Op-Ed

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Although last winter was particularly severe both in its cold and snow cover, many Vineyarders complained early this summer that there were more ticks than ever. This is intriguing because the proliferation of these pests in earlier years was often ascribed to relatively mild winters. There may be other examples of such dubious assumptions, which have led to flawed proposals for controlling ticks.

The apparent contradiction of received wisdom about the arachnids reminded me of a campaign last year to reduce their number by slashing the Vineyard’s deer population (MV Times,  Aug. 29, 2013, “Sam Telford from Tufts talks tough on ticks”; Vineyard Gazette, Jan. 31, 2013). Although the main advocate for drastically reducing or extirpating deer, Sam Telford, has made a strong argument for re-approving the vaccine against the disease, which became yet another victim of our litigious culture when it was withdrawn from the market after lawsuits, my experience suggests that his direct linkage between the number of deer and cases of Lyme disease is weaker, and is based on a failure to compare different eco-systems.

Here’s the current doctrine: the main vector for Lyme disease is deer ticks — that much is certainly true — as Mr. Telford says, up to 94 percent of female ticks have fed on deer. This is where I become suspicious for a couple of reasons. First, because of the words “up to,” which indicate that there is a range. The second is because the specific numbers of both ticks and deer in such diverse environments as wetland forests and grasslands, and most importantly the ratio between them, is essential to understanding the true significance of any numbers, and the factors behind them. Ninety-four percent of 100 ticks per acre with two deer would be utterly different, to take an extreme example, in its impact on humans, than 94 percent of 10,000 ticks per acre with one deer.

My reasons for suspecting that Mr. Telford’s conclusions are based on an incomplete analysis are founded on decades of life outdoors on the Vineyard. Here’s what I’ve noticed. When my family and I walk along mown paths in oak forests between Menemsha and the Brickyard in June and July, we almost invariably pick up a few deer ticks, despite the fact that we can see for considerable distances under the trees, and deer are usually absent or sparse. But after 20 years and tens of thousands of hours of yard work and thrashing through brush in a sassafras, beech, maple and tupelo (Beetlebung) forest in Aquinnah during the same months, we have yet to pick up a single tick, although deer are visible all day long in an area with far more places to hide.

Mr. Telford might be tempted to respond that these observations are just the anecdotal experiences of one man and his family, but I’d suggest that the difference has been too great and consistent over decades to be easily dismissed. It would be wiser to find the reasons behind the observations than to dismiss them. Here’s my hypothesis.

The abundance of deer and near absence of ticks in Aquinnah’s lush wetland forest, and abundance of ticks despite a lower number of deer in Chilmark’s dry oak forest suggest that the differences go deeper than the relationship between deer and their parasites. In fact, it suggests that it has something to do with the types of forest. One of the chief differences between them is that oak forests produce more starch in the form of acorns that squirrels can hoard, leaving plenty for other rodents such as white-footed mice, which serve as the hosts for immature deer ticks. The mice are a crucial carrier of the ticks, which thrive, even when there aren’t many deer, if the rodents are plentiful.

The evidence from our forest in Aquinnah also suggests that the contrary is true — that the ticks nearly disappear when there are plenty of deer, but few mice. This difference has been so flagrant in my experience that I think the common term for Ixodes scapularis, “deer tick”, is a misnomer, which misdirects attention towards the wrong animal, just because it is a bigger and more obvious target. The ticks should probably be renamed the “white-footed mouse tick,” “oak tick,” or “acorn tick.”

This brings me to the question of good versus bad solutions. Mr. Telford “makes no bones that his primary short-term objective is to significantly reduce the deer population on the Island” by killing them. Perhaps he should watch a TED talk by Alan Savory in which Mr. Savory says that his greatest regret is that he told African governments to cull ten of thousands of elephants in order to manage their reserves, causing the extermination of 40,000 elephants, although his analysis turned out to be backwards.

There are two better ways to reduce the number of Ixodes scapularis on the Island than unleashing a shooting-fest, one of which is so well-known that I was surprised that Mr. Telford did not mention it. It involves the use of tickicide-treated rollers at passive feeding stations for white-tailed deer. According to Cornell University, study after study (Carroll et al 2002, Pound et al 2000, Pound et al 2000b, Solberg et al 2003) has shown large reductions in tick populations following the use of such devices.

