatives from the Island’s two educator associations, was meeting monthly to discuss how the evaluation system was working and how to make it better.

“We were able to reduce some of the paperwork by consolidating some of the forms, and although there is still quite a bit, it is less than before,” Mr. Weiss said this week.

“And we tried to assure all of the staff members that really what we’re talking about here is ways to improve instruction for kids,” he added. “Most of our staff are proficient or above; that’s where we want them. We want to honor a few who do exemplary work, and we want to help those folks who need a little improvement, especially if they’re probationary teachers.” Mr. Weiss said the level of observation is high for these teachers over the course of their first three years.

“So if people make it through those first three years, they’re going to be in a good place,” he said.

Mr. Moore said the Charter School’s staff has been divided into three groups, and that each group will go through the full evaluation process every three years. “Our teachers are asked to create goals each year that include their professional growth goals as well as school wide initiatives,” he said. “It is very much in line with how we always have evaluated staff.”

How the new system evolved

The educator evaluation system was piloted by DESE in 2012 in 233 school districts, including Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools, that received state Race to the Top (RTT) funds. Massachusetts received a $250 million grant in 2010 as one of 12 winning states in the U.S. Department of Education’s RTT funds competition. Of that grant, Martha’s Vineyard public school districts will receive $118,129 over four years.

The funds are being used to promote educational reforms in grades K-12 in standards and assessment, teachers and leaders, school improvement, and data systems, which includes the development of a model system for educator evaluation.

Under the state’s rollout of the evaluation framework, RTT school districts were required to implement the new system and evaluate at least 50 percent of licensed educators during the 2012-13 school year. About one quarter to one third of licensed staff in the Island public schools were selected for evaluation that year. They included all probationary teachers who were in their first three years of teaching, and a portion of other teachers.

In the 2013-14 school year, RTT school districts such as the MVPS were required to evaluate all of their licensed educators, and non-RTT school districts, such as the Charter School, at least 50 percent of licensed educators.

The evaluation system applies to all professional educators, including administrators such as superintendents, principals and assistant principals, and non-administrators such as guidance counselors, as well as teachers.

In the 2015-16 school year, in addition to their summative performance ratings, educators will receive a student impact rating of high, moderate or low.

An educator’s student impact rating will include at least two years of data that identifies trends and patterns using multiple measures of student learning, growth and achievement, according to DESE. Student growth scores from state assessments, for example, MCAS, must be used as one of the measures when possible.

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The Oak Bluffs fire station. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated 11:20 a.m., 11/21/2014

Oak Bluffs town administrator Robert Whritenour brought good news to the selectmen at their regular meeting on Tuesday evening. “I’m pleased to announce that all approvals and permits are in place for the new fire/EMS station,” he said. “There will be a public groundbreaking ceremony on Monday, November 24, at 2 pm. I encourage anyone who can make it to attend. We don’t do a lot of groundbreakings around here.”

Mr. Whritenour’s announcement followed several weeks of scrambling by public officials. That came to a head at last Thursday’s planning board meeting, where a standing room only crowd gathered to see if the 17 months of planning and permitting and the years of lobbying for the $8.3 million fire/EMS station would finally come to fruition. Two weeks prior, the project had been cast in uncertainty when town building inspector Mark Barbadoro discovered that the project lacked the necessary site plan review and was in non-compliance with town zoning bylaws.

Alarming oversight

The situation came to light on the morning of October 31, when Mr. Barbadoro asked planning board chairman Brian Packish for the board’s site plan review, in order to process the construction permits.

“I told him ‘It’s funny you should ask because we don’t have one,’” Mr. Packish told The Times in a phone call. “I’d been asking for a site plan review since early spring and the town administrator and the building inspector told me it didn’t need one. I met with project manager Joe Sullivan and he told me he’d been asking about the site plan review since January. How can you possibly read section 10.4 in the zoning bylaws and say a new fire station doesn’t need a site plan review?”

