Editorial : Local wind
This page favors local planning and rule making, the more local the better.
This view is based on be-the-town-you-want-to-be, be-the-neighborhood-you-want-to-be principles. It leads to some folks choosing Edgartown to make their homes, some choosing Aquinnah, and so forth. The nature of one town, the accumulated decisions that have made it what it appears today to be, speaks to this person, but not to that one. Do the planning and rule making at the town level first. That's where leaders are mostly closely accountable to voters.
Acquiesce to rule making at the regional level, if we must. There are ways in which towns may benefit from strategic decisions made in company with other towns. That was the theory underlying the creation of the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC), which was a fallback for Islanders who were terrified by the proposed federal Nantucket Sound Islands Trust legislation.
The restraint envisioned by the drafters of the MVC legislation, and by the first members of the commission back in 1974, has been overtaken by a pestiferous flood of regional interventionism. Nearly every significant development today is deemed regional in impact, even if it's one house on one large lot. So nearly every development is subject to MVC review, even when no compelling case can be made that regional impacts are implicated at all. In fact, no one bothers to even make a case.
Recall, if you will, the Chilmark Girl Scout Camp expansion plan, which met all the town's requirements but was referred to the MVC by the town selectmen because they heard from neighbors who wanted a hearing on the project, to which they objected. This is not what the drafters or early members had in mind, but it is where we are.
Avoid at all costs planning and rule making at the state level. Town voters and taxpayers are at the greatest remove from leaders and decision makers when the state becomes involved. And the issues, all of which must be narrow to produce satisfying local results, get broadened to find that illusory common ground among vastly different interests. That's what is now underway at the state level. The Patrick administration is pressing to homogenize zoning and subdivision rules, so that they are common across the state's 351 cities and towns. The governor's friend and appointee Greg Bialecki, state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development is leading this charge, to which most towns and cities across the state are, thankfully, hostile.
And, we are now beset by state planning in the form of the Oceans Act, which is drafting rules to designate areas in inshore Vineyard and Dukes County waters for certain types of industrial development, including wind farms and mining enterprises. The rules will allow a regional planning agency, the MVC for instance, to review and comment on plans. The towns most acutely affected by such proposals will have limited roles. And the final say in each case will be the state's.
Onshore, as MVC director Mark London told Times reporter Janet Hefler, the state's Wind Energy Facility Siting Reform Act is a concern, for several reasons.
"One is the impact of utility-scale turbines - this is for wind facilities - which could be about three turbines of perhaps 300 to 350 feet in height," Mr. London said. "So if someone owned a property and wanted to put up three utility-scale turbines, they could apply to the town, but if the town denied their project, the developer could appeal to the Energy Facilities Siting Board, which could allow the project to go ahead even if it didn't meet the zoning and even if it didn't get approved by any local boards.
"You could have the equivalent of a 30- or 40-story building a few hundred feet away. They're coming up with standards that are going to allow fast-tracking of projects. It comes down a lot to local control."
Indeed it does.