Another entirely compatible solution would be to favor vegetation that does not produce surplus starch for mice. I imagine that this solution would be preferable to people who would rather see a few trees removed from their views, than the disappearance of deer, which provide the countryside with much of its charm.

If I were a hunter, and I am indirectly, in the sense that I have allowed specific hunters to hunt on my land, I would also be opposed to Mr. Telford’s plan, since it would result in the rapid reduction of the very deer hunters enjoy stalking. It might be fun at first, but would end up destroying a pastime that many people enjoy.

One thing I agree on with Mr. Telford is that the problem of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases is huge and must be addressed. The question is simply, how? The answer is probably to attack the problem in several ways at once. One way is to continue encouraging sustainable hunting, since it plays a positive role in maintaining the Island’s ecological balance. Another way that should be implemented simultaneously is to install feeding stations or salt licks with tickicide-treated rollers in oak forests and other infested environments. A third one is to favor vegetation that does not encourage the proliferation of mice and their ticks. The fourth way, which Mr. Telford and I agree on whole-heartedly, is to push for the re-approval or improvement of the vaccine.

In the meantime, we should be wary of listening to any calls to manage nature through destructive intervention or violence, since such approaches have caused enormous unintended consequences in the past.

Duncan Caldwell is a Fellow at theMarine and Paleobiological Research Institute of Vineyard Haven and a Lecturer in prehistory, Doctoral module, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

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This winter found many of us trying to get inside from the cold, where the comforts of modern life awaited — warmth, lights, electronics, appliances, and a hot meal.

You may not have realized it, but the infrastructure that delivers energy to us, upon which all these comforts depend, was under great stress.

Massachusetts does not produce coal, oil or natural gas. We are at the end of the energy pipeline for all those fuels.  Over the past 30 years our region has shifted more of our energy use away from coal and oil toward natural gas.

Yet our demand for gas, both in the heating and electric sectors, has been increasing much faster than the supply of gas that pipelines deliver us. During this cold winter, we saw spot market prices for natural gas and electricity rise significantly. This not only made electricity generated by gas more expensive, it also meant that as the heating sector used more gas there was less available for power plants. There were times in this past, brutally cold January when our region’s electric grid manager, ISO-New England, needed to run old, inefficient and dirty “peaker” power units just to keep the lights on.

These cold periods that stress our energy infrastructure also tend to be quite windy. We have all seen the meteorologists on TV telling us about the “wind chill effect,” and winter is our windiest season. Massachusetts is not at the end of the wind pipeline. In elevated locations, along the shore and particularly offshore, we have our own vast supply of clean wind energy waiting to be tapped.

Over the past 13 years, our company has been developing America’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind, on Horseshoe Shoal. During that time Cape Wind would have provided significant energy, economic, and environmental benefits to Massachusetts and beyond.

During a severe three-day cold snap in January, 2004, ISO New England contemplated the need for rolling blackouts because of the shortage of natural gas for electricity generation.  The U.S. Department of Energy studied the region’s energy vulnerability and noted that during the entire three-day period winds over Nantucket Sound were strong and, had it been built, Cape Wind would have been operating at full capacity during most of that period and provided significant electric reliability benefits.

This past winter, Cape Wind would have eased the stress on the natural gas and electric spot markets and reduced price spikes. Had Cape Wind been operating, National Grid and NSTAR would have also saved millions of dollars this winter under their contracts with us compared with relying upon spot markets. Over time, Cape Wind’s impact in reducing electricity spot market prices will be significant, more than $7 billion over the life of the project, according to a study by Charles River Associates. Wind power consistently reduces electric spot market prices wherever it has already been installed on a significant scale, such as in Europe or in parts of the U.S.

Offshore wind is also particularly valuable during a less windy season, summer. One might think of the “dog days of August” when temperatures are high but winds are calm. Yet offshore, it’s a different story, where the sea breeze kicks in during hot summer afternoons. In fact, we have found that during the highest summer electric demand hours, Cape Wind would double its average hourly electric production.

There is a lot of interest in the direct bill impacts for electricity consumers from Cape Wind.  The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (MDPU) carried out lengthy adjudicatory proceedings and heard from energy experts and project supporters and opponents alike. The MDPU concluded that Massachusetts residential and business electric consumers will see an increase in the range of one to two percent on their monthly electric bills attributable to National Grid and NSTAR’s power purchase from Cape Wind. As with every other energy technology, the cost of harnessing offshore wind will fall as it is further built out and greater economies of scale are achieved.