Mr. Barbadoro contacted town counsel Michael Goldsmith immediately after his conversation with Mr. Packish. In an email exchange obtained by The Times, he wrote, “Section 10.4.1 item 1 of the Zoning Bylaw requires that ‘construction… over 500 square feet requires Site Plan Review by the Planning Board.’ It has come to my attention that the fire station has not been reviewed by the planning board…My concern is that if we do not obtain a valid site plan decision then I will have no legal document to enforce and if something goes wrong the town would have difficulty in court as a result. I do not want to stand in the way of progress but I want to make sure that the town is protected. Please let me know if you are aware of any exception.”

Mr. Goldsmith replied in an email that he knew of no exceptions to the bylaw and wrote that  town administrator Robert Whritenour should be apprised of the situation, “ASAP.”

“As you know Jim Dunn provided us with his opinion that site plan review was not required for this project,” Mr. Whritenour stated in an email to Mr. Packish, later that morning. “Otherwise we would have been in front of your Board last spring. If Jim was wrong that’s fine, but obviously that creates a problem now as the project has already been bid. I would certainly appreciate some time on your agenda for a review of the plan on November 13.”

In a comment emailed to The Times following publication of this story, former building inspector Jim Dunn said a plan review would have taken place after final plans and permit application had been received by the building department. “The final package for the fire station was submitted to the building department in August, about a week before my last day on August 12,” Mr. Dunn said in an email to The Times Friday.  “The package was never opened or reviewed. No decisions, recommendations or opinions were ever made by me.”

Pulled out of the fire

Mr. Packish accommodated Mr. Whritenour’s request and put the site plan review at the top of last Thursday night’s agenda. Mr. Whritenour was the first to speak. “We apologize to the planning board,” he said. “We’ve been working on these plans for over a year now and we should have been in front of you guys six months ago, but we really were unaware. I think we’ve been struggling a lot with the whole site plan and review process. Thankfully, after working with Mark Barbadoro and Brian [Packish], I think we have a good handle on everything now.”

Mr. Whritenour turned the presentation over to John Keenan and Antonia Kenny, principals in the Falmouth architectural firm Keenan and Kenny Ltd. After an hour of questions and discussion, the board approved the fire/EMS station with four conditions, two of them — a reconfigured wall around the generator and eight additional white pines on the north border — addressed sound mitigation for abutters. A bicycle rack requested by board member Erik Albert was also accommodated. The board also requested that the exhaust fan in the vehicle bay be pointed skyward, instead of horizontally at the abutting properties. Ms. Kenny said engineers had advised against it, but she agreed to re-investigate.

The board’s unanimous, somewhat tempered, approval gave the final go-ahead for construction of the long-awaited 20,250-square-foot fire/EMS station.

Emerging energy
In a later conversation with The Times, Mr. Packish said the outcome of the site plan review was never really in doubt. “Our hands were pretty well tied,” he said. “Legally, the planning board has 60 days to vet a project. We had seven days. But the last thing you want to do is show the process being ineffective at this final hour.”

Mr. Packish said concerns remain about compromises made in the name of expedience, particularly with parking. “When you think about a Sunday radio check or a pancake breakfast, or an EMT class, 15 spaces isn’t going to do it. When there’s a fire, it’s pretty safe to say that with 12 bays for emergency vehicles, 15 parking spaces isn’t enough. I’ve never seen people carpool when they respond to an alarm and I haven’t seen many come skidding in on their bicycle either.”

Aside from the site plan snafu, the quick, coordinated response of town officials underscored what some officials describe as emerging level of competence and cooperation in town government. “The town is making tremendous strides getting the right people in the right jobs,” capital programs committee chairman Bill McGrath told The Times.The process works. The planning board was fabulous. I know they spent a good week talking to people on the building committee. I can tell you the next time we build another building in town we’ll be going before the planning board early in the process.”

