Edgartown hits Island Plan on costs, timetable
Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) officials attended the Edgartown selectmen's meeting Monday night seeking opinions on the Island Plan, a comprehensive policy document intended as a planning guide for Martha's Vineyard over the next 50 years. They got an earful.
MVC executive director Mark London told the selectmen that a public hearing will be held tonight, and he expects the MVC will vote to adopt the Island Plan on December 10.
While lauding the work that went into the document, selectmen objected strenuously to the MVC's timetable for adopting the plan.
"It might be a hair premature to be rushing to adopt this as policy," selectman Art Smadbeck said.
"I'm just not sure the people of this town are ready, or understand the commission will adopt this," chairman Michael Donaroma said.
"I think it's a rush to judgment," selectman Margaret Serpa said.
The selectmen said they found contradictions among the different sections of the Island Plan. "Some of it was conflicting and confusing to me," Mr. Smadbeck said. "It seemed like there were a lot of things on a wish list, but there was really no addressing who is going to pay for it. It's one thing to say from now on all houses need to be built with certain energy efficiency standards. There was no qualifying the cost of that. It's admirable to ask everybody to drive a hybrid car, but there's a huge cost to that. There are a lot of things that need to be discussed with the community in more depth."
"If you're trying to keep the younger generation," Ms. Serpa said, "you're making it appear that it's going to be more expensive to stay here, and that part bothers me. One thing that really stuck out was the added expense for young families that are trying to stay here."
The board, and others who attended the Monday meeting, also said the sheer size of the document, makes public reaction difficult. The Island Plan includes 11 sections and 4 appendices, many of which are being rewritten based on public comments received by the commission since the first draft was published this past summer.
"It's war and peace three times over," Edgartown lawyer Benjamin Hall Jr. said. "I found a number of things that were inconsistent. Some of the towns are already doing things that are contrary to the plan."
"I found it very difficult to sit at one sitting and read this," Mr. Smadbeck said. "Frankly, I couldn't do it. I think it deserves a lot more attention before we adopt it, and the public will benefit from it."
Larry Mercier, a member of the Edgartown board of assessors and the financial advisory committee, has been a frequent critic of the MVC. "We were told the Island communities would have a chance to vote on this," Mr. Mercier said. "Very few people have read the whole thing. One of the things that struck me was the thought of bringing the downtown areas back to life. It's a grandiose idea, but there was no suggestion about how to do that."
Work on the Island Plan began in 2006. To date the MVC has spent $327,641 to produce the plan.
Mr. London said the plan was originally slated to be finished in July and was behind schedule. He said a grant providing funds to print the document would be lost if not used before December 31. "We have a budget and funding to print it," Mr. London said. "We have aligned ourselves to complete it according to a certain timetable."
Mr. London described the Island Plan as a set of principles, not an operational document. "That means sitting down with the planning board and figuring out what this means to Edgartown," Mr. London said. "It really would mean sitting down with each town and working out how those broad principles would be translated."
"If it's not an operational document, then let's not rush to adopt it," Ms. Serpa said.
"The concern for the town is you will adopt this Island Plan at the commission level, and you will immediately start implementing everything that's in here throughout all your developments of regional impact (DRI)," Mr. Donaroma said. "That's what we're worried about."
"You came here for our comments," Mr. Smadbeck said. "Presumably you value what we have to say. Please don't adopt this."
Carlene Gatting of Edgartown, the Dukes County Commission's appointed representative and MVC vice chairman, acknowledged the sentiment to delay adoption of the plan. "I hear what you're saying, and I hear that you think it needs more public input."
Realtor Ann Floyd, a member of the Island Plan steering committee, said the plan was being looked at in a way she never intended. "From the very beginning I've thought of it as a comprehensive guide," Ms. Floyd said. "Not a mandate, a guide. You can worry something to death. This is not a static plan, this is a dynamic plan. It can be revised."