Those who scoff at the energy contribution that offshore wind can play ignore key facts.  Denmark today gets 30 percent of its total electricity needs met by a combination of onshore and offshore wind power. Although Cape Wind’s electricity will be sold to electric consumers statewide, Cape Wind’s electricity supply will be consumed almost entirely on the Cape and Islands. Cape Wind’s turbines will produce power 88 percent of the time, and in average wind conditions will supply 75 percent of the average electricity demand of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

It has been a long road for Cape Wind, but we are now in our financing stage and preparing for project construction. Right now Europe is successfully operating 64 offshore wind farms that were built over the past 23 years, creating 58,000 offshore wind jobs in the process.  Massachusetts has some of the best offshore wind resources in the world and will soon have North America’s first offshore wind farm. Cape Wind will provide greater energy independence and electric reliability while also creating good jobs and contributing to a healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable energy future.

Mark Rodgers is the communications director of Cape Wind, based in Boston.

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After some of my concerns about “medical marijuana” dispensaries were published in last week’s Martha’s Vineyard Times [Island health care professionals not sold on medical marijuana, November 21], I got a call from a friend who has been successfully battling cancer. She told me that “marijuana tea and candy are the only things that helped my appetite. My weight had gone down to 98 pounds. I am now 112 pounds. And it let me sleep. I don’t think that I would be alive today without it.” I am glad my friend found relief.

Marijuana may be useful in alleviating the symptoms of a variety of medical illnesses and syndromes, including chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and cancer. It can enhance appetite, induce sleep, and be pleasurable. Criminalization of marijuana use has been costly and destructive to society. Nonetheless, it is hard for me to see how making “medical marijuana” available through the dispensaries that may soon open on Martha’s Vineyard is a safe or wise route for us to follow. Here are my concerns:

There are no long-term studies of the use of medical marijuana and few studies of its therapeutic effect. Medical marijuana’s risks versus its benefits are entirely unclear.

Marijuana is associated with a variety of medical problems, including respiratory disease, decreased coordination, decreased ability to learn, decreased short-term memory, increased anxiety, paranoia, and dependence. One out of 10 users and half of daily users will become addicted. Withdrawal is associated with anxiety, irritability, anger, insomnia, and depression. Most of these symptoms are the very reasons why many recreational marijuana users end up pursuing “medical marijuana.” To what extent is it being prescribed simply to prevent withdrawal? The three most common reasons for the prescription of marijuana are musculoskeletal pain (30 percent), insomnia (15.5 percent) and anxiety (13 percent).

Young people are at particular risk of becoming dependent. I have seen countless people in my practice who started using marijuana as adolescents and went on to become addicted to other drugs, developed chronic psychiatric illnesses, and appeared to have plummeting academic and social function related to marijuana use. Does anyone really believe that “medical marijuana” won’t increase access to people who don’t truly need it for medical reasons? And that it won’t be shared, sometimes with teens and even pre-teens? Beside other risks, marijuana is a “gateway drug.”

Marijuana use is associated with the onset of chronic psychotic disorders. In a study of 45,000 Swedes over the course of 15 years, individuals who had used marijuana by the age of 18 were six times as likely to develop schizophrenia. An analysis of seven cohort studies revealed a 40 percent increased risk in those who had used marijuana and as much as a 200 percent increase in very frequent users. Over the course of my career, I have seen many people who developed a new onset, primary psychotic disorder. Most of them had developed these symptoms after heavy marijuana use.

I have already seen individuals in my practice who are addicted to opiates and other substances who have obtained prescriptions for “medical marijuana.” To what extent will “medical marijuana” legitimize marijuana use for addicts, individuals with psychiatric illnesses, teens, and other at-risk populations?

The people who will be prescribing “medical marijuana” will be physicians who are asked to do little more than take a two-hour online certification course. Who will these doctors be? No doubt some will be experts in treating specific syndromes for which marijuana will be useful. Will the doctors who prescribe really be experts in evaluating addiction risk as well as all of the medical and psychiatric conditions that marijuana can impact? Will they closely follow patients for the risk of side effects? Will they be responsible for the driving accidents that will occur under the influence or for the people who will become dependent or for their patients who will develop psychiatric disorders as a result?