“Everyone was, to a person, very pleased with the way the planning board accommodated and how well Brian ran things,” building committee member and selectman Walter Vail told The Times in a phone call on Tuesday. “We’ll have a better town with the planning board taking a more active role. No doubt we should have acted on this sooner. We’ve all learned something through this.”

Although Mr. Packish was skeptical that experienced town officials were unaware of the planning board’s intended role in the process, he said the turmoil of the past few weeks was ultimately productive for the town  “As a result of this, we have better cooperation between the planning board, the new building inspector, the ZBA and some of the other departments,” he said. “As this dialogue continues, the hope is we’re going to create a better process and do some things differently in Oak Bluffs.”

Mr. Packish said that moving forward, the planning board will place a high priority on outreach, with increased social media presence and boots-on-the-ground consensus building. “On the local level, the state level, and the national level, outreach is the key to getting things done and to creating change.

The most dangerous words in the English language are ‘we’ve always done it that way.’ We’ve heard that way too much in Oak Bluffs.”

Update: This story was updated to reflect comments by former building inspector Jim Dunn who said in an email to The Times Friday that “No decisions, recommendations or opinions were ever made by me.”

Architectural drawings show different views of the proposed mixed-use development at Mariner's Landing in Edgartown. —Drawing by Sullivan + Associates Architects

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) voted unanimous preliminary approval on November 6, and is set to vote on final approval Thursday evening, for a mixed commercial and residential development at Mariner’s Landing in Edgartown.

The 24,000 square foot development is proposed for a lot of just under one acre in the commercial area off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, adjacent to the Triangle business district.

The developers, doing business as Mariners Property LLC, are James Brennan, who owns a heating, air conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC) company, and Paul Pertile, a local businessman.

There was disagreement during the regulatory process over interpretation of the MVC’s guidelines on affordable housing mitigation. The applicants offered to pay $7,000, but the commissioners set the mitigation fee at $39,000, though they offered an alternative that would put conditions on renting or selling the residential units.

Mixed use

The project is a mixed-use development totalling 24,000 square feet of living and commercial space, combining commercial condominiums and small apartments. Plans call for four 2,000-square-foot commercial condominiums on the first floor, and four 2,000-square-foot units of storage space in the basement. On the second floor of the proposed building, would be eight 2-bedroom apartments of 1,000 square feet each. The developers each intend to occupy one of the commercial condominiums. Their plan does not include any retail business on the property.

The building would sit at the back of the small development, which includes a mix of office buildings and retail. Plans call for the structure to be built into a hill, so that it would appear as a two-story building from the front, but look like a one-story building from the back.

The development is the kind of growth the MVC is trying to encourage.

“The mixed-use combination of residential housing units and commercial units in an opportunity area is consistent with Smart Growth Principles and the MVC’s Island Plan,” the MVC staff wrote in its report.

Commercial condominium owners would have some control over the rental apartments. According to the plans, when the living units are offered for rent or sale, the condominium owners would get the first chance to rent or buy them to use as employee housing.

Housing issue

A significant point of contention between the developers and MVC commissioners was affordable housing mitigation. In commercial and residential developments, the MVC requires most applicants to make some contribution to alleviate the chronic shortage of affordable housing on Martha’s Vineyard. The contribution is based on a policy adopted by the commissioners. The mitigation can come in the form of making a certain percentage of residential units available under state guidelines to families who qualify for affordable housing based on income. It can also come in the form of monetary payments to a designated organization, which uses the money to create new affordable housing.

Mr. Brennan and Mr. Pertile offered to donate $7,000 to an affordable housing organization, according to their interpretation of the MVC’s affordable housing policy. The developers said the eight units fall below the 10-unit trigger that would require them to provide one affordable housing unit, or alternatively, a sum of money equal to 20 percent of the property’s assessed value.

The MVC guidelines call for a payment of $7,000 for a new commercial development of 8,000 square feet. The applicants say the basement storage space and residential space should not be counted, but the MVC commissioners disagreed. They figured the affordable housing mitigation fee on the total square footage of the project, resulting in a fee of $39,000.

