Towns Begin Community Development Planning
Under state grants of $30,000 each, the six Island towns will begin to prepare individual community development (CD) plans to be filed with the Massachusetts Community Development Planning Program in June 2004.
The terms of the grants, awarded in April, require that CD plans consider open space and resource protection, housing (including affordable housing), and economic development. A fourth requirement, transportation, was waived for the Island because of the recent updating of the regional transportation plan.
Acting as a consultant to each town, the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC), which prepared the applications for the six grants, will assist the towns by providing Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping and other data. The MVC will also develop the methodology, coordinate each town's planning process, and facilitate communication among towns as the planning progresses. For these services, the $30,000 awarded to each town will be paid to the MVC as consulting fees. Although the MVC will provide the bulk of the information and the methodology, overall coordinator Bill Veno stressed to The Times that each plan is the responsibility of each town, and should reflect the town's priorities for land use, not the MVC's.
At a meeting with the West Tisbury selectmen on Nov. 5, attended by about 40 members of other town boards, Mr. Veno and MVC director Mark London outlined the plan and encouraged residents to volunteer to be on the steering committee for the project. More than a dozen people indicated a willingness to serve, including all three West Tisbury selectmen. The grant requires that the steering committee seek additional public input.
The MVC has also met with Oak Bluffs and Aquinnah and was scheduled to meet with Chilmark last night. The meeting in Edgartown is not scheduled until Dec. 9, but Edgartown has already named a steering committee. A meeting in Tisbury remains to be scheduled.
At the West Tisbury meeting, MVC technician Chris Seidel demonstrated the GIS mapping of conservation lands, developed lands, projected build-out, and zoning information. Mr. London explained that some of the mapping is based on information from as long ago as 1999 and 2000, and one of the first tasks for each town will be to update the maps from current data. In towns where the assessors' maps are compatibly computerized, the task will be quickly done. This is not the case in West Tisbury, however, and updating the MVC maps will be time-consuming.
The towns have less than eight months to complete their CD plans. The MVC's schedule calls for data collection and mapping to be completed by the first of the year. In that time, the steering committees are also supposed to determine criteria for land use and establish preliminary goals and objectives. In the following six months, towns are to identify and analyze alternatives, select alternatives, and develop strategies and plans, so that the final report may be filed with the state Community Development Planning Program.