Marijuana is a complicated substance, which contains more than 400 chemicals that contribute to its effects. Content will vary from variety to variety and from dispensary to dispensary. Today’s marijuana has six to 20 times more tetrahydrocanabinol (THC) — the chemical in marijuana most closely associated with its effects — than marijuana in the 1960s. There are medications such as Marinol, which is essentially synthetic THC, which offer much of the medical benefit of marijuana. Why not use purer, safer, standardized, better-studied substances that are dispensed in pharmacies to obtain the same medical benefits?

Dr. Charles H. Silberstein, a psychiatrist, practices at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

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Intended to reduce the visual impact of the Vineyard Haven based Stop & Shop, architect Chuck Sullivan has reduced the second floor sales area by 250 square feet, as well as moved the facade 15 feet back on the Water Street side.

For many years, Stop & Shop has been a local employer and member of the Martha’s Vineyard community. We have worked diligently to provide quality products and friendly customer service at our Edgartown and Tisbury stores and to support the Vineyard community and its schools.

As Stop & Shop prepares to celebrate its 100th year in business, we look forward to continued contributions to Vineyard schools and community needs. We value our partnership with Martha’s Vineyard, and in past years, we have donated generously to the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club, the Tisbury Fire Department, Tisbury Ambulance Services, various Vineyard church and Island food pantries, the Martha’s Vineyard Red Cross, the Martha’s Vineyard Red Stocking Fund, and other Island causes.

Our Tisbury store, once an A&P, has been an ongoing challenge for us in terms of its limited size and capacity to properly serve our customers, with its narrow aisles, crowded shelf space, limited fresh products, and inadequate parking. In addition, our rundown, deteriorated buildings along Water Street leave a poor first impression of Martha’s Vineyard, and they will only decline further in time.

I know firsthand of these challenges. Years ago, I lived on the Vineyard while managing both the Tisbury and Edgartown A&P. I continue to be deeply impressed with the Vineyard’s natural beauty and with the integrity, character, and independence of its residents. Stop & Shop respects these values and is committed to operating stores in Tisbury and Edgartown that reflect the local Vineyard culture.

With this in mind, we came to the decision that a new Stop & Shop store was needed in Tisbury — one that could offer a wider selection of products, improved displays and more modern amenities, such as wider aisles, and more parking. We have proposed a new store that will be an asset to Tisbury in offering an improved shopping experience year-round and a design in keeping with Tisbury’s historic character at the gateway to the Vineyard.

We also will be creating new jobs. Stop & Shop today is one of Martha’s Vineyard’s largest employers. Our new Tisbury store, as proposed, will add 64 full-time and part-time Island jobs in season — 43 of which will be year-round.

Working closely with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and after listening carefully to the public, we have made numerous improvements to our proposal. The commission and the public have made this a better plan, and we are thankful for that. The revised design gives the look of several smaller stores and includes a deck for shoppers, overlooking the harbor.

Stop & Shop will continue to do all it can to provide Tisbury with the best shopping experience possible, and we are hopeful the Martha’s Vineyard Commission will approve our revised proposal that we believe is in the best interest of everyone.

Joe Kelley is president of Stop & Shop New England.

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“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” as the saying goes, really captures the essence of what is about to happen to WMVY, the Island’s radio station. The voices that we all have become so familiar with and the people behind those voices that we have come to rely on for a multitude of reasons, all of which are important to our daily lives in one way or another, are about to be silenced.

When I was contacted last week by Barbara Dacey, a longtime friend and employee of WMVY, and more importantly a well-known on-air personality and community supporter, to share the news of WMVY’s fate, I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it and, as you will no doubt see, am still struggling with the consequences of the decision to take WMVY off the air.

How could this jewel of a community radio station, the soundtrack of our lives on the Vineyard for almost 30 years, be losing its all-too-familiar 92.7 frequency?

During all of those years, WMVY has remained one of the many very special parts of my life on the Vineyard. In the early 1980s, when WMVY first “hit the airwaves” as an automated station, I was working for Mark Lender Goldsmith. The station was new and trying to find its identity and routinely had glitches, most notably dead air. Mark, with his dry sense of humor, wanted the station to run an ad which stated, “When you hear dead air — remember Mark Lender Goldsmith.”

In spite of those occasional mishaps in the early days, Vineyarders continued to listen and support began to grow for this fledgling radio station. Today WMVY has become an integral part of Vineyard life and one that we cannot afford to lose.