In the conditions imposed with approval of the plan, the MVC commissioners offered the developers a choice. They can pay the $7,000 offered, and restrict at least two residential units to be occupied by staff or year-round residents, with restrictions that would prevent short-term rentals. Alternatively, they can pay the $39,000 mitigation fee.

Affordable issues

In a letter to the MVC clarifying their offer of $7,000 for affordable housing mitigation, Mr. Brennan and Mr. Pertile asked the MVC to consider several factors.

“The intent of the residential space is reasonably priced housing,” they wrote. “An additional contribution to affordable housing if added to the residential portion of the project would increase the cost of each unit making each one less affordable.”

They also asked the MVC to consider that the restrictions on short-term rentals would require deed restrictions, which could make it more difficult or more expensive to finance the project, because lenders devalue property with deed restrictions attached.

They also wrote that they already donate money to several Island nonprofit organizations, and the $39,000 fee would force them to reallocate those contributions. In their letter, they offered the commissioners a pointed choice.

“The applicants would seek the commission’s recommendations to select which contributions should be reallocated in favor of affordable housing,” they wrote.

Mr. Pertile said he and his business partner have not yet decided which affordable housing mitigation option they will choose, but neither option will be a deal breaker. “We’re very happy, very pleased being able to move forward with the project,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“The project was spearheaded on doing something good for the Island,” Mr. Pertile said. “The project went well, everything was good. You’re always going to run into a small hurdle here and there.”

Mr. Pertile said he believed that the Island is in dire need of a mixed-use condominium project. “These are not luxurious condos,” he said. “They’re geared toward working class people, and they’re going to be priced accordingly. Both of us need these resources, and we could never find them.”

The November 6 preliminary vote on the project was unanimous, with commissioners Clarence “Trip” Barnes and Josh Goldstein of Tisbury, Christina Brown of Edgartown, Fred Hancock and John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs, Joan Malkin of Chilmark, Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, and James Vercruysse of Aquinnah all voting in favor. The MVC has scheduled a final vote on the written decision on Thursday evening, November 20.

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The MVRHS cheerleaders are ready for their role in the big game. —Photo by Diane Caponigro

This Saturday the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School football team takes to their home field to battle the Nantucket Whalers for the 36th Island Cup. The team prepares to defend the title they’ve held for the last 10 years while another team is practicing just as hard to help them win — the MVRHS cheerleaders.

Earlier this week I stopped by the high school gymnasium to catch the end of cheerleading practice and to meet with the girls behind the pom poms. I’m not one to be choreographed and I have limited coordination, so I was immediately impressed by what I saw. The girls’ formations were sharp and tight and they never once stopped smiling. They looked good and ready.

Led by coaches Sue Costello and Channon Capra, the cheerleading team is made up of 10 girls, including one senior and two members new to the sport. The team practices four days a week on top of attending all football games, including those off Island. They unanimously agreed that they enjoy traveling and particularly appreciated their trip to Bedford for the season opener, where they stayed at a local hotel and attended a Endicott College vs. Framingham State game to watch collegiate cheerleaders in action.

Lining the sidelines each week, the cheerleaders provide support for the football team and entertainment for the crowd, executing up to 30 cheers per game.

When asked how she builds routines, Coach Capra told the Times she takes an athletic approach. “We like to include a lot of quick transitions and line formation changes,” she said. “We’re always looking to be creative and catch the eye. Halftime shows are their real, real competition and they put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform well.”

Coach Costello added that, given a diverse audience, “we like to provide something for everyone.” That includes pom dances after touchdowns, pike jumps during time-outs, and participatory call back cheers in between.

The team approaches their sport seriously, and they have been working hard since August. After returning from a program hiatus last year, the team was re-formed by member sign-ups and welcomes anyone interested in participating. Even though tryouts weren’t necessary, hard work and determination were, and the team has been eager to establish themselves and prove their abilities.

