Island Plan review inspires speechlessness
Members of the West Tisbury board of selectmen and town planning board held a joint meeting last week for a single purpose: to review and discuss the Martha's Vineyard Commission draft Island Plan. But after about 40 minutes, the town officials decided there was not much to talk about, at least on that night.
Five members of the planning board and two selectmen met Wednesday to discuss the 138-page document (plus appendices) that took the MVC more than three years to complete, at a cost to Island taxpayers of $120,000. Released in August, the Island Plan is intended to create a blueprint for development and change for the next 50 years.
The draft Island Plan (www.islandplan.org) includes a summary of recommendations on development and growth, the built environment, energy and waste, housing, livelihood and commerce, the natural environment, the social environment, transportation, and water resources.
Selectman Richard Knabel began the discussion by pointing out the divergent views of Islanders. "My thought on the plan from the beginning is that the outcomes were going to be fairly predictable," he said. "It all comes down to implementation and how does that proceed...it will require cooperation between the towns, and the Island does not often speak with one voice."
Early in the discussion members of the planning board discovered that they had not received a "priorities document" that selectmen had on hand. This document identifies more than 200 recommended "to-dos" as a result of the plan's development process and places each of the action steps along a scheduling continuum to identify priority needs, as well as others that might not be tackled for several years. Selectmen shared their copies of the document with the planning board members.
Dianne Powers, chairman of the selectmen, expressed concerns about the plan's discussion of development and population density issues.
"These are issues we have discussed many times, and it will require a major education of the voters if we expect to achieve the plan's perfectly logical goals. ...And, of course, we have limited powers to discourage development," Mrs. Powers said.
Among the other concerns with the findings and recommendations of the Island Plan that the selectmen and planning board members identified were the need for more and better maps and the apparent inaccuracy of data (including the population of West Tisbury) and other factual information. And the group briefly discussed the plan's recommendation of the creation of safer bike and walking paths.
Planning board member Virginia Jones suggested that, "what we have to do is force ourselves to sit down and read it... I'm glad they did it, but it is hard to plow through. "
Mr. Knabel commented, "We will all have to agree that it is a bit overwhelming. How do we chip away at it and give them helpful feedback?"
Approximately 30 minutes into the discussion, Ms. Powers pointed out to the group that the period for public comment had expired that same day. She suggested that the MVC be asked if the deadline for public comments had been, or was going to be, extended. If so, Ms. Powers suggested that both boards then meet individually to identify major issues of concern with the Island Plan and then reconvene together to consolidate and submit the joint West Tisbury governmental concerns with the plan.
Those attending concurred.