I joined WMVY as a sales executive and later became its general manager. Getting involved in the early years was an exciting and rewarding experience for me personally and also for the many talented people that made WMVY a success through their hard work and dedication. They deserve our sincere gratitude for what they have accomplished and what they have added to our lives,

From the beginning, it was the goal of WMVY, its management, and staff to be a local resource for the Vineyard in very practical ways, and they have been true to their commitment. Where would we be without their public service announcements, local news and weather, and Steamship Authority reports. Ask yourself, how will this important information get communicated in the future? In addition, please don’t forget their longstanding support for our local nonprofits, including their sponsorship of events that have raised much needed funds or their making the station’s resources available for on air interviews so worthy causes may communicate their messages to the public. Covering local high school sports has allowed Vineyard families access to games that otherwise would have been missed.

The music format was introduced in the 1980s. It worked then and it continues to work today. WMVY’s personal approach to programing allowed the talented on air professionals to share their passions for a wide variety of music, old and new, reaching out to listeners of all age groups and musical tastes. Where else can you find a radio station that showcases local artists that we all know and enjoy?

Time is running out, and this may have been the last year that you could have tuned in to WMVY and listened to Arlo Guthrie sing Alice’s Restaurant at noon on Thanksgiving Day, a tradition that’s been around almost 30 years. WMVY’s management and staff are now attempting to stay alive as a nonprofit commercial-free Internet station, streaming daily to the thousands of listeners who tune in, while they continue to search for another FM frequency to serve the Vineyard.

In order to accomplish this goal, WMVY needs to raise $600,000, to fund their operations during this critical transition period. They have launched a campaign to raise funds to support their new mission and friendsofmvy.org is now accepting pledges, to be collected only if they reach their goal within the next eight to 10 weeks. Can it be accomplished in such a short period of time? I sincerely hope so, for it would be a significant loss to our Vineyard community if WMVY were silenced completely.

While WMVY has fulfilled the needs of a diverse listening audience for all these years, the one common element that I feel certain about is that its existence has become important to all of us. For me, it is difficult to imagine waking up each weekday morning without Laurel Redington’s voice, on Sunday mornings without Sunday Morning and All that Jazz, or on any morning without the local news and weather. What will you miss?

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I would like to thank Harvey J. Kennedy Jr. for his Letter to the Editor [SSA and the cost of living] that appeared in the November 8 edition of The Martha’s Vineyard Times, as it made me realize that the SSA needs to better inform the public about our vessel manning requirements. Mr. Kennedy believes that the SSA mans its vessels at twice the levels required by the Coast Guard, and he suggested that, instead of raising fares next year, we reduce our vessel crews by 25 percent, in order to eliminate our deficit.

The reality is that SSA does not man any of its vessels at twice the levels required by the Coast Guard, although I understand why it might seem like our vessels might have extra crew members when so many are visible while customers are driving their cars onto and off of the ferries. But our manning levels are not just for when our boats are tied up at the dock, but also when they are underway with a full load of passengers and vehicles in adverse weather conditions. The Coast Guard’s minimum manning levels are established to ensure that there are a sufficient number of licensed officers and crewmembers on board for the vessels’ safe operation after consideration of all factors involved, including emergency situations.

For the M/V Martha’s Vineyard, for example, the Coast Guard has determined that, in addition to the Master and the Pilot/Mate, the minimum crew must consist of four Able Seamen, two Ordinary Seamen, a Chief Engineer and an Oiler. The SSA historically has assigned two more Able Seamen, one as a Purser and the other as a Boatswain, to act as customer service representatives, collect tickets and supervise the loading and unloading of customers’ vehicles.

These additional crewmembers are the result of decisions made by the SSA over the years about the level of customer service we provide to our passengers. In the past, they also have been required by our union contracts, which for decades have contained minimum manning scales above and beyond what the Coast Guard has required.

Earlier this year, the most recent union contract containing those minimum manning scales expired. As a result, the SSA is now free to determine on its own what the manning levels should be on its boats, subject to Coast Guard requirements and certain bargaining obligations with the union. While Mr. Kennedy’s suggestion that we cut the number of crewmembers by 25 percent is unrealistically drastic, we agree with him generally that the SSA’s manning levels must be carefully examined and in some cases changed in order to relieve the constant economic pressures faced by Island residents.