The program is back on track and it shows. Junior Oshantay Waite, who previously cheered in Jamaica before moving to the Vineyard, sensed a turning point in the team last week as they cheered the Vineyarders to a shutout victory against Bellingham.

“When I got home from the game I was still smiling,” she said. “Everything was good, the crowd was loud and we felt so confident. Parents were complimenting us on how we looked and it felt really good to have people recognize that it takes a lot of work.”

Team member Kayla Oliver reminisced about when the team lifted their first stunt earlier in the season. “It was a really good feeling of accomplishment,” she said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re getting there and we have the potential to be a competitive team.”

In addition to their work on the field, the cheerleaders show support before each game by arriving early to decorate the stands. This week they’ll take it even farther by decorating the homes of the senior football players and the route from the ferry terminal to the high school, to build anticipation for the game.

As the season draws to a close, the girls look back fondly on their experiences, including team building exercises off the field — a pool party, spa day, and movie night. They offer up why they joined in the first place, citing college applications, the love of cheerleading and staying physically fit, among others. But it seems some of their biggest rewards have arrived in the form of friendship and teamwork. Coach Capra said she noticed this teamwork at the beginning of the season when team members went out of their way to assist each other, going back to repeat exercises if someone was struggling. “That’s when I knew they really cared about each other and we had a solid group of girls here,” she said.

If you make it to the game this weekend be sure to give them some extra attention.

“Feel the rumble, feel the quake. ‘Cause MVRHS is gonna make you shake!”

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Andrew Engelman is proud of being conservative while Don Keller supports liberal causes. —Photos courtesy Engelman and Keller

Updated 12:10 pm, November 21

“I realize that it is not about who is right or wrong, it is about how we treat each other. We will always have differences of opinion, as we all see reality through our individual filters. The debates will continue. Good, intelligent, and honest men and women will disagree. What is important is to listen — to have some respect and some courtesy. ”

Opposites attract — a law of nature. But when you have two guys on different ends of the political spectrum, such as conservative Andrew Engelman and liberal Don Keller, is it possible for them to meet in the middle?

Turns out it is, if the opposing forces are men of goodwill. And with such men, we spectators might observe an experiment underway: an experiment in the art of civil discourse.

Ah, the digital age. Social media have provided us with endless opportunities to interact and to disagree with one another. Too often, the exchanges deteriorate into mindless attacks authored by the inarticulate and socially maladroit. Now, it’s true that the particular Island residents that are the subject of this story have been regularly lambasting each other by name for their opinions, generally around climate change, in the Letters to the Editor and in the Comment sections of The Times this year.

However, these men are informed, articulate, socially aware, and as it turns out, men of goodwill. Several weeks ago, Mr. Keller explained in a letter to the editor what happened recently, after an online exchange:

“I let him know [in an online comment] that I appreciated that he cared enough to voice his opinion, while I contemplated how to shred his arguments. At his suggestion, we met for coffee one morning. We had a wide-ranging conversation for two hours about our backgrounds, beliefs, biases, and opinions. I came away from that encounter with a real appreciation for the man and his convictions.

“But thinking about the bigger picture, I realize that it is not about who is right or wrong, it is about how we treat each other. We will always have differences of opinion, as we all see reality through our individual filters. The debates will continue. Good, intelligent, and honest  men and women will disagree. What is important is to listen — to have some respect and some courtesy. That’s what really makes a society a pleasant place to live….”

Recently, The Times sat down with both men at the Black Dog Cafe to record the dynamic and, you know, maybe capture some fireworks.

The fireworks looked initially promising, judging by appearances and background. Mr. Engelman, 70, is a squared-away, conservative guy. He was raised in post-World War II Latvia under the Soviet system before his family hopscotched its way to the US of A, via Germany and an Australian refugee camp, just in time for 14-year-old Andrew to begin high school. Mr. Engelman became a U.S. citizen at age 19.