This change in culture is already underway. This past summer, the SSA decided not to assign any Chief Cooks, additional engine room personnel or additional Ordinary Seamen to the M/V Martha’s Vineyard (or any of our three other large passenger ferries), even though those positions would have been required under the minimum manning scales in the expired union contract. The union that represents our unlicensed vessel employees has filed a charge against the SSA with the state Department of Labor Relations about those manning changes, but regardless of the outcome of those proceedings we remain committed to being vigilant and prudent in our efforts to continually address manning issues without jeopardizing safety.

Finally, we are very aware of the high cost of living on the Islands and the effect our fares have on people’s daily lives, especially during these difficult economic times. The fare increases we are implementing for 2013 are projected to increase revenues on the Martha’s Vineyard route by only one percent. Even with these fare increases, in the five years since 2008 our fares on this route will have increased by less than one percent per year for Island residents traveling on excursion rates and not at all for freight trucks delivering the necessities of life. We are proud that we have avoided larger fare increases by implementing a number of operational efficiencies over the years (including our limited manning reductions this past summer) that have offset rising health care costs and other expenses. At the same time, however, we recognize and embrace the challenge of always finding more ways to ensure that the Islands have a safe, convenient, efficient, and economical lifeline to the mainland.

Wayne Lamson is the general manager of the Steamship Authority.

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Editor’s Note: This Essay was revised and updated by the writers, as of 5:30 pm, October 28, 2012.

Every two years, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission reviews its Standards and Criteria for Developments of Regional Impact — commonly referred to as the DRI Checklist. This is the list of thresholds that delineate which development applications towns must refer to the MVC for possible DRI review prior to towns approving or denying the applications. Last week, the MVC released its proposed revisions to the current Checklist and invites public comment before adopting the changes.

These proposals come out of an in-depth review of the Checklist that started last year. The goals were to deal with issues that have come up since adoption of the current Checklist, to respond to public suggestions, to improve clarity, and to better align the Checklist with recommendations of the Island Plan by increasing protection of significant resources while easing referral thresholds for development proposals without significant regional impacts.

The process started with a series of public meetings held by the Land Use Planning Committee (LUPC) in 2011 at which town boards and members of the public proposed changes to the Checklist. In 2012, the LUPC held a series of meetings to discuss possible changes which has culminated in its recommending the draft revisions to the DRI Checklist.

One suggestion made by the West Tisbury Planning Board, the Vineyard Conservation Society, and a few individuals at last year’s public meetings was that the Commission review very large houses. It was argued that such houses could have significant regional impacts with regard to issues such as community character and habitat disruption, and that these proposals are often beyond the purview of town board control. Others argued that these issues are best handled at the town level. The LUPC has recommended that the MVC not include a mandatory threshold for large residential buildings at this time. However, the LUPC recommends that the Commission indicate to town boards that it is receptive to reviewing discretionary referrals for large house proposals, if a town seeks MVC assistance, as the Commission has done on a few occasions in the past.

Another issue the LUPC dealt with was how to address the Edgartown and Oak Bluffs planning boards’ suggestion that the Commission relax the threshold for commercial development in business areas. This has to be balanced against the fact that the Commonwealth mandated the MVC — with its Island-wide representation and professional staff — as the entity responsible for ensuring that regional values on the Island are protected from inappropriate development. The proposed Checklist revisions include a provision to relax the threshold for commercial development in down-Island business districts from 2,000 to 3,000 square feet, provided the town has adopted a plan and standards that deals with all regional issues, and provided the town has a special permit process to review development applications in such areas. The MVC will offer technical assistance to the towns to help prepare these plans.

The proposed modifications to the DRI Checklist include a number of changes and clarifications that would make clear that certain proposals would no longer have to be referred to the MVC. For example, it proposes that only developments proposing to subdivide or develop areas of significant wildlife habitat of more than 2 acres or 20 percent of the property would have to be referred, rather than all proposed development. Also, the proposed modifications limit the types of “change of use” or “increase in intensity of use” that need to be referred.

The proposal also includes some modifications to thresholds aimed at better protecting resources of regional significance, such as calling for referral of subdivisions of six or more parcels in rural areas, and of developments in Critical Resource Protection Areas identified in the Island Plan. Most of these provisions are “with MVC concurrence,” meaning that the Commission would carry out a preliminary review of the proposal to establish whether it was likely to have regional impacts, before determining that it needed DRI review. It adds thresholds for wind turbines, as recommended in the recently adopted Wind Energy Plan, as well as for large arrays of solar panels.

The draft changes including a summary can be downloaded from the MVC website. The Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes on November 8 and welcomes public comment until November 15. Then, the Commission will make revisions as necessary and adopt the revised Checklist before the end of the year. The adopted changes to the DRI Checklist go into effect after they have been approved by the Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

These revisions to the DRI Checklist should allow better protection of the those aspects of Vineyard’s character and environment that have regional significance while easing the permitting process for projects with little or no regional impact.

Chris Murphy is chairman of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and Doug Sederholm is chairman of the commission’s land use planning committee.

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At town meeting on April 10, and again at the polls on April 12, West Tisbury voters will be asked to fund 25 percent of the cost of renovating and expanding the West Tisbury Free Public Library. The project itself carries a price tag of $6,055,308, and the town’s share will be $1.5 million. The rest of the funding, more than $4.5 million, will come from private donations and from a Massachusetts Public Library Construction Grant. This remaining money has already been secured.

The need for more space is old news. Demand for library services has shown steady upward growth for a decade and a half. The number of cardholders increased more than 1,000 percent from 1997 through 2011. Among all the Island’s town libraries, West Tisbury has the highest circulation and the largest collection, but the second smallest facility. It is larger only than Aquinnah’s.

Shelf space at the existing library is stretched beyond its limits. To add one item, librarians must weed one item. On any given summer day, as many as 1,500 visitors of all ages share just two restrooms. Many parts of the library no longer comply with state building codes. A recent town assessment found that, regardless of this project, the current building soon will need approximately $296,000 in upgrades and repairs.

We’ve been discussing library expansion for many years. Back in 2007, the space needs committee report confirmed what many librarians already knew from hard personal experience. The West Tisbury Library building is far too small. The report recommended that the library be doubled in size to meet community needs for the next 20 years.

The new plans, whose preliminary design work was funded by the Friends of the West Tisbury Library at no cost to the town, expand the current 5,640 square foot building to approximately 13,000 square feet. Most of that space comes from adding basic features that the present library lacks — a community program room, a young adult area, study and meeting rooms, a director’s office, staff work space, and adequate restrooms.

Whenever a large town construction project comes to a vote, there are inevitably many details about the design and the process that cannot be covered in a brief discussion. For this reason, we’ve been making presentations and gathering public input through surveys and focus groups for the past five years. We’ve held televised public forums almost every month since April of 2010. Island newspapers have published the latest drawings, which were also mailed to each voter and are posted on the library’s website and displayed prominently at the library. Community response has been positive and encouraging.

Hundreds of West Tisbury residents and library users have donated time, energy and money to make this project a reality. Article 14 at town meeting and Question One on the ballot represent the culmination of all this work. Here is a rare and hard-won opportunity to finally achieve something our town has needed for a long time, and both questions must be approved in order for the project to go forward. I hope voters will give us a resounding yes.

Dan Waters has been a West Tisbury library trustee since 2007.

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This paper has actively covered the cable license renewal negotiations between Comcast and the towns on Martha’s Vineyard since those discussions started in early 2011, including the request of a small number of citizens to bring Comcast services to the island of Chappaquiddick, as a condition of a new agreement.

We should set forth a few facts to set the context. No one disputes that a $2 million investment is required to build out the island of Chappaquiddick. Similarly, there is agreement that there are only about 500 homes on the island, and we understand that fewer than 20 percent of those homes are occupied on a year-round basis.

We think most observers would agree that a $2 million capital investment for this buildout is financially questionable. Nevertheless, in view of the strong opinions expressed, Comcast’s latest offer to the board of selectmen does provide several options to the selectmen for a buildout of Chappaquiddick. These types of options are quite common, and we have successfully worked with other communities facing similar desires and challenges, enabling us to serve additional homes we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to connect to our network. So, at this point, it is essentially a matter of allocation of resources, and the decision whether to allocate the capital dollars available to a buildout of Chappaquiddick or to other pressing Island concerns is up to the selectmen.

Despite the disproportionate attention on Chappaquiddick, there are other important elements of the franchise agreement that positively impact all Islanders, including a generous financial package that includes franchise fees of approximately $5 million and half a million dollars in capital payments. Comcast remains committed to delivering on its strong and proven track record of product innovation and community support on Martha’s Vineyard. Our customers on Martha’s Vineyard are at the forefront of the latest technology and product innovations, contributing to what the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable has called “the highest concentration of broadband anywhere in the Commonwealth.”