Retired from a career with multinational chemical companies, he is now chairman of a Christian ministry and splits his free time between the Island and Florida. Mr. Keller, on the other hand, is a refugee from Exit 3 on the New Jersey Turnpike. He said he arrived on the Vineyard in 1986 to ride his bike and “to have happy thoughts.” Now 62, he operates a small construction company in Vineyard Haven.

We asked them some questions about their views on the world and their relationship. Their answers were incisive, included brightly colored good-natured jibes, and were marked with respect. No fireworks.

MVT: Describe your feelings about each other before you met.

Mr. Engelman: All I had to go on were his thoughts. I didn’t know his heart. Today I see a person who has a good heart and a liberal, therefore wrong, view.

Mr. Keller: My view was that Andrew was a right-wing radical — uncompromising — but who cared enough to write, to put himself out there in liberal Island la-la land. It’s easy to see why conservatives see liberals as people who think protecting the dunes at Lambert’s Cove beach is the major [environmental] problem. I can see his viewpoint there.

MVT: Did you have concerns or trepidation about meeting each other?

Mr. Engelman: None. I have strong convictions that I may be able to convince [him] about. Maybe I’ll learn. We are informed by life experiences. [Ours] are different, and I’ve learned about his temperament, his heart.

Mr. Keller: No. I’m not a fearful person.

MVT: What is your relationship like now?

Mr. Engelman: I’m very comfortable sitting here next to him, because he embodies lots of friendly things; smart, straightforward, a sense of humor. Just because you’re a liberal doesn’t mean you aren’t a nice guy. We don’t engage in ad hominem attacks.

Mr. Keller: I respect people who are not apathetic. I want to make a difference.

MVT: What has changed?

Mr. Keller: You know, I met someone with a different opinion who has invigorated my life. We all have an innate desire to do good.

Mr. Engelman: I am grateful Don and I got together. Don has shown a predisposition to talk through things, not rejecting me as a nut. Fact is, he’s the first guy in nine years who’s tried to have a chat. That’s a credit to him that he allows people to express why they believe certain things.

MVT: What are your commonalities?

Mr. Keller: We don’t really know, because we were anonymous to each other before.

Mr. Engelman: Hostility is in the eye of the beholder.

The two men agree on more issues than would be readily apparent. They share a concern for a decline in American society. Mr. Engelman attributes that to “too many people in the cart and not enough people pulling the cart.” Mr. Keller is okay with the status of the cart, but sees a national political system riddled with arrogance for the electorate.

And they agree that an underinformed and ill-informed populace is not making our societal life easier. “Samuel Johnson [the 18th century English writer] said that most ideas are not propagated by reason but are caught by contagion,” Mr. Engelman said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Mr. Engelman is 72 and chairman of a worldwide Christian ministry. He is 70 and is the former chairman of FOCUS, an Island based national Christian Ministry. The story also mischaracterized Mr. Keller’s original decision to move to the Vineyard.

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Locally crafted gifts, like SoFree Aromatics, pictured here in 2013, can be found at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Show. —Photo by Susan Safford

With lights already strung, Christmas commercials on TV, and holiday songs in the air, it can only mean one thing: time to shop! And while those on the mainland may be lining up for sales at big box stores and fighting the crowds in shopping malls, Vineyarders can enjoy a much more laid-back holiday shopping experience. The kick off to the shopping season on Island includes lots of options for checking out flea markets, pop-up shops, and crafts fairs. While shopping for unique gifts you can also help support local businesses, nonprofits, and  Vineyard artists and artisans.

This weekend

Friday, November 21, marks the opening of the annual Holiday Gift Show at the Featherstone Center for the Arts. The preview party from 6 to 8 pm will feature sweet treats and a chance to meet many of the participants. Over 60 artists and craftspeople — a record number — have contributed items this year, including artwork, cards, calendars, ornaments, jewelry, pottery, scarves, fleece wear, and handmade chocolates. The show continues on a daily basis from 12 noon to 4 pm until December 21. Proceeds from the sale are split between the artists and Featherstone.