As the franchise renewal negotiations continue, they will undoubtedly be the focus of additional discussions and media attention. We hope the above helps residents understand one of the topics being addressed, and reinforces Comcast’s deep commitment to serving and supporting Martha’s Vineyard.

Steve Hackley is senior vice president of Comcast’s Greater Boston Region.

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The roundabout application for the Blinker intersection in Oak Bluffs is not the first controversial issue the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) has faced in its existence, but it is surely a seminal one that could fix public attitudes, for better or worse, toward the regional planning agency for a long time to come.

When 13 of the 17 commissioners voted in a tie on October 6, on a motion to approve it, clearly the case to build the roundabout was not very strong. When commission chairman Chris Murphy then voted to break the tie in favor, citing only political reasons rather than the merits of the project itself, many Vineyarders realized something was drastically wrong. Not only with the project, but with the MVC’s approach.

On November 3, beginning at 8 pm, in its building on New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs, the MVC will consider a motion made by long-time commissioner Lenny Jason to rescind its vote to approve. Should the motion to rescind pass, and there is good and sufficient reason for that to happen, a collective sigh of relief would then be heard from Aquinnah to Edgartown and Tisbury. Here’s why.

While this ungainly, invasive and environmentally destructive suburban roundabout has some supporters, since its inception more than 3,000 people have signed petitions against it, including many from Oak Bluffs. The petitions were ignored, but judging from those who have approached me over the past weeks, at least another 3,000 would eagerly sign if given an opportunity. What I hear most often is the familiar, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I understand that new petitions are going to be circulating.

For some unknown reason, this overwhelming opposition seems to have been lost on the MVC. One has to wonder why? One commissioner, who voted in favor, told me before the vote that public opposition could not be factored into the MVC’s process and deliberations.

What?

Surely that can’t be true. If it is true, then the MVC has very serious problems with its process. Does the MVC really want to be seen, let alone behave, as yet another unaccountable and arrogant agency of government? That would be sad given the good work the commission has done to protect the Vineyard in the past.

Perhaps Vineyarders need to occupy the MVC and take it back.

Here are some other issues the MVC commissioners in favor should consider:

1) What the MVC approved is not the final plan. What was unfortunately approved is Mass. DOT’s 25 percent design concept. Does anyone really know what would actually be built, should it come to that? Does the MVC normally grant approval when the applicant has not yet presented a final plan? Does that make any sense?

2) What are the mechanisms to maintain local control of the project as it is redesigned and built? It is fairly obvious that the Golden Rule will apply, i.e., that the guy with the gold makes the rules. In this case it’s Mass. DOT that has the gold. Oak Bluffs has given DOT control of the project. Moreover, historically, the MVC has been weak when it comes to enforcement. What will be different this time? Let’s face it, we don’t know what we’re going to get and have to live with.

3) The diameter of a built roundabout is more than likely going to be larger than the 25 percent concept indicates. Regardless of what the state’s engineers claim, those who actually drive the huge trucks, not only Trip Barnes, are certain they cannot negotiate the roundabout under all circumstances in its current configuration. Kent Healy, a well-known and respected licensed civil engineer on the Island, has analyzed the existing plan and found that certain maneuvers by large trucks are restricted, which is what the truckers have been saying. So how much bigger will it get?

4) Safety is not a justification for this roundabout. Commissioner and hearing officer Douglas Sederholm has said that building this roundabout is really only about relieving traffic congestion. He voted for approval. Commissioner Brian Smith, citing published statistics about roundabouts, has challenged assertions made at the DRI hearing that roundabouts are safer than four-way stops. He called attention to evidence indicating the opposite, certainly when it comes to cyclists and pedestrians. He voted against approval. Indeed, the safety argument is extremely weak or, to be fair, contentious.

What is really disturbing, however, is that in approving this unneeded roundabout, the MVC seems to have forgotten its reason for existence: The overarching question for the MVC is simple: How is this roundabout an appropriate use of the land? So many Island residents believe it is inappropriate. Why is it that the public seems to have a stronger sense of what is right than the elected and appointed public agency that is entrusted with that responsibility?

Do what’s right. Vote to rescind.

Mr. Knabel is a West Tisbury selectman.