Every Christmas season, the United Methodist Church in the Campground hosts a Holiday Fair featuring food and shopping. On Saturday, November 22, the parish house will be transformed with vendors selling flea market finds, hand knits, homemade ornaments and other craft items, baked goods, and lots of second-hand jewelry while the cafe sells hot dogs, clam chowder, meatball subs and more. It’s a festive event that helps set the holiday mood. Vendor space is still available. Call the Church Office at 508-693-4424 for information. Fair open from 9 am to 2 pm.

The American Legion will also host their annual Thanksgiving Christmas Bazaar on Saturday. Along with lots of white elephant finds and baked goods, shoppers can purchase raffle tickets for some great mixed packages of goods, or try their luck with the country store mini-raffle items. Open from 10 am to 1 pm at the American Legion Hall, Vineyard Haven.

On Saturday afternoon, an informal group of moms and kids will be hosting a benefit for Heifer International, which aims to eradicate world hunger and poverty by donating livestock to impoverished families to provide food, income, and sustainable resources for other village families. At down-Island Cronigs, 3–6 pm, the kids will be selling their crafts while the moms will offer baked goods. Of the joint effort, organizer Emily Solarazza of Vineyard Haven says, “It’s a way for the kids to be involved. It really helps make it more understandable.”

The Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop will open its doors on Saturday, November 22, on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven. Among the items made by local artists and artisans, the store will carry ornaments, jewelry, handbags, ceramics, preserves, dog biscuits, candles, skin care products, wreaths, metalwork, and much more. Open every day through Christmas Eve from 10 am to 6 pm.

On Sunday November 23, the M.V. Hebrew Center will host their second annual Artist Holiday Sale. A number of Vineyard artists and artisans will participate, selling jewelry, ceramics, glass, soaps, leatherware, handbags, photography, art, herbal treatments and flavored oils. It’s a great opportunity to get a sneak peek at what various Vineyard artisans are offering for holiday gift giving. Open from 11 am to 3 pm at the Hebrew Center in Vineyard Haven.

Thanksgiving weekend

On Friday, November 28, the seasonal Oak Bluffs Open Market will move indoors to the roomy Dreamland space above Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company. Multiple vendors will offer everything from jewelry, wampum, pottery and other handcrafts to antiques and artwork. The summer market is a combination of flea and farmer’s market and the indoor version will also include vendors selling local honey, baked goods, and homemade chocolates. There will be a raffle, live music, and refreshments for sale. Call 508-939-1076 to find out about vendor space.

If you didn’t get a chance to visit the Vineyard Artisans Festival over the summer, this weekend (Friday and Saturday, Nov. 28 and 29) is your chance. Every year dozens of the Festival’s artists and artisans relocate from the Grange Hall to the spacious Ag Hall to offer their wares. The selection reflects the variety of artistic pursuits engaged in on the Island. Among the unique gift items to be found are jewelry, pottery, clothing, handmade soaps, Island lavender, wooden, metal and glass items, along with paintings and photography. The participants have had the time to create new works since the last summer event and many offer Christmas ornaments or other holiday items. You can easily spend an afternoon browsing and getting to know some of the Island’s talented artists. There’s a playground out back to keep the kids occupied while you shop. $2 parking fee benefits a scholarship fund for MVRHS students. Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm.

More from Island artists can be found at a pop-up shop featuring the work of painter Colin Ruel and jeweler Nettie Kent. They will be showing Mr. Ruel’s beautiful landscapes and abstract works along with Ms. Kent’s unique pieces made from brass, gold, leather and stones at the Harbor Craft Shop next to the Bite at 31 Basin Road, Menemsha. Open Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon to 5 pm.

The Antiques Show and Sale will hold its last event of the year Thanksgiving weekend at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. Find unique gifts among the many vendors including those specializing in vintage jewelry, antique tools, maritime collectibles, linens, old books, cottage and Danish Modern furniture, Vineyard memorabilia, artwork, and much more. Friday and Saturday 9-3.